All About Asparagus

All About Asparagus.

Asparagus is a wonderful addition to any garden.  Once an asparagus crown is planted, it will live in that spot and give you food for 15-20 years.

Did you hear that?

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15-20 years!  That’s a lot of asparagus.  And you only have to buy it once.  You only have to plant it once.  Then you get to eat it for 15-20 years.  Let’s hear it for some ‘spa-grus.

Plant some crowns now and they will give you fresh asparagus spears every spring.  I have found asparagus easy to grow.  I haven’t really had problems with pests or diseases and the plants expand each year.

Asparagus is sold as “crowns.”  The crowns look like spiders and are usually sold when they are 1 year old plants.  I have always planted new asparagus crowns in spring.  This is when they are easy to come by around here.  Asparagus plants are (obviously) perennials, this means they come back every year.

It is recommended to let the plants grow untouched for the first year.  There may be a couple of spears worth harvesting the second year.  The third year you will be eating plenty of asparagus.  The fourth and fifth and sixth year you will be eating asparagus 7 times a day.  Your meals will revolve around Asparagus:  asparagus omelettes for breakfast, asparagus salads for lunch and roasted asparagus for dinner.

Plan to hate asparagus about April 23rd of your 4th year.

The spears shoot out of the ground in spring just after the snow melts.

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They are so funny.  No plants.  No leaves.  No stems.  Nothing but a stalk of asparagus out of nowhere.

“Picking” asparagus is not complicated and you won’t need any tools.  It can be tempting to take a knife out to the garden for harvesting – but you don’t want to use it on the asparagus.  To pick a spear of asparagus, simply hold the base and lean the spear over toward the ground.  The spear will “break” near the bottom of the plant.

This technique will harvest the tender portion of the spear.  If you were to cut it off at the base it is probable that the end of your spear will be tough.  By breaking it off, you are assured to only harvest the tenderest portion.  Yum!

Be sure to check your asparagus patch each day.  These guys grow fast and it’s easy to let them get away from you.

If you don’t pick the spears they will begin to “fern.”  This is when the tops of the spear begin to get branches & start looking like baby trees.  You can eat them after they begin to bud – but they won’t be nearly as tender and sweet.  Try to get them before the tops open.

Once the weather gets hot, you don’t want to eat the asparagus anymore.  If you don’t believe me, just taste it.  Blegh.

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The asparagus after it ferns.

Just let those spears grow into ferns.  Allowing them to fern replenishes the nutrients to the base of the plant.  Anyone who walks through your garden will have no idea what the asparagus ferns are.  Rosemary?  Thyme?  Pine Trees?

Nope – it’s the asparagus.

Mine get huge (some years over 5 feet tall).  Just let them grow and fern and confuse people.

In fall the ferns will begin to turn yellow.  This is when we cut ours back.
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I use a knife & cut them off just above ground level.

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All trimmed up.  Add 3-4 inches of topsoil or compost to the base of the plants to protect the roots from cold temperatures.

This is a great time to add a top dressing to the asparagus bed.  You can add leaves or litter from the chicken coop, but my go to for top dressing the asparagus is ashes from our fireplace.

Asparagus is one of those plants who loves alkaline soil.  Wood ashes are high in potassium/ potash.  It’s full of nutrients (from the trees) and great if your soil doesn’t have a high PH already.  If you are high in the PH department, you may want to skip the wood ash.

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The asparagus bed is tucked in and ready for winter.  Next spring there will be wonderful spears arriving to feed me just after the snow melts.

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-Candi

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