DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Bulletin No. 12
Growing Asparagus Plumosus
PBY RAI.PH STO('TAMIIRE
STATE OF FLORIDA
I)EPART.MENT OF AGRICULTURE
NATHAN -MAYO. ('\EisE.;,,,,,,
t __ _
---- ---- **----*-----u----u------
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Nathan Mayo, commissioner r of Agriculture Tallahassee
T. J. Brooks, Assistant Commissioner ........ ..Tallahassee
Phil S. Taylor. Supervising Inspector ................Tallahassee
Distribution in Florida .... .. ;
Construction of Sheds ........ .... .
Propagation and Growth .... .............. 0
Irrig atio n .... . ......... . ...... . .......... i
Fertilizing ............. ...... ..1.... ... .... 15
Insect Enemies ... .. ...... \13
Diseases .... ..... ... .. ..... .. .
Cold and Frost Protection .. .............. .. 19
Production and Marketing ....... ... .......... !9
Turning to Cooperative Marketing .. ...... .... 22
G rades and P acks ..... .............. ..... ...............
U. S. Standards for Asparagus Plulmosus .. ... .25
Definitions of Size Terms .... ....... ..... .............. 26
Definitions of Grade Terms .. .... ...... .. 2
GROWING ASPARAGUS PLUMOSUS
By RALPH STOUTAM:RE
IHE term "fern." as commonly used in reference t:,
San horticultural enterprise mainly located in Flor-
ida. is a miis-nomer. AsIxiragtU p/ltmos u.'il It1mm
is one of about 500 varieties of ornamental asparagus and
is (quite commonly called "aspalragus fern" 'or .ust "'erns."
Hut it is in no way related to true ferns. Of the ornamental
varieties of asparagus, Iplumo ../s 001a1 is is decidedly most
popularr A..Imprageis s/.rr.1t')ri comes next illn general usage.
Asparagus plumIosus is being grown in Florida. both
for plants sold in small sizes to the ten-cent-store trade and
ilso for cut sprays used by florists here and in the North
with cut flowers and for decorative purposes. The plants
are grown largely by lhe Boston fern growers, and thal
is a business quite distinct from growing cut sprays. It
now takes but a few acres to supply the normal demand.
This business in Florida has attracted to it some of the
most intelligent tillers of the soil in the country. Perhaps
it has attracted too many of them, considering the present
status of the industry. A few years ago, before the acreage
was as large as it is no.\\ some growers made handsome
profits. More recently, however, the acreage has increased
faster than has the demand, with the result that prices
have tumbled. Thus growers concluded that acreage should
be kept from a further increase. Thenceforth they de-
clined to give out any information which might encoulragi't
others to enter the business. As a result a veil of mystery
g'rew uip about the industry. This has caused the public
to feel that here. at last, \\as an enterprise which held in
its palm fabulous profits for those who would engage in it.
Naturally some from the public ranks could not it resist a
began growing plumrosus.
It would have been Ietter for the growers and the iln-
dustry as a whole, had the truth and the whole truth been
told a long time ago. However, the average grower has
thought otherwise and has steadfast ly remained silent.
He is opposed to the publishing of such a bulletin as this.
IFortu nately he is mistaken. The publishing of such a bul-
letin will do the growers more good than harm. It is doLubt-
I'ul if it will do them any harm. It is true that there are to,)
6 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
many acres devoted to growing this crop. All right, tell
the interested public this truth. Save the man who would
plunge headlong into something which he has been led to
believe will pay him well. Also protect the man who has
already invested his money in the enterprise. The truth
should hurt nobody.
Fortunately all growers are not like this average one.
Several have assisted very much in preparing this publica-
tion. Particular mention should be made of W. H. Schulz.
Jr., and E. F. DeBusk. The former has an extensive acre-
age at Auburndale, while the latter is interested in plantings
in Lake County. Mr. Schulz is president of the Plumosus
Growers Cooperative Marketing Association and is perhaps
the central figure and spirit in the industry in Florida.
I i1. 1. I. :.olini do4\vn u11l n I tI1 11V u of ;i I11th *lted.,
The manuscript was read by J. Colvin Brown, teacher of
vocational agriculture in the Barberville and Pierson schools
in Volusia County and a recognized authority on the sub-
ject. Mr. Brown gave several most important sugges-
tions and they are incorporated herein. Without the help
of these men the preparation of this bulletin would have
been most difficult.
