I would love to have my own source of Asparagus. It is one of my favourite late spring/early summer vegetable, but it is so expensive that I only ever get it as a treat once in a while.
A few years ago (2014), I picked up some Asparagus seed (variety – ‘Viking’). I knew I didn’t have the proper place for it to live, so I didn’t sow them that year… But by the next year, I couldn’t help myself.
I started the seeds, and they grew fantastic. I planted them out in the least sunny location in my yard. Big mistake, but I didn’t realise how little sun that area got until I planted something that I knew needed a lot of sun. It grew. Not well, but it grew. I didn’t have high hopes for it making it over winter. Much to my surprise, last spring, It poked its head out and grew all year again… Again, not well, but it grew.
So this year, I am hopeful that it survived again. And I am going to attempt to build a proper asparagus bed out at my parents house (if they agree of course).
In preparation of this project, I’ve been doing some research. A few of my notes below are things I already knew, but I wanted to include them if you are new to asparagus.
- Long-term Perennial
- Harvest is of the shoots coming up in the spring. You need to let these grow later in the season for the plant to regain enough energy to last overwinter and grow again the next spring.
- The first 2-3 years of an asparagus bed should be focused on letting the plant establish itself in its new home. This means minimal harvesting. The plants need to establish their storage capabilities in their root systems.
- Asparagus roots can penetrate around 6 feet deep.
- When creating a new bed, it should be deeply dug, any rocks removed and then enriched with plenty of rich compost. You want to establish as much nutrition in the soil now, because you won’t be digging deep for 15-20+ years. Putting the work in now, will help the asparagus establish for a long life.
- According to the University of Minnesota, “Production is most successful in areas where freezing temperatures or drought terminates plant growth and provides a rest period. Without this rest period, reduced yields are likely.”
- When planting the crowns, you splay the roots out over a raised mound set in a deep trench.
So right now, my plan is to create a slightly raised bed (mostly just to distinguish the bed from the surrounding ground). About 2 feet wide, and 6 feet long. This won’t provide a huge supply of Asparagus in the future, but it will provide some, which is all we really want. I will dig as deep as I can to remove as many perennial weed roots as possible. This will also be in the NE end of the garden area, so if a garden is re-established in the future, the tall asparagus ferns will not shade out any of the other growing areas. Once planted, I will mulch deeply with leaf mould and probably some wood chips. This will help reduce the watering requirements and lower the amount of weeding. Adding some extra mulch on top of the bed over winter will also help the plants overwinter.
In addition to the one or two surviving asparagus plants I may have already in my garden, I would like to add in some crowns. Possibly the red/purple kind to add some diversity.
The problem with starting asparagus from seed, is that you are unable to distinguish the male from the female plants. Ideally, you want male plants, as they produce larger spears. That being said, it is worth mentioning the pride in growing something long-living straight from seed (For example, I’m much more proud of the delphiniums I grew from seed my grandma saved than I am of the plant I bought at the garden centre).
If you have any asparagus tips or tricks to share, add them in the comments. I’ll update when anything new happens on the Asparagus front.