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Planting An Asparagus Bed

June 20th, 2011

Adding a large asparagus bed has been in my garden plan for quite a while. I have spent the last 3 years improving the soil in one large area of the garden preparing it for asparagus. Since asparagus a long-lived perennial vegetable, you want to make sure the soil is healthy. I remember those huge asparagus beds at Monticello, they were amazing!

If you like asparagus, growing it in your home garden makes sense. Asparagus is much tastier when cooked immediately after harvesting (in fact it’s quite good when eating right in the garden). Taking the time to install an asparagus bed now will reward you years of fresh harvests. Asparagus does not enjoy having wet feet, so a well-drained bed is essential or you may end up losing your crowns to rot. If you have heavier soil you can now purchase varieties like ‘Jersey Night’ and ‘Millennium’ that have been bred to do better in those conditions.

Each crown of asparagus is supposed to produce about a half a pound of spears during the 4-6 week spring season. I’m guessing that this is under optimal conditions and most likely with synthetic fertilizers. In my organic garden with less than ideal soil, I’m guessing I’ll get about a quarter pound per crown once they’re established. Mr Chiots and I love asparagus, so eating this much will not be a problem for us. I’m actually hoping to have extra so I can pickle some to enjoy throughout the year.

I planted 25 crowns each of ‘Purple Passion’ and ‘Jersey Supreme’ two weeks ago. I have a few ‘Mary Washington’ asparagus crowns in a raised bed in the back. I planted them 3 years ago and have been harvesting a few spears from them. They don’t get full sun, so they aren’t as productive as they would in in another area of the garden. These plants will be moved to the new asparagus bed up front soon. I’ll also be seeding some ‘Precoce D’Argenteuil’ Asparagus as well (source Baker Creek).

Planting asparagus is fairly easy, although if you search for information on how to do it on-line you’ll come up with conflicting information. After reading a few different ways of doing it, I decided to plant mine a little more shallow than is recommended. I found some information from Ohio State University that said plants were more productive and lasted longer if not planted as deeply. The location of my asparagus bed also has fairly heavy clay soil beneath the soil I amended. I wanted the crowns to be above the level of clay so I planted them about four inches below the soil level. The purple asparagus is planted 6-8 inches apart and the Jersey is planted 12-18 inches apart.

I added some bone meal at planting time to help with root development and I mulched well with shredded fall leaves. After about 5 days most of the crowns were putting up thin spears. It looks like every single crown has sprouted.  Fertilize your asparagus patch with a well balanced fertilizer in spring before spears emerge and with a higher nitrogen fertilizer in summer after harvest.  I like to use a mix of kelp meal and fish meal in spring and well rotted chicken manure in summer/fall.

Next year I’ll be able to harvest a few spears from this new bed. Some places will tell you not to harvest any, but I have read that harvesting a few spears will help stimulate the crowns to produce more buds thus making the plants more productive in future years. The second year I’ll be able to harvest a few more spears over the course of a 4-6 week period. My real reward will come in 2014 and beyond when I will have asparagus on my table for about 6-8 weeks each spring.

I’ve been trying to add more perennial edibles to my gardens to lessen soil disruption and asparagus is one step in that plan. Read my post at Your Day on Ethel about my plans for even more perennial edibles in the garden.

Do you grow asparagus in your garden?

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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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