At the outset the point should be made that it is hard
to say anything about plumosus culture. This in due to the
fact that practices of even the best growers differ as wide-
ly as cast and west. What is done with reasonable suc-
GROWING ASPARAGUS PLUMOSUS 7
cess by one grower may be laughed at or ridiculed by his
neighbor on the opposite side of the road. And perhaps
this neighbor can offer substantial reason for his differ-
once of opinion. What may be common procedure in Volu-
sia County may be unknown or unpopular in Lake County.
A fertilizer that gives satisfactory results in Palm Beach
County may be entirely unsuited for Polk County plumosus.
All in all these wide differences in conditions and varia-
tions in methods compel one who chooses to speak or write
on the industry to approach the subject with fear and
trembling. Particularly is this true, if he be one who is
afraid of being criticised.
In order to avoid confusion we shall henceforth refer
to the cut sprays of Asparagus plumosus as plumosuss."
as they are known in the trade. An effort is being made
among growers of plumosus to avoid the use of the term
"fern." Reasons for this are that. in the first place. plum-
osus is not a fern and, second, calling it such places it on
a lower market scale.
The term fern on the cut-flower market is generally
applied to woods ferns that are gathered for only a few
dollars per thousand with no cultural costs whatever.
Then when this term is applied to plumosus, it has a gen-
eral tendency to materially cheapen it. It has been a
considerable educational problem at times to convince the
northern trade that our plumo.us doos not grow wild in the
woods as do woods ferns.
8 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Distribution in Florida
Plumosus is a native of the mountain slopes of Africa,
but fur many years it has been cultivated in America as
an ormnmental. Formerly most of the cut sprays were
grown in northern green-
houses, but as a supply
of well grown sprays have
become available from
lath and slat houses in
Florida and elsewhere
this practice has been
Suite generally discontin-
ued. At present there are
r. approximately 125 acres
of plumosus in Califor-
nia. 15 acres in Texas
and 825 acres in Florida.
all in lath or slat houses.
The acreage has increase.
rapidly during the last
few years, but it ha-
So finally shown a very de-
S :ided let-up due to lack
of proper market expanl-
sions necessary to absorb
this increased acreage.
-Most Florida plumosus
ea : i ad pt is grown in the following
counties: Volusia, Lake.
-I"i th C II %1 1111 i 'il ,,,t )Polk, Orange, Palm Beach.
i.. r t ..- V,,r I. I) ,. .) I Putnam, Brevard, High
lands, Pinellas. The plant
does well on a variety of soils, but a sandy loam of fine
texture is to be preferred. In this type of soil a better
moisture condition is obtained than in coarse sands. In
muck or very heavy land the stems become too coarse and
the fronds too far a)art. Low, poorly drained lands or
soils closely underlaid with hard-pan are to be avoided.
Hilly or rolling land which slopes to the south or southeast
and which has the protection of bodies of water is usually
preferred, because such topography and proximity of water
mean air drainage and protection against cold in winter.
The farther sauth one goes the less important are ques-
tions of air drainage and water protection.
(;IRO\IN(; ASPARA(;US PLUMOSUS 9
Construction of Sheds
Florida sheds are almost entirely constructed of cypress.
'The iatterial u.-,d in the top usuallyy consists of lath board
strips lfrom half anl inch to an inch in thickness. In some
regions .x.l-illch or I x8-iinch slats of' pecky cypress are
used fI'l the top. The amounlilt of shade material used
li.i.jjt Im I Jil- It. tit.. visti n1. (1iri
I I I r... 1 4 so I V. I *. I W Ill] h. I1.('~1111
I Ill S cliilm -I I all scl'
littldl sil '*tl a It- t 'ii i tl o(!
almillii ll m c 1,11. witl
i. the 1 ti'iis (d' la ths Th ie
.ll d t11. :oI)tI d > i
tItlit. v ll(,r ittVV m.ill it e)lial)-
'I I I le 111'd mt-t I)Y1 weav-l
Ping hest r~ip.ds ilwith w\linsl
4) 1 1V ldil l; to) whih )oltefl
s: o~ gi it olT S i ,l l- n t ", (' Il
i 1 I ti l (* lisill. 1 1) W t-' t. 'PIt ii
A-cl \VclltO-e miated y-
h IUs I;. she IS has n ) vltI
4 wa tI t ill"t. S I ( ril It I,( gell
llrlxillattely ti-vll vcars andIE (Iiepi-ciatilll .4141111d Its-iiit
(n t hat hia.1is. iiIst ruct inlg lat 11 orw slat shedls c(istt I 01,11(m
$1,200 to -$2.060) otw acre. dlejatiiding on cost ot' nate'iall
aI'iu lill1mi. sizv (di shIel aild Illflthiml 0ii' ohierat ills.
