A Hitch In My Asparagus Plans


Jennifer QuinnOne of my goals for this year was to put in a good-sized asparagus bed, in a well-thought-out location. In 2014 I had put in eight plants — three in isolated beds where they seem to be doing okay but not great, and five in a location that turned out to be terrible.

The gardening experts say to plant your asparagus in your best garden soil, in a location where they won’t shade other plants. After giving it some thought no area stood out as having particularly good soil, but I thought of a very convenient location on the north side of the garden where there was plenty of room. So last fall I broadforked it and covered it with several inches of compost, including some goat bedding donated by a friend.

New asparagus bed

Last week I set about preparing a trench for the eight new crowns I had recently bought. The instructions on the bag said to dig a trench 12 inches deep. Horrors— that’s a lot of digging, I thought. Still, I got busy and after at least five hours of digging — spread out over three sessions — I had a good long trench that was mostly 9 to 11 inches deep. I must say, though, I had my doubts about making it that deep, since the last few inches involved breaking up hard clay and big rocks with a mattock. Asparagus is supposed to require well-drained soil, so I wondered how that was going to work.

I decided to throw back in a lot of the small stones I had pulled out, thinking maybe that would solve the problem. Later I consulted Rodale’s Encylopedia of Organic Gardening and found that it recommends a trench of 6 to 8 inches — 8 if your soil is sandy, which couldn’t be farther from the case. I wished I had consulted that earlier! After reading that I also threw back in a few inches of the soil I had taken out.

Worse yet, the Rodale encyclopedia said to plant the crowns immediately if possible, and if not, to pack them in moistened sphagnum moss. I had held onto mine for about a week before it occurred to me that maybe it was time to plant them. Still, they were packaged in plastic, in a peaty-looking medium, so I hoped they’d be okay. I proceeded to soak them for 20 minutes in the closest thing I had to compost tea, as recommended by Rodale.

4/21/2016 4:34:01 PM

Thanks for the comments. I did heed the usual advice not to harvest any in the first two years and have just enjoyed my first serving of asparagus from my third-year plants! As for the raised beds--yes, I suppose I'll have to mound up the ones I just planted a bit, but I've been trying to avoid bringing in extra soil. The fence row idea sound interesting, but I can't quite picture how that works.

4/14/2016 8:22:41 AM

The old timers used to just plant asparagus in fence rows. Usually there was good drainage and you didn't have to dig a huge trench. Thats what we did and we have the great green stalks come up like crazy. A friend used a raised garden. Another good source of dirt and drainage. They have gobs of plants going very easily. Sometimes we just have to think outside the box or what the directions say on the box :). Happy planting!

4/10/2016 9:25:30 AM

Jennifer, my goodness sakes, you will certainly enjoy that first harvest of tasty asparagus when it comes in. I've heard that it takes at least a couple years of growing before harvesting can begin. My neighbor started an asparagus bed at my garden called Terra Nova Gardens. This is the third year and he is salivating for that first harvest this year. Let us know how things work out for you. ***** Have a great day in the asparagus bed.

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