About Mary Washington Asparagus: This member of the lily family originated in the Mediterranean countries; the ancient Greeks and Romans greatly favored it. According to legend, Julius Caesar required his asparagus to be served with melted butter. By the 16th century, the kings of England and France had claimed it as their special delicacy, causing the vegetable to be nicknamed the "food of kings." Louis XIV of France had his own supply growing year round in greenhouses, since he greatly enjoyed it. In the Renaissance, asparagus was considered an elegant vegetable and often found at the tables of the wealthy. Asparagus came to America with the colonists, and has since grown wild all over the United States.
Mary Washington Asparagus Germination: Soak seeds overnight to weaken the hard outer layer, then plant 1/2" deep and 1-2" apart in a temporary nursery bed. Keep the temperature around 75-85 degrees F, and germination should begin in 10-14 days. For direct sowing, plant the seeds after the last frost of spring. For greater garden benefits, plant your asparagus and tomatoes in close proximity; these two greatly benefit each other.
Growing Mary Washington Asparagus Seeds: About 10-12 weeks after planting, transplant the seedlings outdoors. Digging a trench is not necessary; simply place the plants 14" apart in rows 3-4' apart, in sandy, well drained soil and full sun. Keep the soil moist and apply mulch to discourage weeds. Asparagus greatly benefits from the application of compost and other organic matter.
Harvesting Mary Washington Asparagus: Though asparagus can be harvested for a short time in the second year of its growth, for best results, wait until the third year for serious harvesting. This allows the plant to become well rooted and healthy. Spears may be harvested as soon as they appear in the spring until early summer; a height of 8" is usually the optimum size. Rather than cutting the spears, bending them until they break gives you only the tender part of the spear. When the weather gets hot, it is best to let the spears fully develop with ferny tops to ensure a healthy crop next year.
Saving Mary Washington Asparagus Seeds: Though a well established plot of asparagus will last for 20 years or more, the seeds can be saved if necessary. The stalks should be allowed to reach their mature state, when they are tall and fern-like. When the berries of the female plant turn red, pick them and squeeze out the seeds into a container of water; carefully clean off any remaining pulp. Lay them out to dry for several weeks before storing them. Keep them in a cool, dry place for up to three years.
Detailed Mary Washington Asparagus Info: Asparagus officinalis. Perennial. 60 days to maturity. 1700 seeds per oz. 36-48" height. 9-12" spacing. Produces 8" asparagus spears.