Growing Asparagus

February 17, 2009

Asparagus plants are perennials and long-lived...

A friend of mine gave me some asparagus from a bed that I had helped her to create – and it reminded me of what a delicious luxury they are, especially at this time of year when nothing else is very exciting.
Asparagus plants are perennials and long-lived perennials at that, so it’s well worth while making a nice home for them.
The best shape for a bed is a square or deep oblong with, say, three staggered rows of plants, and the soil must be weed free, as nothing could be more frustrating than watching your lovely asparagus plants being smothered by weeds. The soil should be good, and enriched with a little organic fertilizer (also seaweed, or seaweed fertilizer as they are, by nature seaside plants) to give the plants a good start in life.
Once upon a time you could only buy ‘first year’ plants which meant that you had to wait a whole three summers before you could cut them in any quantity – but now second- and even third-year plants are available for a little more money, so provided you have planted them in good time, you should be able to cut a few luxurious delicious spears in the first summer.
Asparagus plants are usually sold ‘bare root’ – that is, you get a bunch of very ugly looking brown squiggly roots, and you wonder what exactly it was that prompted you to buy (or order) them in the first place.
Put them in a bucket of water for a few hours and then plant them, spreading each spidery set of roots out so that each plant sits surrounded by a circle of roots. Plant about 18” (45cm) apart and about 6” (15cm) deep and be sure not to let them dry out as you plant each ‘crown’ (as they are called).
In early spring you will see a few fairly spindly spears appear. Don’t take more than two or three from each plant, but let them grow up and strengthen for the years to come.
In summer those spears will have grown into long fine stalks with beautiful soft ferny growth that is very decorative. When the fern starts to yellow, cut it down and give the bed a tonic of fertilizer for the following spring.
One of the pleasures of growing some of your own vegetables is how it puts you back in touch with the seasons – and the Asparagus season is definitely one to look forward to!
Happy Horticulture