Asparagus: the crowning glory of spring

Asparagus seedling

Asparagus seedling

With every set of asparagus crowns I sell, I get more questions… thought I would sit down (away from the blackflies) and share a few pointers.

I’m selling crowns –plants I started from seed at least three years ago. I have been harvesting spears from three-year-old plants in my garden but given that transplanting is a rough process for plants, I never harvest asparagus from transplants.

After I give you the plants, keep them in a moist, somewhat dark and fairly cool place until you get showery, calm weather for transplanting. For those of you who live as close to the Bay of Fundy as I do, just give up on waiting for calm weather – maybe try to set up a windbreak.

Preparing the bed: Keep in mind that you are planting perennials, so try to get the bed as well prepared as possible before planting. If you have problems with perennial weeds (eg. couchgrass, raspberries), I suggest you work on weed control for another year before planting asparagus. Otherwise, you will be struggling with weed issues for years. Try to remember what the roots look like – that comes in handy when you’re weeding.

Add compost to the soil. (And if you’ve already planted the crowns, just add some to the top of the soil.)

Planting: Space the plants 12-18 inches apart. Spread out the roots and plant the crown just below the soil surface. Water well.

Soon, you might see more spears – leave those to collect energy for the plant. They will turn into beautiful ferns. (In a few years, you can pick a few of these for bouquets but wait until the plants are very strong before doing this.)

Maintenance: Once you have lovely ferns growing, apply a mulch of straw or leaves to help control weeds and retain moisture. If you think your soil fertility is low, add a layer of compost first.

Keep weeding throughout the summer but try not to disturb the roots. In late fall once the foliage has died back, mulch the whole plant to help protect it over the winter. This is particularly important for the first winter.

Harvesting: If all goes well, you will have asparagus next spring. Just take a few of the thicker spears and let the rest grow. Eventually you can harvest for 4-6 weeks – harvest until the spears become pencil-thin. The plants will produce for decades.

Enjoy!

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