Our Asparagus Story
We love asparagus and have been growing it for around 20 years. We first tried our hand at asparagus growing on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia and discovered it was really easy. More to the point, it tasted so much better than the store bought spears, and I would plunge in and say nothing beats freshly picked asparagus raw or gently steamed. I particularly like it’s common or folk name of sparrow grass as when the spears are left to grow at the end of the season they are feathery delicate, and I have seen little fairy and scrub wrens playing and dancing in the grass.
On reflection, living by the coast seems like the perfect place to begin our asparagus adventure as asparagus is a maritime plant, though of course, it can be grown successfully away from the sea. We grew Mary Washington asparagus in our coastal sandy garden for 10 years before moving further away from the city to a small regional town. The asparagus came with us. It has been moved again since then as we moved out even further to our small bush block. Those trusty asparagus crowns have been supplying us with beautiful tasty stalks for the last 20 years.
Over the last few years, they have slowed down which is normal as they come to the end of their productivity, and it may well be the lemon scented gums behind them that is also causing them to slow down as the trees take up the nutrients and water from the soil. According to my gardening ‘bible’, my 1960 edition of Brunnings’s Australian Gardener, apparently they can last 20 years or more before slowing down.
They do need their own bed as they are a perennial. And if you have the room what a phenomenally great plant to add to your garden.
Today, we were busy in the yoga garden planting out some new asparagus crowns. A beautiful groovy purple asparagus called ‘Purple Phantom”, the well known Mary Washington and a more traditional green stalked asparagus ‘UC 157’. UC 157 is the most widely planted fresh market asparagus variety in the world. They were purchased at our local nursery as crowns and I love the way they look a lot like big spiders.
Marc has built a new bed and the soil was enriched with compost, composted cow manure, and organic blood and bone pellets. The best way to plant the crowns is to make ridges and spread the crown like a spider before covering with about 5 cm of soil. Give the bed a good deep watering and wait patiently until spring when the first spears will emerge. It is important not to pick the spears in the first year, tempting as that may be, as the plants need to build strong and robust roots and this way you will get thick, healthy and plenty of juicy spears to munch on.
Now just sit back and look forward to reaping the rewards of your hard work for years to come.