10 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Propagation and Growth
liumo(sus plants are started from seed which arei gener-
aily imported through seed houses. It is cheaper to purchase
than to irow. There is an advantage ill home-grown seed,
however, as it can be planted several months earlier. B ut
few grow\'ers care to take advantage of this. due to frost
risks and to the fact that ohl plants on which seed arI'
grown ar are a continuous source of diseases alnd insect pests.
I i 5, liI mint tihe' .1m(I IIU. ,,,llinvl a I ( "i rl -. lr I:r I. lh itll l%.,)
Seed costs lfrom 8S to ?1. a po und which contain romlI
II11. to 1:1.0(0 single -'eed. Such a quantity of seed usually
will produce from -4.0oi" to 6.000 plants. Seed are planted
in seedbeds as early in spring as practicable. They take
anlout three weeks to germinate. They are generally kept
ill the seeded at least six months before being transferred
permanently to the shades. The number of plants used
varies r'atlerially. some growers using but :10.000 plants
per acrte. while others use tup to three times that number.
Alany angles have to be considered to determine the number
to plant, amo-ng which are soil conditions, uniformity of
plants and the extent to which they are to be pushed for
Culture is a minor consideration. A little hoeing and
shallow plowing will answer until the plants have covered
the ground. A ter that keep down weeds which spring up
naturally. The heavier the lu sus growth the lu gro e less trouble
will Ihe had from weeds.
__GROWING ASPARAGUS PLUMOSUS 11
Older growers generally do not consider plants fully self-
supporting until they are nearly two years old. It is not
considered good policy to plant a large acreage during any
one year; it is thought best to put iln a small acreage and
gradually build it up to the desired extent. The reason for
this is the fact that, with market demands as selective as
they are, it will not be possible to keep customers satisfied
with the general character of sprays that come froml a
young planting. Although sprays may reach the proper size
they generally are very light in weight until lthe plants be-
come more definitely established. A young plant in inclined
also to be very erratic in cropping ;and will give an abuld-
ant supply onie month and 1none the next with the result
that markets one haIs obtained will be lost.
I' l I6. ? I 11 i lll ,r 'linu t1 lldl.\ I thlllill ;lo ll d. T -1' I lhe ri l:= ;irel rlIa sII o
i rr pn e IIII IIiin s inI lit t e Ill 1nt -r iil loot t h 'e 'lft r inr ;are oiler pi1 anni
ht 'el'e'r 11t i ii hll h 'I'lT I l't is oil1 ro l.l ( i hiI 11 l h(( ) lln|( .
( nilrli'. 1. 1. ,l1 a1ls1..
It is natural for a plant, after a certain period of growth.
to \want to I)roduce seed. IPlumlosus plants prol'duce theii"
seed on long viney sprays for which there is a limited mar-
ket. When young plants are about two years old they put
almost their entire effort into growing long stringy sprays
which find practically no market at all in competition with
that class ,of product from older plants. Some growI(e'irs over-
cover this Iby hoeing off the cropl from June to August, a
bed at a time-bringing new growth along at different
ages. This and other reasons add to the hazards of enter-
12 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
ing the plumosus business on a large scale. Practically
every large planting that has been both successful in grow-
ing and establishing a market for itself has started out with
a small unit and added to it as it developed its market.
Upon the questions of seed and plants, seedbeds, planting
seed, and setting plants, Harold lowry assistant horticul-
turist of the Florida Experiment Station, says in Press
"Most of the seed are grown in southern California, al-
though some are imported and some are grown locally.
Both seed and plants are listed for sale by numerous grow-
ers in florists' magazines.
"Seedbeds should be located on the same soil type as
for ferneries. They can be handled satisfactorily under the
ordinary slat house roof, but precaution must be taken
to prevent washing. The soil should be thoroughly work-
ed, clearing out all roots and trash and leaving in
a thorough state of tilth. There should also be a good sup-
ply of moisture just before planting. Ordinarily a bed
6x-10 feet will be sufficient for a pound of seed, which runs
from 10.000 to 12,000 to the pound.
"In planting seed a good method is to sow them on the
surface of the soil. covering with one thickness of news-
paper and then one inch of well-rotted cow manure. The
newspaper prevents washing and tends to hold moisture.
