It’s the most wonderful time of year for outdoor living… it’s grill season and garden season! Putting veggies straight from the garden on to the grill is the best. Whether you grow it yourself, or purchase it locally grown, we all can agree that fresh asparagus is absolutely the best tasting spear around. Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that once established produces a plentiful harvest for several weeks each season.
Where to plant asparagus
Asparagus does well on mineral soils with plenty of lime and bone meal to sweeten the soil. If an asparagus bed is made up of organic matter, it is best to install the bed a few months prior to planting. Installing the bed in the fall and planting in the spring would be ideal, but not essential.
The most efficient way to grow asparagus is to plant them in rows 4-6ft apart. Dig a trench one foot wide and 8-10 inches deep. Fill the trench with 2-4 inches of organic matter (This can be ground bark, decomposed leaves, or well rotted manure). Cultivate the organic matter into the bottom of the trench. Fill the trench with water to soak the soil thoroughly. When the trench is no longer muddy, set the roots so that the tops (crowns) are 6-8 inches below ground level and not touching. Cover the crowns with 2 inches of loose soil. Be sure to water to dampen new soil and roots.
In the spring when growth starts and skinny shoots (spears) appear, gradually fill in the trench until the shoots are at ground level. Never cover the tops of theses shoots.
If you have an area with slow drainage, there is a danger that that roots may rot. In this case work organic material into the soil about a foot deep and plant roots 1-2 inches deep. Next fall cover with 2 inches of soil and do the same the following year. The roots will then be covered with 5-6 inches of soil. Using this method, you will have to put board or raised beds around the rows or gently slope soil up to raised beds.
When to Plant Asparagus
Feed with a complete fertilizer high in nitrogen when the plants put on a growth spurt in mid-summer. Don’t harvest the first year. The second spring you can harvest 2-3 weeks until the spears become skinny. It is important to leave some spears on so they can become ferny stalks. These encourage the roots to build up a supply of food for next year. Keep watering after harvest until fall when the top growth browns, then cut back to ground. Third year harvest can last 8-12 weeks. Always cut asparagus below ground level but at least two inches above the crown. The stalk should easily snap off in the prime location for harvest.
How to Grow Asparagus from Seed
For many people, it’s much easier to buy an already established asparagus plant. When you purchase your asparagus already started, you benefit from lessened time to populate your garden. That said, there are good reasons to want to grow your asparagus from seed, too. Namely, seeds are much more affordable. (We sell them in our Portland Nursery and Garden Center). You also theoretically benefit from having plants that started in your soil, and don’t run any risks of accidentally killing the plant in the transplanting process. The downsides to growing asparagus from seed are that it’ll take much longer to grow them.
Some Great Ways to Enjoy Asparagus
Have you tried it grilled on the barbecue? One of the easiest and most delicious ways to enjoy asparagus takes just a couple of minutes, and a few ingredients.
Grilled Asparagus: Simply wash and pat your spears dry. Coat with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Grill on the barbecue for 5-7 minutes until they reach desired tenderness. Pair with a nice grilled steak or salmon and you have a fantastic fancy home cooked meal!
How about an awesome appetizer? Like peanut butter and jelly, bacon and asparagus are a perfect pair!
Bacon Wrapped Asparagus
1 pkg bacon (unprocessed, nitrate free)
Bake bacon on a cookie sheet under cookie racks in the oven at 350 for 5 minutes. Take it out and wrap each piece of asparagus (or a small bunch of 3-5) with pieces of bacons (careful, it’s warm).
Drizzle a little olive oil over, and then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Return to oven for 10 more minutes, turning once or twice, until bacon is crispy. Serve immediately.