Friday, February 25, 2011

Making a Comfy Bed for Asparagus

The first time I actually saw a "real live" asparagus growing out of the ground, I had no idea what it was. We were caretaking a farm in British Columbia at the time, learning a whole new respect for where our food 'came from'. Mentioning this to Malcolm, the farm owner, he said "you mean that old asparagus bed is still producing!". By that time, the crowns had been in the field fifteen years. Within a day, we had the spears cut and die for!! So began our love affair with asparagus.

Thirteen years passed before we bought this property but putting in an asparagus bed was at the top of our list. We had help digging the trenches, filling them partly with rich compost, mixing soil with manure, lightening it with sand....ah, memories, family time well spent. We followed directions from a borrowed copy of Readers Digest Illustrated Guide to Gardening in Canada although I don't remember reading there, the crowns should be laid on little hummocks of sand but we did that, to prevent crown rot. Our two rows, about four feet apart and 23 feet long, are enough for a family for four.  The roots are particularly adverse to wet conditions and if you think you might find them a home in soggy soil with poor drainage.....don't waste your money or effort. They won't put up with constant wet.  This is the bed below on May 21st last year but the spears first appeared April 11th.

Variety ....Viking.  We like the flavor very much and plants are available locally. Careful not to let the area get weedy, we give a good cover of composted manure early spring, don't walk on the bed except to weed or pick the spears  (as the roots don't like it if you do) and usually we also mulch with straw although haven't the last two years. A good reference is here. They like the soil about pH 7.0 so must put some lime on this year as well. Harvesting stops when we don't see them for sale anymore at the farmers market, about July 1st. can kind of tell when they are tired and need to grow on into ferns to replenish the roots with energy for next year's crop.

What you have here is a great looking perennial plant with gorgeous fronds (here seen shimmering in dewy autumn) that will look great the rest of the season after you're done harvesting. If you do flower arranging..this is your Asparagus fern.

It's time now to think about putting a bed in. Yes, a bit of work at the beginning and you will have to wait three birthdays before cutting a full harvest... but you will pat yourself on the back for years to come, grateful that you made the effort.



  1. uh oh, I put in asparagus last year and frankly, I have no idea how well draining that bed is. Never mind sitting the crowns up on little hummocks or sand. Yikes, now I'm worried whether my plants will come round this spring. Well there's nothing to do but wait at this point and see how it goes. oh the trials and errors of gardening. At least I'll know better for next time.

  2. Asparagus is a favorite spring vegetable of mine. Yum! I inherited a few asparagus plants in my back garden when we moved in. I have left them be, not sure what to do with them. Thanks to your post I now know a little bit more about growing asparagus.

  3. We both love asparagus! As you know, we aren't gardeners, but have a couple large asparagus growers in our area, so we are able to buy it the day it was picked! Yum! A village, in our county even has an "Asparagus Festival" which we have attended!! It's on our blog on May 15 and 18, 2010.

  4. Great post Brenda.. we had asparagus for supper tonight - sauteed with a bit of toasted sesame oil, fresh ginger, soy sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds - so good!

    We have about 20 plants, but I always let 2 or 3 go into 'summer production' for the longest harvest possible. We cut these plants back in late spring to the ground and then water with a dose of fish fertilizer. Soon, new shoots are coming up and we harvest for another 4 to 5 weeks until production slows again.. at that point, we let them 'fern up'. The following summer, we pick a few other plants and let them produce in the summer. This gives us an 12 to 15 week harvest period rather than just 6 to 8 weeks.. :)

  5. Niki..Thank you. I have never heard of summer production! I would like to try mean the plant or plants one chooses to continue to harvest, will produce another four to five weeks to end of July perhaps with a good dose of fish fert? Excellent idea. Crop harvest must be rotated as you suggest...have never read this before.

    Marguerite...they are likely just fine...I do tend to read a lot and perhaps do more than expected, and have heard from others who haven't made this effort and theirs have done just fine. It's just how we did it...a comparison to others.

    Michele and I loved following the link to the Asparagus Festival..what a smile it put on my face))) Thank you!! Lucky you have asparagus growers in your area. We do also but so expensive...

    Jennifer...thank you. So pleased to learn you have some in your garden. If you haven't harvested so far, then they should really be producing this year. Give them that boost of manure and they will high five you. Then...Wrapped in prosciutto, grilled until just starting to limp..dots of balsamic vinegar on a plate...Oh Gosh it's so good!!

    Thanks so much for the kind comments and teaching me more about asparagus )))

  6. Hey Brenda - forcing is pretty easy and sooo rewarding! I write about it in the book! In early spring, pick a few plants (at least 4 years old) and allow them to go right to fern - don't harvest any spears. In late spring/early summer, cut them back to the ground and water in a dose of fish fert. Start harvesting fresh, fat spears and continue to pick until most of the new spears are pencil-sized. Then, allow the plant to go back to fern. Mulch with compost! I've also heard of gardeners picking a few other plants in mid-summer for fall production! I haven't tried this, but hope to this year. :)

  7. Thanks for sharing all the great information on growing asparagus. My biggest problem is that I am always moving ours around, I really need to find a permanent location for them and quite changing my mind.

  8. Yes,I should find a spot too... I have been thinking about it for years, if I had been acting on it instead by now I would have my own!!!

    Still, difficult to find a good place in the bush... I may need yet more planning!! :-)