J. Wattie Canneries Ltd. and Asparagus Ltd. have planted 7ft. apart, and this is recommended for various reasons. Firstly. tractors and planting distances are closely associated. It is an advantage to be able to drive in the row between the fern at times, although during the cutting season it is possible to work by straddling the row. Secondly, under present methods of weed control, earth is thrown over the bed during the cutting season to smother weed seedlings. If the rows are too close together, this is difficult and tends to make the mounds high because the soil is obtained from a narrow strip between the plants. Thirdly, anyone who has dug up or seen the root development on an established asparagus crown will realise they are very vigorous in root development and require room to develop over their long productive life.
Distance between plants in the row is also debatable. Here again, observation on established plants will show that the crown will develop up to 18in. across quite readily. Crowns planted that distance apart will form a solid row in time. If planted closer, there will be a heavier cutting in the ﬁrst two or three years, but once the crowns meet they can then develop sideways only. Here again the long term view should be taken. We therefore recommend 7ft. by 18in. in general.
PREPARATION OF LAND.
This should be considered well in advance of planting time. Drainage may need attention, as it should be adequate. Tile drains become blocked with asparagus roots which interfere with their efﬁciency. The land should also be level.
Trials of new methods of harvesting are being carried out. If they are successful, one of the main factors will be level land. This can only be done before planting. Certain weeds, such as Californian thistle couch and convolvulus must be eradicated before planting. It is also advisable to grow a cultivated crop for the year prior to planting or make certain the turf is completely broken down before winter rains set in. This also reduces the ravages of slugs the ﬁrst season, which can be serious.
Once the surface soil is well worked and level, it should be compacted by rolling, if this has not already been done by rain. Very deep ploughing is then recommended up to a dep namesth of at least 10in. to 12in. This carries good top soil down to the root area of the new plant, and leaves deep soil more or less free of weeds on top. This is then worked up sufﬁciently so that it will ﬂow when the trench for planting out is made. Again, it should be compacted before the trench for planting is made, other- wise a false depth may occur. Trenches are easily made by ploughing both ways with a single-furrow swamp plough. If the soil is not too wet and is free from lumps, planting is an easy matter.
Free running soil is not easy to obtain during the normal planting time of June, July or August, and it often pays to plant as early as possible in June, when reasonable conditions often prevail.
Trenches should only be ploughed out from day to day. If they are made in advance, heavy rain or rain and wind may form a crust and loose soil is then not easily available for covering plants.
Once the trench is made, planting should proceed immediately. The method recommended is the use of fruit picking aprons to carry the plants. The planter spaces the plants, dropping them at the correct intervals and with the crown uppermost. Another man follows up pulling the loose soil down from the side of the trench and covering the crown with 3m. to 4m. of soil. In this way each individual plant receives attention. Covering with an implement, such as a disc, can also be done, and may be successful where very free working soil is available. It is still necessary to walk along the row and make certain coverage is complete.
When planting is completed, the trench should be smoothed in readiness for an early Spring application of pre-emergence weed spray. This can be done by pulling loops of heavy chain on a ﬁne chain harrow along the row. This breaks up lumps and makes an even coverage of spray possible.
At one time, the control of weeds in the first year was difficult and costly. Many areas have been abandoned because weeds took charge. Much hand work was also needed. The method was to ﬁll the trench, gradually smothering the weeds as they germinated. If the soil was free ﬂowing at all times, this is possible, but invariably a crust was formed and lumps, which rolled down into the trench, only made subsequent control more difﬁcult. Hand weeding and hoeing then became necessary.