Today, I’m having a little break from gardening. This morning, I completed a 10k running race in the Auckland Domain and am feeling exhausted! I always train in the mornings and have lots of energy to get out into the garden during the day but events are always a bit different. They’re more intense, as you’re competing and you usually run faster than during training runs. I’ve decided to talk a bit about our asparagus beds which are very active right now, as I don’t have any gardening activity to report today other than spraying the seedlings on my heat pad with some water.
In addition to harvesting peas and kale (which I covered in my previous two blog posts), we have also been eating asparagus from the garden. Five years ago, I sowed some asparagus seeds (“Jersey Knight” and “Mary Washington” from Kings Seeds) and it was the best thing I’ve ever done for the garden. It takes three years for asparagus to become ready to be harvested, but once it’s established, asparagus can continue to crop for 20 or more years. For this reason, it’s a good idea to choose your site wisely! The year that I planted those seedlings started from seed, I also put in some one year old asparagus crowns purchased from Bunnings, in a separate bed. Interestingly, these crowns don’t perform as well as the ones I raised from seed.
We were so impressed with our asparagus bed that I decided to sow more “Mary Washington” seeds two years ago. Last month, the French couple who were wwoofing with us at the time helped me plant these two year old crowns in a third bed. At the time, they were dormant and I was a little doubtful as to whether they would grow, but since the beginning of September, little spears have already started to surface which is very exciting! In just another year, we will be able to harvest them. I simply cannot wait!
The other day, I was looking through my seed collection and I discovered ANOTHER large unopened packet of Mary Washington asparagus seeds! I guess I will just have to sow some more asparagus seeds! Since space is limited, I might take out the purchased crowns which never crop well and replace them with my own seedlings.
Growing asparagus from seed is very easy. As it takes three years to maturity, I’m normally in no rush to start seedlings in September. I like to wait until the weather warms up in November before sowing seed. Using a little seed raising mix (I like Black Magic from Yates), I sow seeds in punnets and leave them to germinate in our patio. A few months later, when seedlings are large enough, I plant them in trays with potting mix. I usually wait until they’re a year old before I plant them into the garden, which gives them time to establish a good root system. However, I was so busy in the garden at this time last year as I was running a boutique plant nursery that I didn’t get around to planting my last lot of asparagus crowns until they were two years old. However, this didn’t seem to matter and they have already started surfacing, as I mentioned above.
The key thing is to make sure you set up your asparagus bed well, as it will be here for a very long time. I like to use compost, sheep pellets and fertiliser (I recommend Thrive Granular All Purpose Plant Food) at the time of planting. While asparagus certainly needs some sunshine, two of our asparagus beds are at the back of our house and definitely don’t receive as much sun as out the front. It still crops well from September until the beginning of November, when the weather warms up and it starts going to seed. Like all bulbs, you’re supposed to leave the foliage to die down once the plants go to seed, but be warned that it can get very tall and untidy! This is why most of our asparagus is at the back rather than infront of our house. Around May each year, once the foliage has died, I usually cut it down to ground level and sprinkle some bulb food over the patch.
Generally speaking, once established, asparagus requires very little care. From the start of September when the crowns start producing until autumn when the foliage dies down and gets cut back, I liquid feed plants regularly with Yates Thrive Natural Fish and Seaweed liquid fertiliser. During spring when plants are cropping, check for new asparagus spears daily and pick them as they become ready, otherwise plants will start going to seed.
If you’re interested in growing asparagus yourself but are unsure how to go about it, I have written a comprehensive blog post on this subject, which you can read here: https://www.anitakundu.co.nz/blog/growing-guide-asparagus.
Does anyone else have asparagus growing in their garden at the moment?