Plant asparagus once, and you'll get 30 years of harvest. So they say.
Some people claim that the plants keep producing for 50 or 70 years. Others know that asparagus also might fail to come up even once -- being plants and all.
We're testing the story, beginning last month (April 2015) at the Would-Be Farm.
We like asparagus. Grilled, roasted, steamed -- all good.
And since it's too hot in Florida to get anywhere with this veggie, I decided to squeeze in just a tiny itty-bitty wee bit more planting (I thought) into this year's spring schedule. Heck, after putting 40+ trees into the ground, what's a couple dozen asparagus crowns?
The short answer is: a LOT of digging.
Here's a brief tutorial of my technique: After planting the apples and pears and aronia trees, filbert bushes and pine-trees, turn your attention to the asparagus. Start by digging a hole. Turn it into a rather creepy little grave. Don't forget to use all those rocks for something fun, like a flower bed.
After reading some more about the needs of the asparagus, make it two longish graves, perhaps 7 feet by 2, a foot deep. Looking into the graves, try not to think about Treblinka and Bergen-Belsen. Use the rocks that came out of the graves to shore up the edges of the driveway or some such.
Once the crowns (the roots, basically, which resemble a spider a LOT more than a crown, but there you go, asparagus crowns.) arrive, you'll discover that the two long graves need to be twice or three times as long. They suddenly look less like graves than, say, the footer of a foundation. Which is more of a relief than it should be.
Since your main labor is out of town, keep as steady a pace digging as you can manage. Again, use those rocks for something. Perhaps pile them on top of the weed-block that you hope will keep the brambles from returning to this patch of the farm. Save out a few really pretty ones for your sister. She likes the striped pink granite ones.
Having excavated the ditches, now refill them a little, mounding up the center with the good stuff: composted manure, Epsom salts, ash from the fire-pit, sifted soil mixed with peat moss and rotted leaves. Go on, buy a few bags of good dirt. Ignore any twinges in your back. Daylight is burning!
While a mental coronation march plays, start popping the crowns into the dirt: splay the fringe of roots down the mound, giving each plant a foot or so of space, and then cover the plants with good dirt. And then with mulch. Spritz the area generously with anti-critter spray –– the concoction of egg and water and garlic has been allowed to go gloriously awful in the sunshine. Gardening rumor has it that nothing likes the smell.
With the remains of your stamina, water the plants. Alas, there is no well, no pump, no rain-barrel yet. Haul water from wherever it can be found –– the best water is, of course, up the hill in the stone cistern under a grandfather apple-tree.
Remind yourself, as you tote 10 gallons of water at a time down the driveway, that you are earning that beer, that cherry turnover, that pizza dinner. And helping your load-bearing bones form even stronger and denser matrices. Not to mention establishing –– potentially –– thirty years of springtime asparagus feasting yet-to-be.
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