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Planting Asparagus Crowns

A gardener up in Nova Scotia writes in this week:

“Greetings from Hirtle Island. I want to plant an asparagus plot this year. Because deer are such a problem I am considering
planting them in a large planter – kind of like a raised bed, though maybe not so raised. (I hope to use an old, rotting boat.) This way I can build a metal wire cage over them.

My questions are, how much earth do I need beneath the asparagus crown when I plant it? Do they like sun, shade or mixed? And how much watering do they need? And how late can I plant them? And any other advice you may have.”

Congratulations on making the commitment to growing Asparagus!  I just took the plunge this year myself and am really enjoying the process.  Here are some details provided by Armstrong Garden Center, which I used as a guideline to plant my own crowns:Plant your crowns in full sun.  They grow tall, so you may want to position them behind shorter plants.  I love the boat idea, just make sure you drill some drainage holes in the bottom.  You’ll have to send a picture if you choose to install them there.

Dig a trench about a foot wide and at least a foot deep, but I’ve read that an 18-inch depth is also recommended.  At the bottom of that trench, mound up 6-inch hills that are a foot apart. (You should have a few inches of soil beneath the low parts of these hills).

Lay the crowns over the hills, letting the roots drape down the sides all around.  The top of your crowns will be about 6 inches below soil level. Cover the crowns with two inches of soil at first, then as the spears emerge (they will be thin in the first year), add another two inches of soil until your trench is full again.

Water your plants thoroughly, allowing the soil to dry out in between waterings.  They like to be watered frequently, but make sure the top 1 inch of soil is dry before watering again.  Fertilize regularly, about every 4-6 weeks, and mulch in spring.

In your first year, you won’t be harvesting, but in your second year, you can harvest a few spears over a 4 week period.  In the third year, you can harvest for 8-10 weeks, using a sharp knife, cutting about 1 1/2 inches below the soil level.

In your neck of the woods, I’d say you can still plant them now, since spring comes a little later to you than to us in sunny California.  I wouldn’t wait too much longer though.

Here is a link to a University of Texas resource with visual aids on planting and care:

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/vegetable/files/2010/10/E-503_asparagus.pdf

Keep us posted on your asparagus patch and send pictures if you can.  We’ll post them here.

Does anyone else have an asparagus patch?  Let us know any tricks you have for care and feeding (recipes too!)

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