Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Plant Profile: Asparagus

Nothing says, "SPRING!" like fresh asparagus. With no real work on my part, I am able to get a decent harvest of asparagus from my community garden plot. The only thing this perennial vegetable really requires is patience.

Having to hold off on harvesting for three years from the initial planting date was a real test of my will power, but the wait is worth it. They are so tender fresh from the garden that they only need a quick blanching to prepare them.

To plant them, buy asparagus crowns (roots) via mail-order or from your local garden center. Plant them in a trench about 6 to 12 inches deep and a foot wide in a sunny spot in your garden. Add in some organic compost when re-filling the hole and then keep the area well-mulched.

 Let the plants go through their growth cycle for two years without picking any so they gain strength and get well-established. In the third year, you can finally selectively harvest some spears by grasping them near the ground to bend them and they will naturally snap off at their weakest point.

At the beginning of May, stop harvesting and let the asparagus spears grow. They need the tall foliage and recovery time to send energy back down to the developing roots. You will need to tie-up the long asparagus fronds in the summer with a bungee cord or string as they like to flop over.

 In the fall, the plant forms little red seed pods or "berries," The asparagus seeds can be collected, dried, and planted the next spring. Towards the end of autumn, the foliage starts to turn brown --cut it back and compost it. Then mulch the bed with an organic material like straw.

I let strawberries encroach in my asparagus bed as their surface-runners don't really interfere much with the asparagus roots, but you really should keep it weeded and free of other interloping plants.

By the way, “white” asparagus is the same plant as the regular green one. It is just deprived of sunshine so it can’t produce chlorophyll and turn green. To grow white asparagus, bury the spears in mounds -- adding a few inches of soil a little at time, leaving the very tips showing. Harvest by digging them out and cutting off the top growth.

Asparagus - You Can Grow That!

The video was produced by Washington Gardener Magazine.

Visuals by Khloe Quill
Audio by Kathy Jentz


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