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Iowa Gardening: Fresh Flavors



Best Veggie Bets for the Iowa Garden

Story by Ann Hutchins

It is time to plan and soon to plant this year’s vegetable garden. Make the most of the growing season with these four enjoyable, productive, and valuable choices for the Iowa backyard.

Asparagus

Once this perennial vegetable is established, it provides elegant eating at low cost. The edible part of this plant is the young stems that emerge in spring when the soil temperatures reach 50°F.

The seasonal harvest lasts 6 to 10 weeks, depending on the weather, and well-kept plants will continue producing for more than 20 years.

In addition to being a delicious delicacy, asparagus is power-packed full of nutritional value, including vitamins C, A, and K, and is only second to orange juice in folic acid content.

Plant asparagus as soon as the soil can be worked in spring. Average garden soil will suffice if it drains well.

However, sandy, well-drained loam — heavily enriched with well-rottedmanure and compost — will hasten emergence of the spears because itdries out early.

Give asparagus a permanent space in the garden alongside other perennial plants such as
rhubarb and strawberries or make the vegetable a backdrop to a flowerbed.

Tomatoes, basil, pot marigolds, and parsley are good companion plants for asparagus because they naturally aid each other by repelling pests and boosting yields.

Limited harvest begins the third season, with full harvests by the fourth. Cease harvesting for the season when stems are reaching only pencil thickness (smaller than 3/8 inch).

There are no white varieties of asparagus. This color — or lack of it — is achieved by growing method.

Before stems emerge, soil is heaped over the plant crowns, blocking sunlight needed to produce chlorophyll.

Spears are harvested early in the morning, just as the tips break through the soil. White asparagus is considered to be sweeter than green.



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