One thickness of burlap is spread on top of the cow ma-
nure. Eighteen days are required for germination of the
seed. Remove the burlap and paper, if the latter has not
previously disintegrated, as soon as the seed have germin-
ated, replacing any soil that has been washed away by
rains or irrigation. Some growers prefer not to use this
method of covering but instead use a fairly thick mulch of
pine straw. This pine straw mulch has been found to be
entirely satisfactory, but if used the seed should be covered
with soil to a depth of about half an inch. If plants are to
be left in the seedbed for a season, it is better to plant the
seed in rows rather than broadcast. March is possibly the
best month for seed planting, as the resulting plants can
be transplanted in July, at which time the plants have the
advantage of the usual rainy season.
GROWING ASPARAGUS PLUIOSUS 13
"Even though the soil is in good condition, the plants
must not be set in dry ground. A good planting distance
is 9x10 inches. This allows seven rows in a 6-foot bed and
gives approximately 40,000 plants per acre. Avoid setting
plants either too deep or too shallow, but set the crown of
the plant at the soil surface. After plants are set, frequent
shallow cultivation with some hand tool is necessary."
1.1 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
It I.., % ithiu ;ls pliran ill&:. the 4-h ill
Ir I. rivI toIII,% si % m rrr A r:,,In. .igamflai. = I...oil n Ii:sII)*g I. ...II,,i nr.u rI.
lia 1.;ikI,1- 4 wint.% 1. -himai n-ded111I .1I1
% .. %%. %iI\ it 1111i, 11 .11 ..Imtid. Pliant.. ;art Irahaig agal jr anll t
\NaitoIt,.%% I l.. .aI;m. ;ore I;taaad o. oI ti. ill,- %%ire .aalaaaa"I.
GROWING ASPARAGUS PLUMOSUS 15
Florida rainfall would be ample, if properly distributed
over the year. But as we have dry periods during the fall
and spring, irrigation equipment is quite essential. This
should be of sufficient size and capacity.
Several types of irrigation equipment are in use, al)out
equally divided between fishtail and Skinner greenhouse
types of nozzles. Due to the fact that there is less clearance
for the sprinklers under the shed. it is necessary to use
about twice the amount of pipe necessary for irrigation in
the open. Also this pipe should be nearly twice as large as
the ordinary, so as to properly reduce friction and give
the required volume. An adequate irrigation system will
cost from 8300 to $700 per acre.
Just as the edible asparagus is about the heaviest feeder
among truck crops, so is the ornamental variety, plumosus.
an extremely heavy feeder. It is difficult to imagine the
amount of fertilizer that can and needs to le used on plumo-
sus. Growers are using from 'our to eighteen tons of
high grade fertilizer per acre a year. lost of the better
growers are applying fertilizer at the rate of a ton per
acre monthly during the growing season.
Fertilizer cost ranges from $.-100 to $1.,200 per acre per
year. depending upon cost of material. size of the shed
and the practices and ideas of the individual grower.
Best results are obtained from the higher grade organic
ammoniates. Unl'ortuniately these are about twice as ex-
pensive (per until of plant food) as the chemical (inor-
ganic) ammoniates. due to the fact that much of this ma-
terial is used in stock feeds. Fertilizer is applied entirely
as a top dressing: after the plants are a little over a year
old it is not possible to cultivate and thus to work the fer-
tilizer into the ground.
IMuch experimentall work should he done on fertilizing
plumosus. Due to the heavy applications applied, it is es-
sential that one use only the best and most available ma-
terials. Otherwise accumulated residue may cause toxic
conditions to develop which materially injure the quality
of the crop.
16 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
So far it has not been possible to profitably use the new
synthetic fertilizers that have come on the market, because
they burn quite easily even when well diluted. Liquid plant
foods applied by irrigation so far have not proved profit-
able; and they often cause burning, whereby direct applica-
tions of the same materials do not. By test chicken and
cow manure have proved very satisfactory.
Upon the questions of care and fertilization. Harold
lowry. Experiment Station horticulturist referred to
"As soon as plants have started growth, an application
of goat manure or high grade tankage at the rate of one
to two tons per acre is advisable. This should be followed
every two or three months with some good garden fertilizer
analyzing about 5-5-5, such as celery specials sold by vari-
ous fertilizer firms. One-half to one ton of this is usually
sufficient. Fertilizers should be applied a month or so be-
fore the beginning of the shipping season. as it takes some
time to obtain best results from such applications.
