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Asparagus and Beans – A Winning Combo

July 23rd, 2012

In the past couple years I’ve been reading a lot about permaculture. As a result, I’m always searching for more effective ways to implement it’s ideas into the garden. This spring I was reading a non-permaculture article reading recommended a higher nitrogen fertilizer once harvests stopped and the foliage was allowed to grow.

Instead of adding a high nitrogen fertilizer, I was going to underplant the asparagus with clover. This would both provide nitrogen and protect the soil. Before I got it planted, I ran out of space in the edible garden for my green beans. Off went the lightbulb in my head and I planted them by the asparagus. The asparagus greened up nicely once the beans took root. When the beans are done producing they’ll be pulled and laid around the asparagus to provide an overwintering mulch to protect the soil. If I have comfrey to harvest at that time it’s leaves will be added as well.

I love discovering ways to maximize the small space by layering edibles. An added bonus is saving money by not having to buy a fertilizer. Any time I can keep the circle of the garden closed I’m one happy gardener. Like what goes on my plate, I like knowing exactly where every input in the garden comes from!

If you’re not familiar with permaculture, I’d highly recommend reading about it. Check your local library to see if they have a copy of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture. I had our library’s copy so much that I finally just purchased one. Mr Chiots is reading our copy of this book and is loving it (not bad for a guy that’s not really interested in gardening). He’s already talking of implementing the apple guild next spring in Maine. Perhaps I’ll have him write a blog post about it this winter as he’s planning!

Have you ever heard of permaculture? If so, are you implementing any of it’s principles in your garden?

23 Comments to “Asparagus and Beans – A Winning Combo”
  1. Karla on July 23, 2012 at 6:55 am

    I planted a pie cherry tree in my front yard this spring/early summer, and before I did so, I tilled over a ten-foot diameter circle to surround it. Bulbs for rings near the tree and around the circle’s perimeter are arriving in the fall, and I have a couple nitrogen-fixing and/or insectary plant natives in there now and more to come. So, it’s a nascent cherry tree guild.

    Reply to Karla's comment

  2. Sue from Ky. on July 23, 2012 at 8:10 am

    Now these are the kinds of things you could teach others if you were a Master Gardener.You would make a great MG.I love to learn more about companion planting.I tried it this year with corn,beans,and squash, but this was a bad year for my experiment.We have been having a really bad drought.Nothing is growing like it should.Maybe I’ll give it another try next year. I love trying new ideas.

    Reply to Sue from Ky.'s comment

  3. Melissa on July 23, 2012 at 8:29 am

    Last winter once I had cut back my asparagus for the winter, I sowed a crop of Austrian winter peas into the asparagus bed. They provided a perfect winter mulch. I cut them down around the middle of January and by the time the asparagus began to regrow in March, they were the perfect mulch. I didn’t even had to add any extra mulch to the bed this year! Worked so well I plan to do it again this year!

    Reply to Melissa's comment

    • Susy on July 23, 2012 at 8:35 am

      Don’t you love it when a plan works outs! I’ll probably plant some red clover this fall when the beans are finished.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  4. Melissa on July 23, 2012 at 8:33 am

    BTW, I second Sue from KY’s comment about coming an MG– you ought to look into it once you get to Maine. I did the SC program this year and thoroughly enjoyed it. Met so many great people and learned so much! It’s really fun getting to talk about gardening stuff too at the volunteer events.

    Reply to Melissa's comment

    • Susy on July 23, 2012 at 8:43 am

      I might, we do not have a MG program in our county of Ohio. I’ve also heard that many MG programs heavily teach pesticide and chemical fertilizer use.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  5. Sherri on July 23, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Uncanny! I am reading this VERY book from my my library at the moment and I love it so much, I’ve ordered it as well (I rarely enjoy a book so much that I order it). I LOVE it and am starting to wrap my head around “guilds”. Fascinating learning :)

    Reply to Sherri's comment

  6. Michelle on July 23, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Hi! I was wondering if you’ve ever considered doing a series on “Gardening for Beginners” or something similar. I realize there are probably hundreds of great books out there (maybe some you could feature like you have here) to provide guidance, but being a true novice myself, I love reading your blog, but am often confused! I’ll admit, I’m not sure what underplanting is! (assume layering, but wouldn’t know how to do it). Just a thought – it might even bring new readers. Thanks!

    Reply to Michelle's comment

    • Susy on July 23, 2012 at 10:02 am

      I have considered it and am thinking about doing it this coming winter when I have a bit more time. Stay tuned, a few new things are in the works.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  7. Songbirdtiff on July 23, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    I’m very familiar with permaculture but haven’t lived here long enough to implement those practices. I will definitely be learning more about it because I definitely want it to be a part of the gardens here.

    Reply to Songbirdtiff's comment

  8. Jennifer Krieger on July 23, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    I’d be interested in hearing more about comfrey.

    Reply to Jennifer Krieger's comment

  9. Joan on July 23, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    Hi Susy, can you tell me more about interplanting clover with asparagus (or give me a pointer where to find the info)? I like the idea but worry about the clover taking over the asparagus bed. Clover forms such a dense root mass, and I’ve been trying very hard to keep my asparagus weed free… I like your idea of interplanting beans, but might try interplanting a fall crop of peas in the asparagus instead. Peas will like the shade, and pulling them or folding them over and using them as mulch is a great idea!

