Once planted, asparagus takes about four years to become established. It grows best in rich soil in full sun. The plants can last dozens of years, and a good asparagus bed is quite a treasure. The spears of established plants are harvested in spring, when they are under a foot tall. At least half of the spears are left to grow into fernlike, leafy stems about four feet tall to feed the plants and keep them healthy.
- Mulch asparagus every spring with several inches of compost or decayed livestock manure. Asparagus, a greedy feeder, will use all the nutrients it can get its roots on and grow that much better for it. By mulching in the spring, you can fertilize, help keep the soil moist, and reduce weed seed germination all in one effort. The shoots that arise through the mulch will grow especially plump and succulent.
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Asparagus grows best in rich soil in full sunlight.
- Make fancy white asparagus spears with a simple blanching basket. This European connoisseur's vegetable is easy to grow at home. When the spears first emerge in spring, cover them with a bucket, basket, or mound of soil that will exclude all light. Harvest when the spears reach 8 to 10 inches tall and before the ferny leaves begin to emerge.
Flavorful and AttractiveExperiment with vegetables that are extra pretty or extra flavorful:
Ruby- and pink-leaved lettuces
Green, yellow, and purple snap beans; the purple ones turn green when cooked
Crimson, white, gold, and red-striped beets
Violet, neon pink, soft pink, and white eggplants
Peppers ranging from sweet to mild spicy to super hot: something for everyone
Red, orange, yellow, pink, or cream tomatoes; for exceptional flavor, try Brandywine and Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes
Beans do not tolerate frost. If you choose climbing types, you can train them upward on tepees and pergolas for nice garden accents.
Scarlet runner beans have great flowers and edible beans, and string beans and limas are favorites everywhere.
Cucumbers and Squash
You'll find vining or climbing types of these vegetables for trellises as well as dwarf forms that squeeze into containers and tight spaces.
Pumpkins take lots more space and a longer growing season, so they may not work as well for some gardeners. None of these plants tolerates frost.
With their purple flowers and colorful fruits, eggplants look good in any garden.
There are purple, white, streaked, or even red fruits with elongated or globular forms. Eggplants exhibit preferences similar to peppers, which we talk about in more detail in the next section.
Learn how to bring home the blue ribbon for your homegrown lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes on the next page.