My husband and I got good news last Thursday, really good news. His most recent PET scan was clear! We did a little jig then sat down and tried to let it sink in a bit. No new melanoma! No metastases.
So, what does this have to do with planting asparagus? Everything!
My current asparagus bed is close to 25 years old. To say it’s slowed down is a bit of an understatement. The bed is actually a bit glacial when it comes to putting up tasty green spears of asparagus.
I needed a new bed but I was afraid to plant new crowns…in case the diagnosis for my husband was not a good one. Asparagus is one perennial that, once planted, keeps on giving. I just wasn’t sure we would be here to enjoy it.
So, my celebration last Thursday culminated in me ordering 20 new, Jersey Knight male asparagus crowns! I ordered 1 year old crowns as they are usually a bit “healthier” than 2 year old crowns — meaning they will grow a bit more vigorously in their first few years and be less prone to rotting.
No matter what I ordered, my first question the next morning was, “What was I thinking?”
I think I’d actually forgotten what it meant to “plant” asparagus. Okay, you only have to do it once to reap the rewards..but doing entails some pretty hard work especially at my ripe old age of 70!
The crowns are on their way so, this morning, just 3 days after ordering, I was in the garden, digging. I picked a spot that gets almost continuous sunshine all day long. That’s just what asparagus likes.
Asparagus crowns need to be planted in trenches.
My soil is a bit on heavy side so I only had to dig down 6 inches…and the trenches should be 12 inches wide.
I cheated a bit on the width but I got the length I needed in each trench to be able to put 4 crowns in each one. If you’re doing the math, you might notice that I only have 4 trenches dug. I will probably need the 5th trench but I just can’t face it, right now. Tomorrow is another day.
In fact, tomorrow, I will dig the other trench but I need to prep all 5 trenches to receive their new crowns.
What’s the next step? I will need to add a dash of organic compost to each hole. When the new asparagus crowns arrive, I will also soak them in compost tea (compost and water) for about 30 minutes before I plant them. When I do put them in the trenches, I’ll make sure they are crown side up. Also, I’ll be careful to gently spread the crown out and give the roots room.
Once in the trench, I won’t put all the soil back in the trench on top of the crowns. I’ll just add 2 to 3 inches of soil to the entire trench, gently tamping the soil down – NOT packing it. Once the crowns are set, I usually just water them in with my watering can, again, gently.
Two weeks later, I’ll add 2 to 3 more inches of soil to the trench. Then I’ll keep watch on the bed and add more soil to the trench until it is slightly raised. Then, all you have to do is make sure you mulch the rows and water the new bed regularly during its first 2 years in the ground. A note of caution, don’t over water. An accepted rule of thumb is water once a week unless it’s rained then you can skip watering.
Do not harvest any asparagus the first year. Harvest sparingly in the second year. The crowns need to put all their energy into sinking tap roots and growing their root structure. The third year, start cutting but make sure you leave enough for some stalks to fern and grow up.
Leave the ferns over top of the bed, letting them die in place and not cutting them until the next Spring.
Dogs love to cool down under them and the dead ferns provide protection for the crowns during the winter.
Once Spring arrives, cut down and remove the dead ferns.
Then sit back and wait for beautiful, green, healthy and delicious asparagus!