    Reply to Joan's comment

    • Susy on July 23, 2012 at 4:53 pm

      You just have to choose a variety of clover that winter kills. I have had great success using Crimson clover in areas I don’t want it to survive the winter, unlike white clover which will. I would plant the clover in rows on either side of the asparagus, not too close or directly around/on the crowns. Then the top growth can be cut and spread around the crowns. I have had great luck using good layers of mulch to keep weeds from becoming too much of a problem in the asparagus. When planting the beans I simply scratched some of the mulch away from the soil and planted the beans. Using comfrey as a mulch around the asparagus would also be very beneficial, make sure to harvest before the flower stalks come up, or make sure you’re growing ‘Russian Bocking 14’ comfrey which does not root from flowering stalks.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  10. Nebraska Dave on July 23, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Susy, my three sisters experiment didn’t work out too well this year either. The wild turkeys scratched out the corn seeds and ate the sprouts from the seeds that they missed. One hill of corn grew but the beans never sprouted so I never planted the squash. The experiment with the sweet corn for the critters worked wonderfully well so far. This was the buffet weekend. Every last ear of corn was stripped clean. The corn inside the fence is still in tact. I wish I had more outside the fence corn to keep the critters busy but that will have to be a next year thing.

    Practically all my garden blogs support the weirdness of the garden this year. Apparently plants are trying to figure out what to do to stay alive just like us.

    Have a great day in the garden.

    Reply to Nebraska Dave's comment

    • KimH on July 23, 2012 at 5:41 pm

      Dave, if its coons that are getting your corn, I have a nifty little trick for you.
      Starting about 3 weeks before your corn is ready, sprinkle baby powder on the ground and up the stalk and the first 2 or 3 leaves of the corn plant. Coons hate their paws being dirty and it freaks them out & they go somewhere else & eat someone elses corn. :)

      Dont put the baby powder on the ears themselves, or at least nowhere near the corn silks. If you do, you’ll keep any ears from being pollinated and you’ll get sad looking corn. I know.. M’honey thought overkill would be a good idea. It wasnt. ;)

      I got this trick from an old gardener who gardened across from me in a community garden. We were all woebegone because our corn had been hit and his had not. I asked him what he did & he told me. I used the trick from then on out & never got my corn stripped again.

      Hope this helps, if not you, someone. :)

      Reply to KimH's comment

  11. val on July 23, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    I just wanted to remind everyone to take your thoughtful advice — especially as spelled out in your reply to Joan. I ruined my asparagus harvest in my third year because I thought strawberries would make a nice companion to asparagus! I did not know then that asparagus has shallow roots and hates competition. A cover crop that dies completely in winter is a great idea, but you have to have the space for it. I may try a fall pea crop as well.

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  12. KimH on July 23, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Nothing will grow under the cover of my asparagus… Its thick, its tall and the only time the sun hits the ground is in the early spring when its in the picking stage.. Once I let the ferns grow, theres no holding it back. They grow about 6-7 ft tall and it looks like one great big ferny bush. I even have to tie them to the fence, they get so out of hand.

    Reply to KimH's comment

  13. tj on July 23, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    …I love your advice to Nebraska Dave up there! I did not know that and I will certainly use that in next year’s garden. :o)

    …And I know now, thanks to you, about planting the green beans near the asparagus. I currently have our asparagus in a raised bed, which I regret doing. This fall we’ll be fencing in our entire garden and pumpkin patch and I’ll even have a garden gate. *squeal* ;o) Anyway, when we put the fence in I’m gonna move the asparagus out of the raised bed and plant more of it too. Expanding your asparagus bed? It’s a good thing. :o)

    …I do believe you could qualify to be a Master Gardener Susy. I think that is a fantastic idea altho’ you’re already that in our eyes. :o)

    …I’ve heard of Permaculture but still not quite certain what it all encompasses. I’ve saved your recommendation above to my Amazon Wish List, as well as so many others you’ve mentioned. This Fall I plan on placing a book order thru Amazon so I’ll be getting a few of these books you’ve recommended.

    …Enjoy your evening you two!

    …Blessings :o)

    Reply to tj's comment

  14. karen on July 23, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    I love that book! It has changed gardening for me forever.

    Reply to karen's comment

  15. Linda on July 24, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Have you seen this permaculture forum?
    I’ve found lots of great topics covered over there. And the responses given if you post a question are quick, helpful and friendly.

    Reply to Linda's comment

    • Susy on July 24, 2012 at 11:27 am

      I’ve actually been there before, lots of great info!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  16. katy on November 5, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    i don’t have any asparagus but i just pulled my bush beans (we are getting many light frosts in a row so they are healthy but are not continuing to produce) and layed them down on their bed as a mulch over the winter b/c i remembered reading this article & thought i would give it a try. in the spring, when i’m ready to plant in that bed, what do you think? do i leave what is left of the beans (most likely just the stems) or clear it away before planting? i am COMPLETELY new to this gardening thing & i love learning :)

    Reply to katy's comment

    • Susy on November 6, 2012 at 8:37 am

      Yes, you can just leave them in place. They will break down over the winter and help feed the soil.

      Reply to Susy's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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