There is a certain rhythm to growing vegetables. They are planted in spring, grow with our care through summer and harvested in fall. There is a natural feel of the seasons to this cycle, but when you want to grow your own food from the vegetable garden it is not an ideal situation. There are lots of strategies to extend the season for growing vegetables – sowing indoors and using early-ripening varieties are just two of them. A third route that will provide a spring harvest is to grow edible perennials.
While most of our vegetables are annuals and have to be re-seeded each year, asparagus is different. Once established as part of your vegetable garden an asparagus bed will produce those tasty spears for many years. It may take a few years until you begin to benefit from your work, but in the end asparagus is the vegetable that keeps on giving.
Gardeners sometimes establish asparagus from plants bought at a nursery but there are real advantages in growing it form seed. You will only have to wait one extra year to begin harvesting, but you will save quite a lot of money, and the resulting plants will be sturdier, produce more and be truly organic because you grew them yourself.
Choose a good seed variety like Mary Washington Asparagus Seed and in spring sow the seed outdoors in a seed-bed – this will not be their final location. Make some rows about a foot apart and sow the seeds an inch deep. When the seedlings are established, thin them out so they are six inches apart. The seed bed should be in a sunny location in the vegetable garden and like all growing vegetables they will benefit from some liquid fertilizer once a month.
Planting Asparagus in the Vegetable Garden
Now prepare the final bed. This should be in a sunny location to one side of the garden so it doesn’t interfere with your season soil-preparation. Dig the area deeply, adding plenty of compost or other kinds of manure and removing all the perennial weeds. The plants will be placed 18 inches apart, staggered in rows also 18 inches apart, so make your bed a suitable size to accommodate this spacing.
In early spring of the next year, when the seedlings are one year old, dig them up before they begin to sprout. While transplanting asparagus in your prepared bed, spread the roots out and covering the crowns so that the bud tips are just below the surface. Water well and cover the whole bed with about two inches of compost or manure.
Now you need patience. Take care of the plants and let them grow for two full seasons, cutting down the foliage each fall after it goes yellow and mulching the bed each winter with compost or manure.
The next spring you get your reward for growing asparagus from seed! You can begin harvesting the spears as soon as they show through the ground in spring. The first year only harvest for six weeks, but after that you can harvest delicious asparagus for a full eight weeks. The plants will last for many years and can be divided if they become too crowded.
It may take some time, but when you’re growing asparagus and have fresh, organic veggies from your garden you will be glad you have the patience of a real gardener!