Tuesday, April 30, 2013
On our way out of the nursery this week, we noticed asparagus crowns in a cooler behind the counter. On a whim, we purchased 10 of them and a little book on how to grow them. This is definitely one of the more unusual impulse buys I have ever made. We didn't have a clue what we were getting ourselves into! Asparagus is one of those rare vegetables that I have never seen growing and have never known anything about - except that it's delicious and often hard to come by.
A few things I learned, once I did a little research... Asparagus is a member of the lily family. It is recommended that asparagus be grown in a dedicated bed that is free of weeds and any other competition, and undisturbed by usual annual garden activities. Asparagus does not do well with competition and one should plan to have it around for a long while. A healthy asparagus patch can live up to 30 years. Amazing! Also surprising to me was that it grows tall, feathery, frond-like foliage in the summer - 4-7 feet tall - and the females will produce red berries (though they are toxic). It's a beautiful plant.
Well, we didn't have an empty bed available for them, and they weren't going into the veggie garden, so we had to get with it. The crowns didn't look all that happy to me (though I don't really know what they are supposed to look like), but I felt like we shouldn't let them sit around any longer than absolutely necessary.
We chose a spot beside the hoop house, where there still remains a pile of soil left over from the hoop house project last year. We have been wanting to move that pile of soil, and would need some of it for the asparagus bed. We have also intended that the area around the hoop house become the beginnings of more garden space, so it made the most sense to put our asparagus bed there. This location would also be relatively easy to fence from deer, and during this whirlwind project we also installed the first few fence posts.
While Steven located and cut the lumber for our planter box, I moved dirt, gathered cardboard and removed all the tape from it.
We sheet mulched the area with the cardboard. This creates an effective weed barrier that will eventually biodegrade. Grass (at least our grass) has an amazing ability to grow through anything, no matter how deep, so a barrier is necessary until it and other perennial weeds have completely died off.
Once our box was built, we filled it with a mix of soil and compost.
I dug a trench down the center, mounded a mix of compost and organic fertilizer in the middle of it, and set the crowns on the mounds, draping their rhizomes down the sides. There are a few methods people use for planting asparagus, but this is the one I chose.
We then backfilled with a mix of soil and compost, covering the crowns just a couple inches, and watered well. We should see asparagus shoots in a week or so, but won't be able to start a small amount of harvesting until next year. This will be a practice of patience! In the meantime, we will get to enjoy their fern-like foliage, and anticipate the years ahead of our simple, rewarding investment.
In hindsight, I would have made the box a little bigger, and had this decision been pre-planned, I would have made sure of the health and freshness of our crowns. This was so spontaneous! I am pretty pleased with how quickly we were able to pull this together, and all with materials we had on hand
Have you grown asparagus? Any tips? Did you see any blatant errors? Do deer eat it? :)
A few resources: