Please forgive me for not posting last Monday. We are in the section of the country that has had the extreme flooding from rains last week. As a matter of fact we ended up being “stuck” at our house because waters all around our area blocked us in. No work, no school, no driving any where. No big deal as we were very high and dry and have plenty of food stocked up —though unfortunately some of our neighbors had quite a bit of damage to their homes.
I did however get a bit of work done outside in the days after because all this rain really softened up the soil and so that is what this post is about.
A number of years ago I decided to try the heirloom variety of asparagus named Precoce de Argenteuil. I purchased some seeds and easily started my own asparagus plants. (I highly recommend trying them if you are nervous about venturing into something other than annuals. They are extremely easy to start). I also wanted to try the variety Conovers Colossal but still haven’t gotten to it yet. The seed of that variety was difficult to locate a few years ago though I notice it is much more available now. I also grow purple passion for its fancy color but the Argenteuil is quite tasty and productive and I can’t say one or the other is my “favorite” .
Overall I am happy I went to the slight, very slight, trouble of starting asparagus from seed.
Because I grew my own asparagus from seed I did end up with both male and female plants. If you have never grown asparagus and purchase roots from a store you will get only male plants. They “pre weed” out the females. To get the most production from asparagus you are suppose to, over time, pull the female plants and leave only the males. The females put some production into setting seed and thus a bit less than into growing a larger root system. Larger roots mean more spears in the spring. Since I was not entirely sure of how many more plants I desired I have left my females to produce seeds for me. Which they have done quite nicely but not to the point of being weedy.
You can see a picture here of a now uninhabited bird nest. This is the prime way to easily get asparagus to sprout without you having to do a thing. At the beginning of this year I allowed all the little itty bitty baby asparagus I found to stick around. They grew very well under a previous spot were an old bird nest had been in last years fancy flowered beans (ones I look at more than pick). They grew and grew and when last weeks rain literally flooded everything I used that time to pull them up and move them to their new spot. Since the ground was so saturated I had an easy time of pulling up their quite extensive root systems and putting them in their new spot without damaging them. I did have to be careful while planting not to pack them too tightly in the wet soil though—one consideration when doing gardening in the rain.
I find asparagus to be quite decorative, though a bit tall as mine are easily between 6 and 8 feet tall. Because of the height, these new ones will be used to screen a pen that had our rams when we had sheep and then our guinea hogs at one time. The hard use that the pen received left it without grass, though excellent soil, and it is now starting to re grow vegetation. Being at the front of our property it is a bit of an eye sore—-to me anyway—and over time the asparagus will stop people wandering by from seeing in to it. Another plus for that spot is that with a fence behind it I will only have to support one side to keep the plants out of the way. Asparagus absolutely requires an out of the way spot or very good support to keep it from being an annoyance during the mowing season as its weight makes it floppy. You can see its even floppy in my picture —though that is more because I just planted those little guys and so they are not able to hold theirself up right now (I did after all “rip” them from their old home ). They will be fine there though and next year…while still young …they will again stand up on their own. By year three though, watch out! Containment will be in order.
Asparagus, for those of you who do not grow it is a VERY easy vegetable. Related to onions and yuccas if you didn’t know (just a bit of trivia) And even if you are not that familiar with eating it you should put in a row. Consider it a decorative plant that, as it grows larger over the years, will allow experimentation so that enjoyable ways of eating it can be found. It is much easier to experiment with something free out of your yard than costly (and non organic) out of the grocery.
And thought there are some pest for asparagus, a nice clean up in the fall will stop most all of that nonsense. As you can see by the bird nest picture I will soon be pulling out dried asparagus stalks and composting them or adding them to my burn pile to get ashes for my garden from (a fabulous source of garden nutrients). I then wait for a late fall day usually in November, when I have a low amount of garden work, and throw on some kelp and some greensand, maybe a bit of lime and/or ashes depending on what is needed. Then, along with a fresh batch of mulch/compost, the bed is done and requires no more care form me. That’s it. Well…except for picking in the early spring
If you decide that you would like to try growing asparagus from seed I originally started mine the second week of January in my zone 7. I usually can safely plant out by the third week of April, definitely by the fourth, though asparagus babies can go out earlier with light protection/mulch.
The plants did end up taking up a bit of space under the lights while still inside, but it was well worth it. I do believe I would wait until the second week of February next time though— if I ever get around to that Conovers Collosal that I want to try. Once outside the plants are little the first year and need a bit of weeding so that won’t be out competed. By year two though they are well on their way and don’t require more than a light weeding to help them, and by year three the weeds can’t really make it in any longer and they more than hold their own.
I hope this encourages some of you to try your hand at starting some from seed—you will find it well worth the time and space.