Thursday, April 14, 2011

our homestead: planting asparagus crowns

I was visiting with my mom the other day when she informed me that our local nursery had $1.00 Jersey King and Sweet Purple asparagus crowns for sale. $1.00! Hot boy! That's a deal! The asparagus crowns I'd been dreaming about were retailing at around$7.00 each, thus about 30 minutes after she let me in on this great find I was at the nursery, digging through a tub of soil picking out the best 10 crowns of each variety. Such a steal...I felt like an asparagus vandal.

Asparagus is a ferny spring perennial which will last about 15 years, providing delicious crunchy spears at the very start of the growing season. The only catch- you have to let it establish itself in the first two to three years after planting it before you indulge. So, there's a bit of planning involved when you decide where you want to grow your asparagus. I chose a previously prepped, deep raised bed at the bottom of my hill that receives ample amounts of sunlight every day (asparagus loves sun!). I checked my soil about a month ago, it seemed I had a pH of about 6.5...asparagus prefers a pH range of 6.5-7.5 so before I planted my crowns I sprinkled a few handfuls of wood ashes along my bed in the hopes that it would help maintain a pH ideal for my little crowns. Asparagus crowns are really cool looking- they are essentially a clumpy bulb with several long rooty tendrils. If you hold two up under your nose they'll make an earthy mustache.

To plant the crowns I dug 20 holes, 6 inches deep and about 18 inches apart from one another. I've also heard that folks can dig a long, 6 inch trench, but I wanted to stagger my plants. I spread a few inches of homemade compost in the bottom of each hole and then gently set each crown into place, being sure to spread about all the roots as best I could. I then covered each crown with about 2 inches of soil, and as my asparagus spears emerge from the earth I'll hill soil up around them (much like you hill potatoes). I then mulched around my asparagus. Throughout the next few years I'll try to keep my crowns well-fed and weed free so that they might prosper and become a welcome friend at future springtimes.


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