"If on lower soils the plants seem to be affected by an
acid soil condition, this may be corrected by working hard-
wood ashes into the soil at the rate of a ton per acre. Do
not scatter any sort of fertilizer over plants when they are
wet. Apply only when plants are dry and then immediate-
ly brush off any which may adhere to foliage with a whisk
of some sort."
The continuous growing of the same crop of plumosus on
the same ground, as is the general practice, leads to the
accumulation of insect pests and fungous diseases which
have to be continually combatted.
Six or seven varieties of worms periodically show up and
often destroy entire crops in spite of all practical control
efforts. Most of these worms appear during the rainy sea-
son when it is most difficult to combat them.
The cotton cutworm, commonly called "fern worm" in
this state, is one of the most troublesome.
Next in importance is a budworm, the egg of which is
laid on the tips of the most select shoots as soon as they
GROWING ASPARAGUS PLUMOSUS 17
appear. The worm, immediately upon hatching, bores a
hole in which he is well protected from poisoned baits and
sprays. No matter how small a hole he bores, that particular
shoot fails to develop a spray of commercial value.
In addition there is the ever-present cutworm that de-
stroys some tips throughout the entire year.
One must also be on the lookout for the regular army-
worm which is apt to make a yearly visit.
A small green worm has appeared during the last few
years and has proved difficult to combat, as it seldom is on
the ground where poisoned bait would probably control it.
There are several other worms that ordinarily feed on
native weeds but which, when they tire of the weeds, turn
to and make serious inroads on young plumosus.
In our semi-tropical climate worms multiply rapidly. The
life cycle of nearly all is only about 30 days. and they lay
from 500 to 900 eggs. The eggs are very fertile and over
800 worms have been counted several times from the eggs
laid by a single moth within a very few days.
The common worm-control practice has been to use poi-
soned bait similar to that used for cutworms. Others have
been using liquid sprays of arsenate of lead or paris green.
The former has the objection of discoloring the foliage and
the latter of burning unless carefully used. Electric light
traps are being used by some growers to control moths,
and this materially reduces the infestation. Six 200-watt
light traps per acre seem to be ample. Care must be taken
to see that the wires are sufficiently large to obtain full
wattage. The cost of such wiring is about $100 per acre.
Six-spotted mites, commonly called red spiders, are a
constant cause of trouble to plumosus, especially during
dry weather. They can be held in check through the use of
either sulphur dust or spray. In order for this dust or spray
to be most effective, they should be applied when the tem-
perature is around 85' F. Such a temperature is seldom
reached during the winter, which means that the sheds
should be absolutely free of spiders before the approach of
the cooler months.
The two-spotted mite is a most troublesome pest of
plumosus, in that it is so very difficult to control. So far.
18 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
however, it has shown up in only about two growing areas
in the state. But it is native on cotton throughout the South
and about forty other plants are host to it, which means
that it is apt to show up almost anywhere at any time and
become a perpetual problem. This mite differs from most
others in that it is very resistant to sulphur spray and dust.
So far the most effective control has been derrisol, but
other methods of control are being developed and some
are proving quite promising. Sprinkling with water is
Blister beetles, both the gray and the striped ones have
proved quite destructive at times. Where there is only a
spotted infestation, hand-picking has been the best remedy.
The best insecticide for these beetles is calcium fluosilicate,
but as it burns plumosus foliage very readily it cannot be
used on real tender foliage. Many of these beetles are killed
by the use of lead arsenate.
Grasshoppers at times are troublesome. especially if
weeds and grass are permitted to grow to any extent.
They are held down very effectively by poisoned bait.
The garden flea-hopper occasionally is quite destructive.
It is a very small sucking insect that attacks young sprays.
One or two of these can get on a spray when it is young
and follow it to maturity, with the result that it is made
worthless because of a grayish appearance on the surface
and because part of the foliage has been destroyed. This
insect does not respond to stomach poisons and so far has
been controlled only by pyrethrum extracts as a contact
Aphids are other serious pests. The ordinary green va-
riety usually is most troublesome. Being sucking insects,
they do about the same damage as do red spiders-suck
juices from tender tips. All types of aphids are readily
controlled by applications of nicotine sulphate.
When we come to the subject of fungus we are facing a
problem on which as yet there is little known, except the
fact that each year it destroys vast amounts of otherwise
good marketable plumosus. One unfortunate feature about
it is that frequently it continues to develop on sprays after
they are cut and packed for shipment. As a result whole
packages may reach market in worthless condition.
