Soil to Table: Homegrown Asparagus

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Growing your own asparagus can be extremely rewarding. Along with growing a delicious vegetable, you’ll also be adding an ornamental element to your vegetable garden. After harvest, the shoots become a soft, green ferny mass that provide a lovely backdrop to your summer edibles.

Right now we have some ‘Jersey Knight’ and ‘Sweet Purple’ bare root asparagus crowns in bundles of 6 for just $6.99 each.

jerseyknightpic‘Jersey Knight’ is a patented male hybrid with few female plants. The male plants spend less energy producing seeds and put more energy toward growing spears. Jersery Knight has excellent fusarium tolerance and a high resistance to rust. (Photo courtesy of Weeks Berry Nursery)

asparagus_Purple‘Sweet Purple’ has twenty-percent sugar content, and can be eaten raw. It’s delicious on salads! The spears are larger, more tender and less stringy. All in all a great new selection. (Photo courtesy of Weeks Berry Nursery)

Here are a few tips from our staff that will help you get your asparagus off to a strong start…

Soil Prep:

Asparagus like loose, rich soil with an average PH of 6.5-7. To achieve this, in Whatcom’s typically acidic, heavy-clay soil you may need to do a little amending. Good drainage is of paramount importance to a healthy asparagus bed.

Raised beds are an excellent option for asparagus. Whether you’re planting in-ground, or a raised bed, we’d recommend an application of Gardener and Bloome ‘Harvest Supreme’, at least 3 inches… It contains rich nutrients such as bat guano and kelp meal, including some manure which asparagus loves, as well as a little lime to balance the PH of your soil. If you’ve really got some tough clay, consider combining that with some of the ‘Soil Building Compost’ from Gardener and Bloome. Just to be sure your new bed is draining well.

As you can tell, asparagus have pretty specific needs and they are heavy feeders. So before you plant, mix in some of Gardener and Bloome’s ‘Tomato, Herb and Vegetable’ Fertilizer, which contains bone meal among other nutritive amendments.

Now that you’ve prepped your soil, here come’s the fun part. Planting!

Planting:

You want to plant your crowns about 12-18 inches apart. Asparagus like to have space. So, with that in mind, dig enough 4-6 inch deep trenches to accommodate all your crowns. Place your crowns at the bottom of the trench, spread the roots out and cover with 2-3 inches of soil.

Care and Maintenance:

As the asparagus grows, keep the crowns moist, and continue to cover with soil until you’ve filled and mounded the trench a bit.

A Note on Weeding- Asparagus plants can’t take the competition when it comes to weeds. Try to keep that bed fairly weed free, to prevent them from having to struggle for light, nutrients etc.

Here’s where the patience comes in…As the little tips poke out of the ground that first year, you’ll want to harvest. DO NOT HARVEST YOUR ASPARAGUS THE FIRST YEAR. They need to build up a sufficient root mass to carry them through the winter. They need every spear to pull in whatever nutrients they can. So, leave them alone. Watch them flower and create lovely, ferny green puffs.

When they have gone to flower and later turned brown, you can cut them down and throw them on your compost pile.

When winter comes, cover them with a nice thick layer of compost, about 3 inches. Give them some more fertilizer in early spring the following year.

Tony says, don’t forget to mark where your asparagus is. It’s too easy to forget, and risk digging up your carefully nurtured crowns. As he learned at his first year at Cascade Cuts, when he dug up an overgrown area that turned out to be their asparagus patch!

Harvest:

In the second year, when you get some nice fat spears, that are about 6-8 inches high, you can go ahead and harvest. Don’t wait until they are 12 inches high, they may bolt, and they won’t be nearly as tender. Even in the second year, you want to harvest lightly, for only about 3 weeks. Only harvest the spears about as big as your thumb. In July, let them bolt. You can go crazy the third year, we promise.

We hope these tips are helpful to you while planting your asparagus this winter. If you have any questions, as always, call us at the store: 676-5480. We love to talk veggies!

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