“And each in your season returns and returns” Les Miserables
I am so excited to be adding asparagus back into our little garden. My first experiment with planting and tending asparagus was an abject failure. I forgot the cardinal rule of asparagus in that they will tolerate no competition. The space I had them in before was simply ground in the garden. Our garden, thanks to the previous owner is awash in Bishop’s weed, it was their way of cheaply putting in landscaping…but it is a pernicious perennial weed in my opinion that spreads by root division, meaning that the more you break the roots by extricating it, the more it grows! The only way to grow in a garden like ours is by using raised beds or by sheet mulching and leaving an area alone for years….we have employed both methods. This competition simply swamped the asparagus I had in the garden without us seeing a single edible stalk.
Anyway, back to the asparagus. I recently installed a narrow and long bed in the garden, this will more than likely be the last raised space we can add to our little backyard homestead so I wanted to use this space or at least most of it for perennial vegetables and fruit. The first compartment is a 2’X4’X10” bed, that is the perfect size to have asparagus for two people each spring.
Aside from the competition rule, asparagus likes rich, yet sandy soil…it is a delicate flower and likes the best of all worlds as far as soil. Our solution was to mix 25% sand, 25% peat and 50% organic garden soil and compost to the bed and mix thoroughly.
Since the space is small, we could only add 8 small crowns. We selected the Millennium variety of asparagus. Out-yielding some of the most ambitious asparagus, Millennium is quickly becoming a garden and culinary favorite with an outstanding flavor. These hardy, predominately male plants produce succulent, high-quality spears for years. The plants are rust-resistant and perform well in medium to heavy soils.
Before planting the asparagus crowns, I first soaked them for 20 minutes in water to help rehydrate them. Next I dug the first furrow. I dug down approximately 7 inches, then fanned out the asparagus crown roots in the furrow, one per square foot before burying them with the tip of the crown 6 inches below the surface of the soil.
I repeated the same steps on the second side of the bed. The roots will spread and root down, but slowly enough to let the cardboard I placed in the bottom of the bed to kill the grass underneath and allow root penetration.
I then gave the soil a good watering and I will watch for rain throughout the next few weeks until the roots start to spread.
Asparagus is for the patient gardener. Like rhubarb, it cannot be harvested for a couple of years. The first year, it will send up stalks, but they are to be left to reach the fern state, they will then utilize photosynthesis to feed and build the root structure. I may get a couple of spears out of the crowns next year, but more than likely, in the third spring, I can begin to harvest a small number of precious spears to enjoy. After that we can harvest more.
If cared for properly, asparagus crowns can produce food for 20 years, that is definitely worth the time and effort!