The carrot, surprisingly, is a descendant of that delicate wild flower of the fields, Queen Anne’s lace-if left unpicked in warm areas, it will in its second year produce tiny flat-topped white blossoms like its weedy ancestor’s. As a vegetable, however, the carrot is grown not as a biennial but as a warm-weather annual, sending up a mound of bright green feathery foliage 10 to 12 inches tall as it develops its familiar orange-yellow roots.
Beets grow best in soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5. In most of the U.S. and southern Canada, where frost is expected in winter, sow seeds in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked and continue planting at three-week intervals until 60 days before maximum daytime temperatures are expected to average about 80. In late summer, when maximum daytime temperatures average below 80, start successive plantings until 10 to 12 weeks before minimum night temperatures average below 20. Beets are not harmed by spring or fall frosts.
However, roots become tough in hot weather, so in regions where maximum summer daytime temperatures average above 80 for prolonged periods and winter night temperatures rarely fall below 30, start successive plantings in early fall for harvesting during the winter and spring; make the final planting 60 days before maximum daytime temperatures are expected to average about 80. Beet seeds come in clumps containing three or more seeds. Sow the clumps 1/2 inch deep and 1 inch apart in rows 14 to 16 inches apart. Several plants will come up close together from each clump. Pull up all but the strongest plant in each group; the uncrowded survivor will form a fast-growing tender root.
To save a year’s growing time, most home gardeners start asparagus from strong one-year-old roots bought in early spring and set directly into the garden. Two to three months after planting roots, scatter a 1-foot-wide band of 5-10-5 fertilizer along each side of the row at the rate of 1/2 pound per 10 feet of row. Early each spring, beginning with the second season, apply 1 to 2 pounds of 5-10-5 fertilizer to each 10 feet of row before growth starts. To induce dormancy in the warm, arid Southwest, do not irrigate in winter.
To prevent the soil from forming a crust that would inhibit the seedlings from breaking through the surface of the soil, cover the seeds with a light layer of vermiculite, sifted compost or grass clippings; firm the covering well and water the row. As the seedlings appear, thin them to stand 1 inch apart. When the carrots become 1/2 inch thick-dig away some dirt to see-pull every other plant, making the final spacing 2 inches apart. Do not discard the pulled plants; though thin, they are edible and delicious at this stage.
To pick asparagus, bend the stems until they snap; the portion that is too tough to snap is also too tough to eat. Do not use an asparagus knife, a special V- shaped device that commercial asparagus growers employ to cut the plant underground, for it leaves tough white tissue at the base of the plant. This white tissue, together with the lower part of the green stem, must always be discarded in the kitchen because the fibers are too stringy to eat. (Store-bought asparagus includes these waste parts.) Cutting the plant also often injures other stems underground before they have a chance to emerge.