GROWING ASPARAGUS PLUMOSUS 19
There seems to be two distinct types of fungous attacks
on plumosus. Both are commonly called rust. About all of
the common preventatives for fungous troubles have been
used and so far with little if any success. It is possible to
use bordeaux mixture only when the plants are cut back
during summer for fall crops. Ammonical solution of cop-
per carbonate is generally used for later applications. Care
should be used to see that this is not applied during caim
muggy weather or else severe ammonia burning will re-
sult. At best fungicides have proved only mild preventa-
Cold and Frost Protection
Plumosus is tender and may be severely injured by frost.
It may withstand a temperature of 29 which is the tem-
peratiure that usually accompanies a heavy frost. But this
temperature reading must be taken on a level with the
plants, instead of several feet higher, as it ordinarilyI is
taken. On a calm night there may be a variation of a de-
gree to a foot up to six feet above the ground. Therefore.
it is not safe to rely on a thermometer attached to the side
of a building, or to a post. Put it down among the plants
where the frost damage occurs, if you would be guided by
Heating equipment varies considerably throughout the
state. Most sheds now are being equipped with the ibette
types of orchard heaters of large capacity. Others are still
using wood and coke heaters. It is essential that an ample
supply of heaters be used and that a good supply of oil be
available, because if at any time the temperature falls too
low the entire crop may be lost. Frost damage varies ma-
terially, due to the nature of the cold and also to the con-
dition of the plants. One cold spell may only injure the
mature sprays while another may only effect the tender
shoots of immature sprays. Sufficient oil should be kept
on hand to fire four nights of nine hours each.
Production and Marketing
An acre of plumosus may reasonably be expected to pro-
duce about 15.0,(000 sprays in a year. Production varies.
)perhaps, between 75.000() and 200,000 sprays. Wholesale
prices probably range from a quarter to a cent and a half
a spray, but from this one must deduct express charges
which usually are very high.
20 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Sprays are gathered by hand. The healthy and well-
formed ones are separated from the harvest and a dozen
collected together in a small bunch. A half dozen of the
small bunches are tied together to form a commercial
bunch. Sphagnum moss or some other water-holding ma-
terial is wrapped and tied about the butt of the bunch. It
is then ready for packing. Varying numbers of bunches are
packed in the several types and sizes of shipping boxes or
crates. Transportation should be under refrigeration.
Marketing is one of the major problems confronting the
plumosus grower today. Prior to 1930 no concerted effort
had been made toward orderly marketing. Growers were
divided roughly into two classes, those shipping most of
their product to wholesale houses and those shipping direct
to retail florists. As in all products, wholesale and commis-
Fig. 9. HIIarvest.ing sprays n l a l pinrtting at Luki Worth in Palm Hreaeh
County, Note how the teop is bred and reinforced as a protection aga linst
sion markets are barometic of the prices that may be ex-
pected elsewhere in the trade. Wholesale channels have
offered the best outlet, taking care of fluctuations in crops
as they come. Those who shipped directly to retailers gave
little thought to the fact that disorderly marketing into any
channels might eventually disrupt prices and markets. The
inevitable happened. When wholesale markets were pulled
down to where they were no longer profitable, growers
sought other outlets and started after direct retail ship-
GROWING ASPARAGUS IPLUMOSUS
ments. The unfortunate feature is that when they did not
get response, they cut prices. Many growers have not been
in the business long enough to know what their shipments
cost. with the result that many today are offering their
product at prices considerably below cost. consequently
hurting not only themselves but the industry generally.
There are many features of direct-to-retail shipments
which many growers have not considered and one ol' them
is ample credit information. Those who have followed this
business over a period of years have not always found such
information reliable. This is accounted fo0r by the fact that
retail florists first take care of accounts which effect their
credit most. The little grower a thousand miles away is
going to reccive last and least consideration.
I"iA, I1, T h|i i le, % r. o .. r a, ill ,I s l li n k liid ll i pr:n. % slil:allI .
lfor M :irlviing.
The ngrw\er. too. has received some abuse from1 wholesale
houses that have taken advantage of the fact that there
are over .100 growers of plumo) us from whom the whole-
saler can draw. i' one grower kicks, there are plenty of
others. It is fortunate, however, that there are many re-
22 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
liable wholesale houses handling plumosus that are willing
to cooperate witl the grower and help him solve his prob-
lems. They have not found it easy to deal individually
with 400 growers and, at the same time, solve problems upon
which hinge the control of both suppl)ly and quality of
plumosus going into their various markets. And no one
grower owns sufficient acreage to justify his carrying on
an educational campaign to increase the use of plumosus
by the retail florist and the public. Thus arises the neces-
sity of working together.
