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What vegetable can you plant once and enjoy eating for 20 years? Yes, Asparagus!
If you love asparagus, planting your own is a pretty darn good investment! I harvest crisp, delicious asparagus spears for 2 months in spring, and then let the bed turn into a mass of beautiful ferns over summer to rejuvenate the plant for next spring’s harvest.
Here it is in June after a morning of heavy dew on the mass of 6’ tall ferns. I like using the etherial summer foliage in flower arrangements.
Asparagus is super easy to grow as long as you give it the right home. It needs a permanent bed where it can live for 20 years. It would love a raised bed in full sun, good drainage, and soil with a pH of about 6.5 that has been heavily amended with organic matter/compost. Soil prep is the key! Once your bed is planted you will not till or put a shovel in it ever again, or you will damage the asparagus roots. You can add an organic nitrogen source such as feathermeal, bloodmeal or Espoma Planttone or Gardentone fertilizers.
Buying asparagus bare-root plants is the most economical way to go, and February is the perfect time to order them before the mail order sources run out. They should arrive in time for mid-March planting. Prepare their new home soon so you can plant them as soon as they arrive. (If you see bags of asparagus roots hanging in a bag in the store, do not buy them. They are dead. )
Asparagus roots spread over time and 10 plants (about $20) is enough to fill a 12’ x 4’ bed, planting roots about 18” apart. Check any of your seed catalogs for suppliers, or buy local asparagus roots from Plantworld in Fuquay Varina, NC through www.Etsy.com. You will get the best production from any of the “Jersey” varieties, and the fattest, heaviest spears from “purple passion” (my favorite, they turn green when cooked.)
Spread out the roots when planting and cover them about 6” deep. Mulch them after planting with soft stuff (shredded leaves, straw or pine needles) and annually thereafter to maintain that loose rich soil.
Kevin Lee Jacob’s blog at “A Garden for the House” has a nice pictoral of planting his first asparagus bed: http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2015/04/how-to-plant-asparagus-in-a-raised-bed/ I love his blog, but remember that he is in New York’s Hudson Valley so ignore his planting dates.
Now for the best part – EATING ASPARAGUS ! You can never go wrong pan roasting or oven roasting fresh asparagus with a bit of olive oil, salt and garlic (optional). Please feel free to reply below and share your favorite asparagus recipes. I promise you a bag of fresh asparagus this spring!