Having the patience to grow asparagus at PumpjackPiddlewick

Our vegetable garden has this space off to the right that has been earmarked for asparagus from the very beginning. It’s tucked away to the side, not quite out of sight, but definitely a bit out of mind. The area one may have finally gotten to after all else was said and done. So instead it has been put to work straight away, to provide tasty greens… eventually.

I have called this area the ‘patience place’. Growing asparagus is all about time and patience. Which is why, in all the veg garden, this was the area worked on first, in our first spring here.

Asparagus is a perennial, e.g. it comes back every year. However, it takes 4 years before one can truly harvest. (Serious amount of patience!) But then, after that, we can enjoy almost 15 years of delicious goodness.

The time has to be put in at the beginning, getting the area ready. We had started, in mid-March, by digging down to the base soil, clearing the area of weeds and debris (with lots and lots of help from the ducks).

From there it was built back up like a lasagne. First using composted mulch from last summers garden cuttings. Then we employed a little hugelkultur method. Then some sand, as our soil leans toward clay, and finally all mounded over with the dirt originally dug out from the bed.

Old, larger roof tiles, found in clearing the upper garden, have been used to form sides to help with mounding the soil. Not quite raised bed, more tidy bed. The asparagus crowns were put in and covered over. Broken tiles either side were used to indicate where the crowns are, but I am thinking and considering what I can recycle that will look a bit prettier (and be easier to see).

We added in a little landscaping in the form of a path that runs around the perimeter of the bed. This is to try and keep weeds and grass at a distance. Old crushed bits of tile (surprise, surprise, but then we have LOTS!) have been used to make the path.

Then we sat back and waited to see if this would all work. Would our asparagus actually take root and grow?

April… We waited.

May… And waited.

June… HOORAY! A tiny thin little spear showed up. Then a couple days later, another one. Slowly over the ensuring days and weeks the odd spear poked its head above ground.

It was hard to ultimately track, as some spears died off before others appeared, but we think all but one of the crowns had taken root. We’ll have a better idea as the years progress.

We let them grow, die back, and eventually frond. Then duly cut back in the autumn once they went dry and brown. And then we waited some more.

Asparagus normally starts showing itself in our area of France at the end of March, but it does depend on soil temperatures. This year has been a little cooler for longer, so it was hard to tell when we would begin seeing them. We also had added some fertilised duck straw on top of the bed for protection against late frosts and as some weed control. This meant too it would take a little longer to spot the spears.

April has arrived… and so has the asparagus! The first tiny spears are hard to see at first, especially against the straw. We have to look sort of sideways across the top of the bed to spot them. But as the week has progressed so have the size and quantity of the spears. It is still random, with only 1 or maybe 2 spears per planted crown. But the key thing is they are coming up!

Year 2 is still hands off. Or is this year 1? It’s a little confusing, with no clarity to be found whether the planting year counts as year one. Or does the birthday of the planting count as the beginning of year one? If you know, let us know in the comments below please.

Some say you can harvest about 10 spears (in year 2). But as ours are still haphazard and few, we will leave them be to continue growing, and simply monitor. If we get lucky with a crown producing a few in one time, we may treat ourselves to a petite harvest.

The progress of our Asparagus Bed, from beginning to now:

Making an Asparagus Bed

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