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Asparagus is a nutritious green vegetable that supplies dietary fibre, potassium, rutin and folic acid. It is a perennial plant, which means it can live for years without having to be replanted. Most other vegetable plants are annuals and need to be replanted each year. There is also an asparagus fern, which is used as an ornamental or house plant. The asparagus fern has long, prickly fernlike leaves. From the asparagus vegetable's root system, or crown, underground stems grow up through the soil and develop into spears, which are then harvested for food. If left unharvested, the spear will develop into a tall, feathery plant with leaves resembling the asparagus fern.
Commercially grown asparagus are typically started by seedlings. The seedlings are planted in the early spring. They grow best in moderate climates and prefer soil that is sandy, loose and moist. As their root systems grow, the underground stems, which will eventually grow into the spears, are called rhizomes. When the temperature rises the rhizomes start to bud. These buds grow upward and through the top soil and mature into asparagus spears. Normally the new plants will not be harvested until their third year. Some asparagus plants can continue to produce for up to 25 years. Asparagus plants do well with frequent and deep watering. The top inch of soil should be allowed to dry before rewatering. The roots of the asparagus plant can grow about 10 feet deep into the ground.
Asparagus plants can be grown from seeds or seedlings, which are small plants that have been started from seeds in a controlled environment. If started from seeds it will be 3 years before the plant can be harvested for the spears, or 2 years if started from year-old seedlings or roots. The asparagus vegetable plant needs a dormancy period in the winter, in order to grow and produce the spears. It will only grow in regions where this dormancy occurs naturally, or it must be forced by artificial cultivation techniques. The asparagus is one of the first vegetables ready to be harvested in the spring.
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