Turning to Cooperative Marketing
During the last year a cooperative marketing organiza-
tion has been formed by approximately 300 growers, repre-
senting about that number of acres. Its purpose is to solve
some of the marketing problems. For the first year this
organization has been handling largely the excess product
of the growers. Production was at a low ebb during the
1929-30 winter, due to damaging frosts during December.
This gave the association little to market during the winter
and little opportunity to build up market connections. The
last days of February brought on a very heavy spring crop
which soon overloaded all markets and shouldered a serious
marketing problem upon this new cooperative. It had to
go out and search for, find and establish connections with
markets already receiving more than they could handle.
Prices having been pulled down to an un')rofitable point
for both grower and wholesaler, the wholesalers, seeing the
necessity for and at this point a gesture toward remedying
such conditions, gave the organization excellent backing
and now there are outlets in all of the leading markets.
Such an organization, however, is handicapped during
its early life, because, like a new grower, it has first to go
out and secure markets and later, through regulation of
supply and educational sale work. redevelop those markets
previously disorganized and disrupted through hit-and-
miss selling. It will take several years for such an organ-
ization to carry out sufficient educational work among its
growers to induce them to bring their plantings into bear-
ing when needed. Otherwise it is a surplus one month and
a shortage the next.
As the supply of plumosus has become more plentiful
buyers have become more selective. So it is getting more
difficult each succeeding year to dispose of the best.
GROWING ASPARAGUS PLUMOSUS
Changes have been taking place in the floral industry also.
Formerly most of the floral work for funerals was made
up of designs using large quantities of short sprays, some-
times secured by cutting up long sprays. Now they are
using made-up sprays of flowers which call for medium
sprays of plumosus. This is causing a decided surplus of
short and long grades and, although efforts are being made
to find new outlets for these, there seems little chance of
- '* X\
l i" 1II. On 1' If' I It I\ \\m 113 i .1 in l Iiri h llu i I :l p i'k |l I'lr ~l il i|n) l .
'I'This lti'li;g w' nt' l l t lto i 11 h llhl\ I l pI erll' folde tul ellr a:nid tlhw toL )
Grades and Packs
Plumosus sprays are graded both as to length and qual-
ity. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics, United States
Department of Agriculture, has for some time been work-
ing on standard grades. These have just been announced
and are included as the last pages of this bulletin.
There are several types of packs being used by growers.
Some pack the sprays flat and others pack them in round
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
bunches. It is hoped that there will some day be a uniform
pack established. But this cannot be done at once, due to
various market demands; markets, some having become ac-
customed to one pack and others to another, pay a premium
for the particular pack desired.
There are still over 30 sizes of packing cases used, but
through efforts of crate companies the number is being
gradually reduced to about half a dozen. These consist of
the more popular sizes.
The growing of plumosus is one of the most expensive
agricultural enterprises in the state. Labor costs for pro-
ducing and harvesting plumosus run from around S800 to
81,500 per acre, with a multitude of factors determining
them. Some idea of shed-construction and fertilizer costs
have already been given.
Competition within the plumosus trade itself and with
other green materials sometimes used as substitutes has
reduced profits to an alarming point already, to say nothing
of the many hazards accompanying the growing of the
plants. Therefore, the man who contemplates going into
this industry should hesitate long enough to give these many
angles very much serious thought. Little if any encourage-
ment can be held out to the man who contemplates going
into the growing of plumosus at the present time.
Those who desire further information on this subject
might write to W. II. Schulz, Jr., Box 105, Auburndale.
Florida. Mr. Schulz is not only an authority on the grow-
ing and marketing of asparagus plumosus, but he also repre-
sents a bulk of the growers officially. being president of
the Plumosus Groners Cooperative Marketing Association.
GROWING ASPARAGUS PLUMOSUS
I 4i-. I .\ poor i inr rt plr hot IIl. rr.:llhi-: ll I. iut jl u t hi n 11 ni ii t'lls a
Ii:' t tir., 'Il'loi i ti ll, l ofi thi- prijk:s. 1 im 4hll d il( -E tr-m [ ialn i \ou 1 1 wi iuld
Im airkiIl :II) II It f(ll r )\ Ir-Ipru)'.h icti t u .
