The Fresh Chef: Planting Aspargus — An Exercise in Patience

Hi there! Grab a shovel and join my in the garden. Better pop a muffin in you pocket in case you get hungry. We are in for some work.

Asparagus is an investment of time and work that when properly planted will yield a perennial harvest of young, tender luxurious shoots for 10 – 20 years.

Then, instead of $4.50/ pound at the market, the lifetime cost reduces it to a percent of a penny per serving. Frugal and fresh.

Asparagus crowns can be purchased anyplace that has a good seed department or by mail order.

What you get are the ugliest, ratty looking octopi of plant roots. Oh, you could start them from seed if you feel your character needs development or are some kind of garden expert, in which case you don’t need this article anyway.

Here’s how to prepare the asparagus bed:

1. In a sunny, well drained location remove all weed to the best of your ability, especially perennial weeds whose roots once tangled with those of the asparagus are impossible to remove.

2. According to the chart from the How to Feed a Family Through Gardening article, you assume 15 crowns per person(To me that seems a little high for fresh eating, but it’s your choice). Each crown is planted 15″ apart in rows about 4’apart. Do your own math as to the size of your asparagus bed.

3. Dig a trench 12″wide by 8-15″deep. 8″deep in the warmest regions, 15″in the coldest regions. Place the removed soil to the side of the trench. You’ll use it later.

4. Mix about 3″ of well-rotted manure or compost into the soil at the bottom of the trench, creating a very nutrient rich base. Some folks may need to make adjustments so the soil pH is about 6.5.

5. Using that lovely, rich soil, create a 4-6″ridge in the bottom of the trench.

6. Every 15″place one crown on the ridge in the trench, gently spreading the roots.

7. Using the removed soil, cover all the roots and the actual crown with about 2″of soil.

8. As shoots emerge continue to fill in the trench, little by little, over a few week until the ground is level again.

9. Mulch with grass clipping to add nitrogen and keep the patch weeded.

10. Be patience.

Here is the bad news.

You don’t get to harvest any this year. None. Not a one, so that the roots can develop. Mow the feathery fern to the ground in the fall.

Next year, you can harvest very lightly, allowing most shoots to grow through to feathery fullness. Again mow them to the ground in the fall.

The year after that, you are finally in business. To harvest, cut young shoots, that are no bigger than your pinky finger, just below the soil surface with a clean, sharp knife. Be careful! You don’t want to nick the others growing nearby.

You can harvest for 6 to 8 weeks then you need to let the shoots grow out to feathery fullness again. Good rule of thumb: Don’t harvest past mid-Summer.

Every fall you will mow them to the ground again and fertilize them. You will be rewarded with many years of harvest.

(sigh)

There is something magical about seeing those first shoots of spring peeking out of the soil. The first fresh veggies. Yum!

Good luck and be patient.

You could grow them from seed but that adds a year of waiting and I was just not graced with that kind of patience. So your on your own there.

Happy digging!

Join me Friday afternoon for the 1st edition of the Neighborly Advice weekend magazine. A few neighbors and I have gotten together to share some beginner articles on backyard livestock, preserving, cooking, baking, knitting, etc. Join the fun as we challenge you to learn a new skill.

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I have never heard of asparagus in pots. Allegedly, the roots can span 5 feet. Although I imagine that might take some time. I am fascinated by the idea of buying time before you get them in the ground. Be sure to keep me updated.
    One thought, plant them in the exact arrangement you expect to put the in the ground next year as you may have to just gently place the whole shebang in the ground. Tangled roots could get ugly. Of course, I’m just guess that might happen. Might not.

  2. Considering how slow they grow and how I am constantly changing how I arrange things, I decided to try growing asparagus in a big pot (about twenty four inches accross). For all I know I’ve committed one of the classic blunders but we’ll see. Hopefully by this time next year I will be settled in to an arrangement of permanent beds and will plant some in the ground then.


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