Go Organic: Mild March brings early asparagus treatBy James Ashford
April 13, 2012
I had a real treat at the weekend. The first asparagus of the season.
It is a little earlier than usual this year probably due to the exceptionally warm weather in March and all the more welcome for it.
Asparagus is one of the few perennial vegetables commonly grown in the UK.
It overwinters in the soil and emerges every spring to provide its delicious harvest of spears.
It needs time and a little hard work to get properly established, but a well-prepared bed will last between 10 and 20 years.
You can grow asparagus from seed or you can buy one-year-old crowns.
The crowns are expensive but they will provide a quicker harvest.
Asparagus likes a really well-drained soil.
It is shallow rooting and doesn’t like being disturbed so it is worth taking the time and trouble to prepare a raised bed before you plant.
It also doesn’t like competition so dig the ground over really thoroughly and get out every scrap of weed root.
Sieve the soil if you have to and line the sides of the bed with boards to stop any new weeds creeping in. It may seem like a lot of effort but if you get perennial weeds growing among your asparagus plants you will have a devil of a job to get them out.
If your soil is heavy add plenty of spent mushroom compost or horticultural grit to improve the drainage.
The crowns arrive by mail order and resemble large hairy spiders. Plant each one on a small mound of sand or soil spreading the ‘legs’ out in a circle and then cover them over with two of three inches of finely sieved soil and water them in really well.
The first spears will emerge as the plant starts to grow but you must resist temptation and leave them alone for the first two or three years.
The spears grow into leafy fronds which send food back to the crowns allowing the plant to build up strength.
When the plants are four years old you can take your first harvest. And my goodness it is worth the wait.
You can cut the spears for six week each spring after which you must let them grow to feed the crowns for the following season.