Starting an Asparagus Bed
Asparagus is a perennial vegetable with a delicious flavour. It is good for growing on plots where it will not be disturbed. It loves sun and well-drained soil, but needs some protection from the wind. It takes 3 years before the first harvest so you need to be patient.
I started my crop in autumn with 21 crowns. The varieties I chose were Ariane, Pacific 2000 and Pacific Purple.
September Year 1 - Soil Preparation
Asparagus can produce spears for more than 20 years, so it's worthwhile spending time on preparing the bed.
I first dug down a couple of feet and placed a frame at the top. Then I lined the pit with Mypex which wasn’t strictly necessary but I had inherited a plot with bindweed and wanted to make sure that I got it all out and then limited it’s regrowth. I then part filled in the pit, mixing in plenty of well-rotted manure.
A week before planting I scattered some Growmore over the area and then forked it in before raking the ground level.
October Year 1 – Planting the Crowns
It took me about two hours to plant 21 crowns. I first marked three straight rows, 30cm wide by 30cm apart and then poured soil down the length of the rows to make 10cm high mounds.
I placed the asparagus crowns 30cm apart, 7 to a row, on top of the mound, spreading the roots out either side of the plant and then sifted about 10cm of soil
over them. I did this again as the stems grew until I had completely filled the pit by the end of autumn.
Years 2 - 3 – Waiting and Caring
There was not much else to do for the next two years except to wait, weed, give them a feed of Growmore in the spring and water them during dry weather.
When the spears appeared I didn’t harvest them so that I wouldn’t weaken the crowns. Instead I left them to grow into lots of ferny foliage. To protect them from the wind, I used stakes and string to make a fence for support. When the plants turned yellow in autumn, I cut down the stems leaving 5cm above the ground. I covered the crowns with leaf mould in winter to protect them.
We lost 3 crowns after the first winter, all Pacific Purple.
April Year 4 - Harvesting
At last in late April, when the spears were about 12cm long we removed them with a serrated knife, cutting them off just beneath the soil. They just needed a quick steam or a griddle on the BBQ and some butter. They were beautiful, absolutely worth the wait!
We stopped harvesting after 6 weeks to allow the plants to build up energy for next year, and gave the plants an extra boost by feeding with Growmore. Next and subsequent years, we harvested for 8 weeks.
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