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Growing Asparagus
Asparagus prefers soil that's been dug down at least 40 centimetres and turned over. Remove any rocks or debris; do a soil test and correct the pH if necessary-soil should be close to neutral (pH 6.5 to 7.5); then work in plenty of compost or well-decomposed manure. Good drainage is crucial: create raised beds if your garden is in a low spot or the soil is clay. Plant in full sun or light shade. Asparagus will shade out other plants, so plant it to the north of its neighbours.

You can grow asparagus from seed or plant young plants, called crowns. Seed is comparatively inexpensive and has a high germination rate — usually well over 100 plants per package. The downside is you'll have to wait for the third spring to harvest. Soak the hard seeds in warm water for 48 hours, then sow four centimetres deep in early spring, indoors or out. Germination is slow and sporadic (anywhere from 10 to 24 days), but usually every seed will sprout. By fall, the seedlings will be large enough to move to their permanent spot. Let them grow a full year in their new home, then start with a light harvesting in year three. Normal harvests begin in year four.

Even though they are more expensive, most gardeners plant crowns, available in garden centres and by mail order, usually in spring. Price is offset by quality — only a few are required and harvesting can begin the following year. Dig individual planting holes or, if planting an asparagus bed, a trench. Plant with the tip of the crown set about 15 centimetres below the ground, then cover with three to five centimetres of soil, gradually filling in the hole or trench as the shoots become taller. Space plants about 30 to 45 centimetres apart, with the same distance between rows.

Although asparagus is generally problem-free, here's what to do if trouble strikes: Crown rot can occur if you're growing asparagus in poorly drained or excessively acidic soil, and the plants rot away at the base. The best long-term solutions are to raise the beds, then correct the pH level every few years. Dispatch aphids or striped or spotted asparagus beetles with a few sprays of insecticidal soap, repeating every three days as needed.

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Growing Garlic
Unlike other vegetables, garlic (Allium sativum) goes into the ground in late summer or early fall, any time from mid-September to mid-October. When you order garlic to plant, you receive full intact bulbs, no different from the garlic that sits on your kitchen counter for cooking. You then split the bulbs into individual cloves for planting; each clove you plant can yield a full bulb—or head—the following summer. Unless they are tiny, size is of little consequence; as you separate cloves, try to keep the protective papery husk around each one.

Planting tips
Garlic is best planted in full sun, in a bed about a metre wide. The soil should be well drained, and dug to a depth of at least 20 centimetres, then raked to a smooth, level surface. Draw out furrows of about four to six centimetres deep across the bed with the corner of a hoe. Leave 20 centimetres between the rows. Push single cloves into the furrows, about 15 centimetres apart, until the tips are barely visible, then draw in the ridges of soil from the furrows over the planted cloves to a depth of five centimetres.

Planted early, garlic may show a few points of green growth the same fall. In regions where snow cover comes and goes, mulch the garlic bed just before the first hard freeze. A layer of dry leaves (10 centimetres) is enough to keep the earth from freezing and thawing repeatedly.

Very early the following spring, garlic's broad blue-green leaves begin to grow solidly and by the end of May will reach a surprising height. (One visitor, looking at our garlic patch in May, wondered how we'd managed to get the "corn" so far along.) Insects aren't interested in garlic plants, and spring rains are often enough to see them through to maturity.

A double yield: Garlic scapes in June
In mid-June, curly green pigtails emerge from the centre of each plant. These are the scapes, hard stalks topped with tiny bulbils. All experts agree that it's best to nip garlic in the bud, as it were, snapping off the scapes after they have made a loop or two, to send more energy to the developing bulbs. The scapes' tender tops (as opposed to the hard fibrous bottom portion) are loaded with flavour. Peel and thinly slice them and add to a pesto, stew or frittata.
*Source: Canadian Gardening

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