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Growing Asparagus: Osage County Spring is in Full Swing

By Hank Will, Editor-in-Chief


Tags: asparagus, gardens, vegetables, gardening,

GRIT Editor Hank Will at the wheel of his 1964 IH pickup.In spite of my somewhat over-zealous tilling exercise from a couple of weeks ago, thankfully I avoided wiping out my asparagus patch. I got to day dreaming a bit and forgot about the growing asparagus patch a couple of times and just tilled right on top of it -- oops. Luckily the growing asparagus crowns were smarter than I am and hadn’t sent the first probing spears close enough to the surface for me to grind into oblivion. I love growing asparagus. I enjoy the way it stakes a wild claim along the fencerows and I love that it performs year after year in my garden. I especially dig that asparagus is the first meaty vegetable crop of spring.

Asparagus spear emerging in spring.

I planted this asparagus patch three years ago. Finally, in 2010, the spears are fat, luscious and hopefully plentiful – thanks to all that chicken manure and compost that got worked into the soil last fall and over the winter. My mouth is watering as I write this because for a few fleeting weeks, beginning this week, my Partner in Culinary Crime and I will be able to grill, sauté, steam and smother with melted real cheese (not that processed kind that was the subject of a food show last week) the freshest asparagus we can ever get. I know I will also eat a few of those spears straight from the garden, with no more prep than a quick brushing to get the big pieces of debris off.

Osage county Kansas asparagus

In a perfect world, you might want to have fresh asparagus from the garden all year long. Not me. I prefer the seasonality of the spears – I know that spring is well along when I can break the first bunch, soak it with olive oil and wrap the works in a foil envelope to set on the charcoal grill right next to that lovely grassfed lamb loin. Some folks don’t like lamb because it is “too” flavorful. Some folks don’t like asparagus because it makes their urine smell “funny.”  I enjoy it all and all of it helps me realize that there are seasons and that those seasons shape my life.


Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .

beth mcallister_1
5/1/2010 12:08:52 PM

Your favorite meal is also ours. Except I add real butter to my olive oil, and occasionally a little garlic salt. And there is nothing better to go with that grilled asparagus than grass fed lamb chops. I am starting a second bed this year, now that my first bed is producing so well. One can never have too much asparagus.


paul gardener
4/14/2010 12:37:13 PM

Hey Hank, I'm right there with ya. Our whole house loves asparagus. I even have a couple of "secret spots" where I dig up the wild stuff too. We love it grilled, sauteed pickled whatever! I don't bother to grow it though because of the time it takes to harvest - I don't plan to be where I'm at that long - and because we have the luxury of a great You-Pick-It farm down the road that sells it for dirt cheap! Every year we get a twenties worth and it gives us plenty to eat fresh, blanch and freeze for summer and pickle some. Now you've got me thinking I need to go check the ditches... Yea for Spring!! P~


hank will_2
4/13/2010 4:24:33 PM

Hey Dave -- Ya, asparagus pee freaks some people out. I get a charge out if it. At my place in South Dakota there was quite a bit of wild asparagus growing in the fence lines. You had to watch it carefully though because people loved to cruise the section roads to harvest it. As soon as I started seeing cars with out of county plates on them, I knew I had only a chance of making a decent harvest. So I planted it in my own garden and haven't looked back. Cool on the garden expansion plans. Even though they say my USDA zone is now 6, I'm still not setting out my tomato plants until next month. Taking the soil's temperature can be really helpful for planting things like corn. I can't wait to read more about your gardening experiences -- I'm working on a plan for chaining down the pepper plants so they don't wind up spicing up a flying burrito in the wind. :)


nebraska dave
4/13/2010 3:20:55 PM

Hank, makes your urine smell funny? I never heard that one for an excuse to not eat asparagus. I don’t have a patch but if one looks hard enough especially along old rail road beds a patch here and there grows wild. I really don’t like asparagus well enough to take up precious garden space for some thing better. Tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, potatoes, and cucumbers are all the space that I have. When I expand I will have chard, lettuce, radish, beans to dry for soup, and maybe corn although that takes quite a bit of space and sucks a lot of stuff out of the soil. All those warm weather crops don’t get planted here until May 15th. I’ve really been thinking about getting a soil thermometer to get a better read on when to plant. Then again there’s always the hot cap. I have a plan in my mind for a hot cap using pcv and trash bags. However I’ve learned that everything looks like a good plan when it’s in my mind. I hope all your tilling and planting produce double what you expect this year and the wind don’t blow anything away. :0)