Food & Entertaining - In Season
Grow these sweet and tender spears in your garden.
Because of its longevity, careful siting and soil preparation is crucial. Like most vegetables, asparagus requires full sun. I like to use it along a south-facing fence line as a graceful, ferny summer hedge or as a boundary line—however, a household of four would likely find that three to five mature clumps provide them with plenty of produce, as well as a little extra for deserving family and friends.
Asparagus grows best in well-drained, sandy-loam soils high in organic matter. Heavy soils produce deformed spears, so if your native soil has a high clay content, you will have to excavate the area in which you wish to plant to a depth of 45 centimetres to remove the existing soil and replace it with good quality garden loam. Since the plants will be in situ for decades, dig in extra compost or composted manure before you seed or install transplants. Be sure the area is scrupulously weeded; creeping perennial grasses with spreading rhizomes are the bane of asparagus growers, so get rid of them before you begin.
Mid-spring to early summer is the best time to plant asparagus. If you’re sowing seed, follow the package directions carefully. If you’re installing one-year-old crowns, dig holes 30 cms apart and place crowns 20 cms deep. Deep planting minimizes the likelihood of damaging crowns when weeding and harvesting. While the plants become established, keep them well watered and mulch with compost, shredded leaves, clean straw or shredded bark to conserve moisture and discourage weed seeds from germinating.