I recently went to help a friend install some more growing beds for perennial and annual vegetable production. One of the most exciting things that we got into the ground once we had the new beds shaped and amended with compost was asparagus crowns.
Asparagus is a perennial, meaning that once its root system is established in the soil, it will continue to produce year after year as long as you keep it healthy and don’t dig it up. Since these root systems can take up to two or three years to establish and start producing if they are started from a seed, they are sold as more mature, bare root transplants called “crowns”.
You’ll notice, since they are only roots at this point, they look more like Lovecraftian spaghetti wigs or those evil flying squid machines from the Matrix movies than they do regular garden transplants. I assure you, this is what they are supposed to look like.
Behold! My sketch of planting asparagus crowns in your garden and watching them flourish!
Now, you only need to make it a trench if you are planning to plant multiple crowns, and that is a really good idea because, let’s face it, if you let some of the spears mature into the low bushes, asparagus is beautiful. It always reminds me of tiny, delicate bamboo forests.
Regardless, trench or hole, you will need to put another small, 3″ mound of dirt in the middle of the hole/trench to place your asparagus crown on, untangling the roots radially out from the center of the crown. Make sure you get the crown in the ground with the right side up! If you get it wrong, there’s a chance your asparagus will survive, but it’s just mean.
Getting their roots situated correctly when you transplant them is almost the most important part of the job, second only to what kind of soil you are transplanting them into. Asparagus in general likes lighter, well-drained soils (less clay, more sand), but they are very hearty and resilient once established. On the farm I grew up on, we had asparagus planted all along the banks of the dirt irrigation ditches. Ditches that were completely overgrown with bermuda grass, that is. Other than being burned once a year to clean out tumbleweeds and other debris, the only other maintenance that asparagus had was harvesting of the spears occasionally when we drove by in the warmer months. This is the beauty of perennial food crops in places you don’t farm or garden as heavily.
After you situate the asparagus crowns on your mound, in the hole, cover the whole situation with 2-3″ of loose soil, preferably with some kind of mulch or litter mixed in to avoid compaction when you water it.
Your root crowns were probably about 1 year old when you purchased them, so don’t harvest any of the spears the first year, just look upon them and know that you are investing in a beautiful, delicious future.
The next year, now that you are really hungry for that tasty asparagus, Let the spears get to a few inches high, but harvest them before the branches start to open up or they will get more and more fibrous. When harvesting, cut the new spears as close to ground level or just below to encourage more production. Even if they grew too tall and you aren’t going to eat the whole spear, cut the remainder off at ground level.
The little spears are delicious raw. Go on, graze a little! You deserve it!
What grows in the garden, Stays in the Garden!
Or try some other recipes: