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Planting Asparagus: A How-To Guide

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Growing Your Own Asparagus Is Simple – Except for the Planting Part…

There’s nothing like fresh asparagus in the spring, and it’s not all that hard to grow your own. Planting a bed of asparagus will require some initial effort, but once planted, asparagus can live for 15 years or more, without too much additional work.

Below is a step-by-step guide to planting your own asparagus – along with some tips and things to look out for.

Of course, once your asparagus is planted, you will need to water it regularly, and give it some top-dressing of compost every year, but that’s about it. There aren’t a lot of pests that bother asparagus, but watch out for asparagus beetles – see our next post tomorrow for some tips on controlling these little buggers!

How To Plant Asparagus:

There is nothing like fresh asparagus from the garden. Literally – nothing. It wasn’t long after buying our new house that I started thinking about planting some asparagus. I read quite a few stories about how challenging a vegetable it is to plant, but I thought, hey, how hard could it be? If they do well, they’ll live for 15-20 years anyway, so even if it’s a lot of work, it’s still worth it.

With innocent stars in my eyes, and visions of fresh asparagus spears dancing in my head, I ordered 10 crowns from a nursery my mom recommended. I read up ahead of time about what kind of soil they like, how deep to plant them, what amendments to add, etc.
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Our asparagus arrived on Thursday (nearly 4 weeks after I ordered, so I’m glad I didn’t order it later – or earlier!), so on Friday after work I cheerfully set out from the garage to the future asparagus patch in my garden jeans, with my digging fork in hand.

I won’t bore you with the details of digging a patch of well-established grass and dandelions out of a 4×8′ area of solid clay which has never been gardened before (as far as I can tell), but suffice it to say that it took over 2 hours, I finished well after dark, and am still having trouble walking 3 days later.

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Bright and early the next morning, I marched (okay, limped) out to what was now a nicely bare patch of dirt to commence the planting process. The instructions below are adapted from Modern Farmer, but I made a few modifications, which I will describe as well.

Step 1: Remove all vegetation and roots from the planting area (this was accomplished in the first 2 hours the previous evening)
Step 2: Loosen the soil to a depth of 8 inches over the entire planting area using a digging fork.
Step 3: Spread 2″ of compost over the planting area and mix it into the soil.
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Step 4: Dig a trench 12″ wide by 12″ deep.
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My trench was only about 8″ deep, but we have a frame around the bed, so we can add more soil on top later if needed.

The instructions said to fill a wheelbarrow about 2/3 full of excavated soil mixed with compost for each 8 foot row, so I scooped about every other shovel full into the wheelbarrow, and then added some dark black compost from my own composting efforts last year, which I had saved in a bag just for the asparagus bed.

Step 5: Add 3 cups of all-purpose organic vegetable fertilizer, and 1-2 cups of greensand to the wheelbarrow, and mix thoroughly. I used Garden-Tone and Greensand both from Espoma Organics.

Step 6: Spread the wheelbarrow’s contents evenly along the trench. (This is where I ran into trouble, which I’ll describe in a minute, but at least for me, this did not work out well.)

Step 7: Make a conical mound about 6″ high every 18″ along the trench. (Sounds weird, but you’ll see why in a  minute, especially when you say hello to your first asparagus crown!)

Step 8: Place one crown on top of each mound, and spread the roots evenly in all directions. If you’ve never seen an asparagus crown, they are somewhat like an octopus with a hundred tiny tentacles.

Step 9: (Here comes trouble.) Fill in the trench until each crown is covered with about 2″ of soil.

Uh oh…. By my 3rd crown, I realized something was wrong…. The soil not only wasn’t 2″ over the top of the crown, but the crown was actually level with the surface of the ground, and there was no more dirt to fill in! As you are supposed to add even MORE soil later after the asparagus sprouts up out of the ground, this was obviously not going to work. Guess I should have dug the trench 12″ deep after all….

I reversed course and dug up the crown I had just planted, then tried to scoop some soil out of the trench, re-arrange the mounds again, and get the crowns down a little deeper. It sort of worked. I think. But there was still no extra soil left. We will have to get some and add some more on top later when they start coming up.

For the second trench, I had learned my lesson, so this one went a lot better. I still followed the instructions in Steps 4 and 5, but when it came to adding the compost mixture to the trench, I just put two shovels full where I wanted each mound. I then used the rest of what was in the wheelbarrow to fill in around and over the crowns.

After a good watering, the bed looked awesome!
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All in all, it was by far the most difficult garden task I’ve ever done. It took a total of about 5 hours of intense physical labor, which left my entire body aching….. But I’m sure the asparagus will taste all that much sweeter for it!

For the full article, visit New Holistic Living…

 

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