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Asparagus alley

Planting asparagus

Tomato alleyRemember last year's tomato alley?  We lined most of these juicy morsels up against the fence between the mule garden and the chicken pasture since that's the sunniest spot in our vegetable garden.  This year, we're rotating the tomatoes into the forest garden and renaming that long row "asparagus alley".

We currently have about thirty asparagus plants that are just starting to be old enough to pick heavily, but the beds produce late because I sited them in the part of the garden that's shaded by the hill all winter, keeping the soil cold.  On the one hand, planting the asparagus on the shady side of the garden makes sense since the perennials can handle less than full sun in the summer.  But on the other hand, it means we didn't get our first real flush of large spears until Friday --- pretty late considering how warm our spring has been.

Saving asparagus seedsI had planned to expand the planting anyway because thirty asparagus plants isn't really enough for two people hungry from a long winter with only leafy greens as our fresh produce option.  One of our "all-male" asparagus plants turned out to be a female, so I collected its fruits last fall, fermented out the seeds, and dried them for spring planting.

Planting asparagus from seed might be a bit slower than buying roots, but it's vastly cheaper (free if you save your own seeds).  And many folks believe that you lose a year when setting out roots due to transplant shock, resulting in full production at the same time from seeds or transplants.

Weekend HomesteaderI'm looking forward to even earlier (and more abundant) asparagus in four or five years.  I think the ferny fronds will look nice along the chicken pasture fence too, and will give our flock a bit of summer shade.  Maybe the chickens will even munch on passing asparagus beetles?

Pick up your copy of Weekend Homesteader today for tips on saving seeds (including which seeds need to be fermented) and planning your space wisely.


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I have had 2 of the seedlings from those surprise seeds that you sent me transplanted outside for several weeks now and suddenly I have another half a dozen that finally decided to germinate in my indoor flats. I knew that asparagus took awhile to germinate but I guess I gave up to quickly since I had already replanted broccoli in those flats! Asparagus is the one vegetable I don't like but I have not had fresh asparagus in at least 20 years if ever....so I'm looking forward to seeing what homegrown tastes like in coming years.
Comment by John Amrhein Tue Apr 10 08:00:09 2012

We've had some seedlings sprout around our parent plants and I've been digging them up and putting them into pots until I decide what to do with them

I was thinking about planting them in between our grape plants on the furtherest south row to get lots of sun but utilize that space below the vines. We have Rhubarb growing between the grapes this year to see if they can survive our hot summers in the shade of the vines.

Comment by Brian Tue Apr 10 13:36:03 2012

John --- Glad to hear they're germinating! Asparagus seeds take forever to sprout sometimes. The first year we started asparagus seeds, I actually gave up on them and dumped out the contents of the flats in the yard. Imagine my surprise to find "wild" asparagus seedlings there a couple of months later. (I transplanted them back into the garden.)

I suspect you'll enjoy fresh asparagus. It's much tastier than storebought. (Canned isn't even in the same ballpark.)

Brian --- I've got a couple of grapes at the end of asparagus alley, and was actually pondering putting an asparagus between each one. But we have so much problem with damp that I think I want to keep the air circulating around the grapes as much as possible, so I held off. Rhubarb sounds like it might be a bit better behaved amid grapes --- I'll be curious to hear how your polyculture does.

Comment by anna Tue Apr 10 19:36:57 2012

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