Saturday, February 13, 2016

End of Season Review - Asparagus


This was the year when I finally got around to adding asparagus to the garden.  And I went about this in a slightly unusual way – I decided to grow it from seed instead of crowns.  Although cost was not my main consideration, it certainly doesn't hurt that growing asparagus from seed is quite a bit cheaper than using crowns, with a packet of seeds costing $7.95 vs. $25 for the same quantity of crowns.

Perhaps had I grown asparagus before, its development would not have been so exciting, but since I really had no idea what to expect, every milestone was a bit of a thrill.

Seedlings emerging in late February

I sowed the seed back in February – 26 seeds in 26 cells – and expected it to be a fairly lengthy wait before I saw anything.  But within 11 days, all but 2 had germinated.  In the end, I had 100% germination.

I watched intently as those fragile little seedlings grew and, by March 30th, we had a few cells with 2nd spears emerging – it never occurred to me that this would happen at such an early stage…so exciting!

Second spears in early April

Seedlings in mid-April

At the end of May, the seedlings were transplanted into newly created beds – this is where some guesswork came in.  I couldn’t find any information on transplanting seedlings vs crowns, so I simply planted them at the same depth that a crown would be planted at & filled in the hole gradually over the next few weeks.

Lots of ferny foliage by mid-August

Multiple spears emerged from each planting & they grew thicker as the summer progressed:

I count 7 spears in this clump

In the fall, the asparagus bed was a sea of bright yellow ferns:

Ferns in mid-November

By the first week of December, the ferns were light brown and I cut them back to the ground.  I then added an inch or so of compost & topped the bed with straw.  And now I wait.


Overall Impressions and Plan for Next Year

The asparagus was one of the few things that I paid a LOT of attention to this past year – I simply couldn’t walk past that bed without examining what was happening…checking for new shoots, picking out weeds, making sure it was moist enough...you get the picture.

The one drawback of starting asparagus from seed is, of course, that you have to wait one year longer to harvest, which means no asparagus for me this spring and only a spear or two next year (am I EVER looking forward to that!).  But going this route should also give me stronger, healthier plants in the long run which, considering asparagus has a 25+ year life span, is well worth that extra bit of patience in the beginning.

I think that now is the most nerve wracking time for me as I wonder how the asparagus will fair over the winter.  All of these up and down temperatures can really do a number on perennials, especially those that are not well established.  Fingers crossed that the thick covering of straw will keep the plants safe and sound until the “real” spring arrives.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

20 comments:

  1. I am SO EXCITED to see how your asparagus turn out in the next few years. I had wanted to start asparagus from seed several years ago - - and even bought a packet of seeds - - but then I was too intimidated by it that year and never started the seeds. The next year (2014) I planted 28 crowns and this year will be the first year that I should be able to harvest some. Of course, with baby, I did NOTHING that I was supposed to at the end of the season (I didn't trim them back or add a layer of compost or even bother to weed the bed) so I have no idea what to expect from my plants this year. I suspect that I will, yet again, be living vicariously through other gardeners this year.

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    1. Ohhh...you must be so looking forward to that first asparagus harvest!! I'm sure that your patch will be all right - many people don't even cut their ferns down until the spring and you can always add a bit of compost then.

      I wouldn't be surprised if you took it VERY slow in the garden this year - I did little more than mow the grass in those early years. I actually quite enjoyed it as some much needed "me" time :)

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  2. I had a lot of fun growing asparagus from seed as well, once they started getting watered regularly the plants grew amazingly fast. It's probably time for me to start thinking about digging them up and relocating them to a permanent bed.

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    1. I was very surprised at how well they grew over the summer - they seemed so fragile when they first emerged in their cell packs (as do most seedlings, I suppose!) that I was constantly worried that I would accidentally decapitate one.

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  3. How interesting growing from seed. Trying something new like this is fascinating, I'd have been checking them every time I passed too.

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    1. It's especially interesting when there is so little information out there about what to expect. Each little development just fascinated me.

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  4. I sowed a few Asparagus seeds last year, but I got poor germination, and the few plants that did germinate were very weak. You seem to have done a brilliant job with yours though. Home-grown Asparagus is just so tasty!

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    1. I've never eaten homegrown asparagus. Having to wait until next year to harvest those first spears will be a real test of patience, especially this spring when (hopefully!) they all start emerging from the soil and the temptation to harvest "just a few" will surely arise!

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  5. How exciting to start it from seed. This will be my first year growing asparagus, though I took the wimpy route and am buying crowns. I'm still a bit nervous about the planting, etc.....but can see that it will indeed be something neat to try.

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    1. Yes, the info on planting crowns does seem rather daunting - I tried to use some of that info when planting the seedlings but I don't think the roots were developed enough as they didn't look like those thick, spidery looking roots you see in diagrams.

      If you plant your crowns this year, that means that we will technically both be at the same stage in our asparagus adventure - how fun is that!

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  6. You know I am a big fan of homegrown asparagus, and let me say I am cheering for your plants from here! I do believe the hardiness will surprise you. Our biggest challenge is keeping our patch weeded, a chore which my wife has handled admirably! ;-) I do hope the wait will be worth it. The homegrown spears have spoiled us, and I can't remember the last time we bought any from the grocery, since the taste just doesn't compare.

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    1. I'm hoping that growing them in the raised beds helps make weeding a bit easier - just as soon as I weed all of those chamomile seedlings out of there! I have a feeling that fresh from the garden asparagus will be much like my experience with potatoes - that first taste will be a revelation!

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  7. I hope your asparagus does well this year. My problem is that I ordered the crowns and the smallest order is 25! I don't need 25 when I am the only one eating it here so gave or threw away the rest. What a waste. I didn't know much about asparagus either so planted it here and there so I have a little in three different places. Didn't know where it would grow. Now I have one place that shades one 4x4 bed and now I wish I would have planted a couple more along the fence! Guess I didn't plan ahead very well!! Nancy

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    1. Oh, that is too bad. There is always so much trial and error in the garden, especially when you try growing something new. Maybe you'll get lucky and someone you know also ends up having to purchase too many crowns and has some to spare for you.

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  8. You did a great job starting from seed. It's impressive that the pants were sending up pencil sized sprouts the first year. The problem here is asparagus beetles, which can strip the fronds bare in a few days.

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    1. Yikes...so now I guess that I have another pest to watch out for. Hopefully our lack of them last year means we don't have them around here and not that they just haven't found my patch yet!

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  9. I've grown asparagus fern from the berries. The fern is used as an ornamental and I have never harvested the shoots. I wonder whether it is an edible variety.

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    1. I would think it would be edible if the plants it came from were edible. I've heard that you can grow asparagus from the berries, but it just may not result in plants that are as good as the parents.

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  10. Looks wonderful! And you're right the wait is definitely worth it as you're building it out to keep producing for next 20+ years at the very least. The plants will take 3 years to trully establish, but then you'll have huge harvest. i use straw mulch to keep them "warm" in winter.

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    1. Mine are all tucked in under straw as well - won't be too much longer until it's time to pull it back and (hopefully!) see some nice, thick spears emerging from the soil. Even though I won't be harvesting any this year, I know that I'll still be uber excited!

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