The first week of August over the past three years marks the start of the Asparagus season in my veggie patch. Today is the start of August and I can’t wait. I am eagerly awaiting the crunch of lightly steamed fresh Asparagus! They taste fantastic fresh out of the garden in comparison to the store bought stuff.
Four years ago I planted my first plants and I have been enjoying them ever since. I had never grown them before so I started by doing some research online and took the plunge. It turned out that growing them is quite easy. I chose a variety called ‘Mary Washington’ and I reckon I made a good choice. I bought four plants and a year later got three more. Seven plants are more than enough. In fact, they say that seven plants will give a family of four a good feed at least twice a week for the season. Considering there are two of us I had better work out a way to preserve them this season.
Interested in growing them?
They are not hard to grow, in mid winter chose a location that is sunny and has well drained deep soil, add plenty of organic matter and dig it in deeply. The Asparagus crowns (best if they are 2 years old) need to be placed in a trench 25 cm deep and covered with soil. They are best topped with 5 cm of Sugar Cane mulch and watered. It keeps them cool in the heat, keeps the moisture in during summer and the weeds at bay.
In August a few small thin spears will appear and they should not be cut – no, don’t even think about it. The first year of spears need to be sacrificed for the future health of your plants. Throughout the spring and summer more and more spears will appear and the plant will progressively get taller and taller. Mine got to about 1.5 m the first year. The tangled mass of fine foliage will start to yellow in late autumn and when they are completely yellow you should cut them off at ground level and toss the lot into the compost. Clear away all weeds and rubbish and let them sit through winter undisturbed. Mid June I start to get them set up for the next year. I check that all of the irrigation is working, give them a reasonably heavy dose of manure pellets and cover them with 5 cm of sugar cane and wait.
Once the second year spears start to appear they can be harvested for around 10 weeks and then you stop and let the shoots grow to maturity. You gotta let the shoots grow so that the crowns recuperate and develop the next seasons spears. From the third year onward they are established and you could extend the season a bit longer depending on the vigor of the plants. Last year I harvested them for 12-14 weeks. When I stop cutting them I fed them again with manure pellets and let them go. They will grow over 2 m and will need support to keep them in check a bit. I use stakes and string and occasionally a bit of a trim is in order so I can walk past.
Treat them with respect and you can harvest them for up to twenty years from the same spot – apparently. I guess I’ll just have to let you know.
I do keep an eye out for Slugs and Snails because the young shoots are vulnerable, but otherwise I have never had any pest trouble with Asparagus.
Have any of you grown Asparagus before? How do you grow them? Share your experiences and while you are at it let me know the best ways to preserve them. I am expecting a bumper crop this year.