Asparagus Aspiration

Grocery store asparagus

I have always wanted to grow asparagus in my home garden. I have many times planned to plant it, and then missed the planting window. I think that the issue for me is the 3 year time frame that it takes to establish asparagus. As I won’t get immediate vegetable gratification (Vegification?), I procrastinate on ordering it and planting it and then, it’s time for next year and so on.

When we moved to our new/old home, the previous owner had left behind some flower pots that were far too large to move. I appreciate these! I thought to myself, perhaps the largest would be a good spot for my asparagus aspiration.

Photo by Foodie Factor on Pexels.com

Planting asparagus

Asparagus plants like to have a winter period, and they like the ground to get dried out and sandy. They do not enjoy soggy earth and warm winters. They are perfect for my southern Ontario garden. Asparagus is one of the earliest crops in Ontario, with the narrow shoots coming up in April.

The farmers almanac tells me to plant a 15-30 foot row of asparagus plants (10-20 plants) for each member of my household. Sadly, I have planted only six plants in my pot. This is because I had not yet built the raised beds in my garden – summer 1 was for tearing up the goutweed, establishing a lawn and basic garden beds. Summer 2 was for planting flowers and herbs and building a patio. This summer – the raised vegetable beds!!

Asparagus plants may be planted from seed or from plant – I purchased 2 packages of 3 bare-roots crowns. Generally you would plant first thing in the spring, but we didn’t get to the garden until the end of June the first year – so that would have to do. I first soaked the bare-root plants for about an hour and then planted in rich but sandy soil in my acquired pot.

My justification for planting the asparagus in the pot is that I wasn’t sure how long we would live in this home. We are in a transitional phase of our life, and are enjoying our home and garden – but may move further north once our children are more established in their lives. So if three years is the target time-frame for harvesting new asparagus plants and we only lived in this house for 3 years – could I take my plants with me in their pot? Possibly! I know that asparagus plants don’t like to be moved.

This will be my 3rd summer of watching my little asparagus crop grow. I have so far neglected them, and they seem to be growing – sending up very thin seedy ferns. This year they shared their pot with some Poblano peppers. Next year they will likely have the pot to themselves.

3 foot diameter pot in part shade planted with asparagus and poblano peppers – October

Asparagus needs slightly acid well drained soil and part sun

To grow asparagus, you need slightly acid soil, good drainage, and part but not full sun. Raised beds are helpful for asparagus, so that you can get 12 -15 inches of loose soil depth. The crowns should be planted deeply in the ground, about 12-18 inches apart. My asparagus is not 12-18″ apart – it seems to be growing most successfully in the centre of my pot – Do the plants want to be together?

A traditional method of planting asparagus calls for planting the crowns initially below 2″ of soil, and then adding 2″ of soil as the sprouts appear, adding more soil as the shoots grow. This is so that the sprouts are able to emerge through the soil. On the other hand, we just planted them deeply initially with very loose sandy soil. The shoots don’t seem to be struggling.

Harvesting asparagus

The first year, we planted the crowns late in the season. The second year – we did not harvest any shoots. This summer, will be the third summer, so I am hoping for a small harvest. There is varying opinion as to how much to harvest in the 3rd year – but some people suggest to cut the asparagus for a 3-5 week period and then stop, so as not to weaken the plants for future years. By the fourth year, I am told that I should be able to cut asparagus for a full 8 week season.

An asparagus planting should last for 20 years, so I am excited to see that this gets established and perhaps I will add some more to my raised beds.

Enjoying Asparagus

Asparagus with it’s dark green shoots, provides us with Vitamin C, Calcium, B Vitamins and Iron. I will enjoy it fresh from the garden, and be happy to know that my asparagus is free of pesticides. I steam my asparagus lightly in a steamer pot, and serve mine without any toppings. My husband likes a little melted butter and a squeeze of fresh lemon, and one of my boys enjoys a sprinkle of parmesan on top.

Photo by Madison Inouye on Pexels.com

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