No this isn’t some weird alien creature from the depth of the sea, its a 1 year old asparagus crown, already sending up some tentative shoots, and with fibrous roots just itching to get their feet in some soil.
I don’t have many regrets in life, but I do wish I had planted some asparagus in the first or even second year of taking on my plot. If I had, I’d be harvesting and eating some lovely fresh asparagus by now, and I would have been over the last 3 or 4 years. It takes a couple of years after planting 1 year old crowns, (I can’t believe we’re into our 6th year on the plot) before you can harvest anything, and somehow it’s one of those plants I’ve just never been organised to get around to planting.
But then again, the plot has been too weedy up till now. We’ve battled with couch grass and bindweed, and the one thing they do say about planting asparagus is that you need a weed free bed. I think we’ve finally managed to break the back of the perennial weeds, we still get clumps of couch grass here and there, but it’s nothing like it was in the first few years. Lots of people on our site have sprayed their plots with weed killer to start with, but the weeds still come back the next year, and possibly the year after. Some of those roots go down a long way, and spraying the tops doesn’t really solve the problem. I’m afraid you just have to put the graft into digging them out, and keep hoeing them, and eventually they give up. A beautiful allotment doesn’t come easy, unless you are very lucky to get a plot that is already cultivated. But that’s just cheating!
So back to the asparagus, this year I decided it was about time I got some in, and after a bit of deliberation, I settled on creating a bed down the bottom end next to the strawberry bed and the fruit trees and bushes.
The first, and hardest step, is to dig a trench, about a spade deep and a couple of feet wide. John did offer to do this part for me, but stubborn pride kicked in, ‘no I’ll be fine!’ I cheerfully declared. After marking an edge and digging the first spades worth across the plot width (just under 5 metres) I has already out of breath and stripping my first layer of fleece off. Phew, this digging malarkey is hard work.
With the trench established, you then put a mounded line of compost along the bottom. This ideally needs to be something rich and nutritious. Mine is a couple of bags full of homemade stuff from my home compost bin. It’s a bit woody, but dark and moist and smells pretty good. If you like that sort of dank woodland scent.
To this I added some Grow Char soil improver which I’m experimenting with on the plot this year. You could add some chicken pellets or other organic fertiliser. Every little bit of goodness helps, after all these plants might be here for the next 10 years.
Then you lay the crowns over the mound, spreading their roots either side.
A lot of books and sites then tell you to sift over a few cm of soil to cover the crowns and then keep topping up the soil as they grow until the trench is filled. However, I’m way too lazy for that, and it seems not everyone does it this way, so I took the easy option and just back filled the trench. Fingers crossed they come through okay.
Asparagus, like many vegetables, loose flavour from the minute they are picked, so the fresher you can get it the better, and there’s nothing fresher than growing and picking your own. I’ll just have to be patient, I can pick a few spears next spring, but it’ll be the year after before I get a proper harvest. Bring on spring 2016!