Early in my “guest” period on this blog, i wrote about my back-killing efforts to plant more asparagus, and the perils of the monsoon rains and mud for weeks, thereafter. some tiny plants made it, but i must re-plant over half the bed. it is getting a bit hotter here, and will be in mid-80’s in may. VERY grateful it is already dug out, well prepared. i burn easy.
my “old” bed (planted 22 yrs ago- they can produce for many, many years) is 3 weeks or so into its peak production, and will continue to bear for another few weeks, before the emerging spears reduce to pencil size. at that point, the roots are exhausted, and they must be lightly fed and cut no more. use any gentle organic fertilizer, higher in phosphorus and potash. better yet, compost- and then allow the actual plants to grow out, undisturbed.
their tall stalks stay beautiful all through the summer; the airy light-green ferns
feed the roots for the rest of the season. asparagus is actually an ideal garden crop.
it has a clear season and cycles, and once well-planted, requires minimum maintenance.
as a market crop, i think “artisan” asparagus (organic, lovingly hand-tended, raised on well-built soils with fine mineral content, and with greatest flavor) are green Gold!
Some points and tips for asparagus culture: SO Sorry!! read parts#1-5-4-3-2 for continuity.
writing straight out of my head can often be disorderly, and changing large chunks of text is beyond my feeble e-skills. perhaps friend ilona can fix/edit it…hint hint.
1- preparation of the bed is 3/4 of the work. plant in double-dug ditch about 2’deep with plenty of compost and or other amendments worked well into the bottom section.
keep a lower nitrogen/higher phosphorus/potash ratio. kelp meal works well or bone meal, as does aged manure or alfalfa pellets.
plus hardwoodwood ashes, LOTS!!!
it is the main”secret ingredient” for a prime crop of strong spears.
asparagus roots respond very well to yearly ash applications, up to several inches deep.
the first one goes on very early–here in middle ga in late january– in still-winter cold.
this must be done at least a month before the earth warms up-whatever your garden zone- in the midwest or northeast it can be scattered
directly on the snow and thawing weather will slowly wash it in.
the other ashing is best done in late fall, after crunching down the dead stalks.
Never cut these! (like daffodils and other bulbs) they continue feeding the roots
all winter, even as strawlike and bone-dry dead as they appear.
2- mulching asparagus keeps weed competition down; the surface protection keeps soil moist and easy for the fragile tips to penetrate. apply a good mulch after the fall ashing.
light texture mulch is better than heavy rotted, even fall leaves mat too heavily, but work ok if mowed or chopped in a shredder. asparagus roots are deeply planted and survive well-protected during even the coldest winters.
there are two methods for timing your spring harvest…. for earliest production,
rake mulch off the bed in very early spring; the sun-warmed earth brings up
an earlier crop. enjoy! beware of a late-frosty night, though.
their tips can get nipped and the new spears shrivel.
leaving the bed mulched, as usual, delays and extends the harvest another couple weeks.
it depends on what you want to do with your crop, sell it in bulk bunches all at once, or enjoy it at your leisure. a gourmet delight in abundance. it is easily put up and pickled.
spicy dilled asparagus pickles are so good they will make you “slap yore grandma”….. a southernism which conveys the meaning very well, if granny was truly a consummate country cook.
another plus, the cut spears are long-lived and hardy; they keep in excellent condition-with no real flavor loss, in ziploc bags for a week or more, if you need to save them.
although so very delicious, i don’t necessarily want to eat it daily-all day, for breakfast (eggs benedict) lunch (cream soup) and dinner( with lemon butter and roast chicken)
actually, it has been my good fortune to have had all of these over the last week =D
3- care and cultivation: in spite of being very deep rooted, asparagus requires adequate water supply throughout the entire growing season, especially with our ongoing drought conditions here in the south. i water infrequently, a good long slow soak.
if you have chosen to rake off the spring mulch, it can be re-applied or added around the small spears growing up, post harvest, but must be very carefully tucked in.
do not wait too long to do this. if they have grown up too far into the very-tender
new ferns, don’t disturb them with mulching at that time.
just keep an eye on the amount of timely rains over the season ( it rarely needs an extra soaking) and add back a mulch cover after the ashing in fall. it will bear
a reduced crop in times of extreme hot dry weather, and should not be cut at all
during those( infrequent) high-stress conditions.
4- some words about planting technique: after working their nourishments into
the bottom of ditch, build a 6″mound of soil for each root, approx 2.5 to 3′ apart
(crowns spread in size as they mature over the years). arrange roots carefully around the crown sitting on top of the mound, they should never lie above crown level, arched slightly below is best. carefully place soil around the spidery thick roots, tucking and lightly firming with your fingers so they are well set with no air pockets.
keeping a good eye on the actual crown level, and partially fill in the ditch with the prepared dirt. the ditch row should be about half full, with crowns just at or below the surface. let the next good rain wash them in. if needed, add a bit more soil to keep the crowns barely covered and the warming sun will soon cause tiny sprouts to show you that their roots are well established and active. over the next week, gradually add layers of soil as they grow, until ditch is filled or slightly mounded. mulch well, using lighter materials , like old hay or wheatstraw, so as not to break their tender necks.
5- plants: the newer all-male hybrids are far superior in their bounteous harvest of spears.
they expend no energy on the seed/fruit process thus giving better crops.
purchase the oldest roots you can afford. 2yr. are most common, and give a very
small harvest the next season(which ought to be left alone to better nourish the
growing roots.) full production of larger stalks comes in 3d planting season, and spears increase in size with age of your bed.
the giant grade or 3 yr. roots are pricey…. they’re for for the immediate-gratification types.
one-year roots are cheapest, you can buy lots more but you must wait 3-4 years.
it is up to you and your garden budget. just remember this is an extremely longterm investment! it is more like planting fruit trees. 20 plants provide enough for a family for the spring season, but you and your friends will soon be hooked. more will be put in the ground, i promise… if you can get some digging help with bribes of bunches of the new crop, so much the better.
my french grandmother had a 50′ bed of blanched white asparagus. a bunch of
Mrs. Witman’s white asparagus was always an extremely welcomed and prized gift!
that bed was producing before i was born, and we greedily ate them every spring
whenever we visited the farm; i am certain its delicate sweet flavor, eagerly
awaited each childhood spring, created my lifelong asparagus passion!