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
BUREAU OF AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS
UNITED STATES STANDARDS FOR
ASPARAGUS PLUMOSUS (1930)
1'. N. I'aic!i shall consist of bunches of well trimmed
sprays of Asparagus Plumosus which are mature and well
shaped: free from shattering. second growths, and from
damage 1by any cause. Unless otherwise specified, the
foliage shall be of good green color. (See size.)
In order to allow for variations incident to proper grad-
ing and handling. not mare than 10 per cent, by count, of
any lot may be below the requirements of this grade, but
no part of this tolerance shall Ie allowed for sprays which
1'. S. 'No. shall consist of bunches of well trimmed
sprays of Asparagus Plumosu.- which are nature; free
from shattering, second growths, and from damage by any
cause. Not less than 60 per cent, by count, of the sprays
shall b:: fairly well shaped and the remainder shall be not
badly misshapen. Unless otherwise specified, the foliage
shall be of good g-reen color. (See size.)
26 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
In order to allow for variations incident to proper grad-
ing and handling not more than 10 percent, by count, of
any lot may be below the requirements of this grade but
no part of this tolerance shall be allowed for sprays which
U. S. Commercial shall consist of bunches of well trim-
med sprays of Asparagus Plumosus which are mature; free
from shattering, young second growths, and from serious
damage by any cause Unless otherwise specified, the foli-
age shall be of good green color. ( See size.)
In order to allow for variations incident to proper grad-
ing and handling not more than 10 per ceet, by count, of
any lot may be below the requirements of this grade but
no part of this tolerance shall be allowed for sprays which
I' i IS.
Definitions of Size Terms
The following terms are provided for general description
of sizes. It is not the general practice to size Plumosus uni-
formly; therefore, lots should not be quoted as Corsage.
Short. Medium, or Long unless they have been specifically
sized to meet the specified requirements. Plumosus may
be quoted as "Short to Medium," "Short to Long," or
"Medium to Long," in accordance with the facts:
GROWING ASPARAGUS PLUMOSUS 27
Corsage Short Medium Long
10 I'l 15. in., ine., 1(; ("1 21 il., in" . to 32 ill.. i ,-. O1 er 33 in.
For lots which have been sized in accordance with the
provisions of the above classification, the following toler-
ance is provided:
In order to allow for variations incident to proper sizing
not more than 20 per cent, by count, of any lot may
not meet the size requirements; but not more than one-hail
of this tolerance, or 10 per cent, may vary not more than 2
inches above the maximum length or below the minimum
length of the specified size. Length shall be considered as
the over-all distance from end to end of the spray measured
to the nearest whole inch.
Fig I 1.
28 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Definitions of Grade Terms
As used in these grades:
"Well trimmed" means that all noticeably damaged por-
tions of the foliage have been neatly removed, together with
as many of the lower side fronds as may be necessary to
provide sufficient bare stem for proper tying and handling.
In the Corsage size not more than one-half of the entire
BADLY MISSHAPEN FAIRLY
^' BADLY MISSHAPEN *-
spray length may consist of bare stem; in the Short and
Medium sizes not more than one third of the entire spray
length may consist of bare stem; in the Long size not more
than 12 inches of the entire spray length may consist of
GROWING ASPARAGUS PLUMOSUS 29
"Mature" means that the spray has reached that stage
of growth at which the foliage is fully developed.
"Well shaped" means that the stem of the spray is fairly
stiff and fairly erect; the portion of the stem bearing the
foliage does not show any crooked growth other than a
slight cu'rving or the normal characteristic drooping; the
bare stem is not decidedly coiled or angular; the tip of the
spray is practically perfect; the side fronds are spaced
reasonably close together considering the length of the
spray and with practically perfect tips.
"Fairly well shaped" means that the stem may show a
reasonable amount of coiled, angular, or vine-like growth
considering the length of the spray; the tip of the spray
is practically perfect, and the side fronds are spaced rea-
sonably close together considering the length of the spray.
"Badly misshapen" means that the stem is decidedly
coiled, or decidedly angular, or decidedly vine-like, or that
the side fronds are spaced so far apart as to cause the
spray to appear decidedly lacking in foliage. Forked, top-
ped and stump-like sprays shall be considered as badly mis-
shapen when they appear decidedly lacking in foliage.
"Good green color" means that the spray foliage is a,
deep lustrous green of fresh, attractive appearance.
"Damage" means any material injury to the appearance
of the spray caused by insects, disease, mechanical or other
"Serious damage" means serious injury to the appear-
ance of the spray caused by insects, disease, mechanical or
June 6. 1930.