Asparagus

It is hard to put into words the value of an asparagus patch. Although they take years to establish, once they are going they require very little upkeep and provide delicious stalks every year. Nothing ups the flavour in a stir fry or casserole quite like asparagus and you get the added bonus of a smug smile every time you see the prices they are charging in the supermarket.

Asparagus seedlings

Asparagus seedlings growing under an array of fluorescent bulbs.

Our initial asparagus patch was started in 2008 and is a nominal 4’x 10′. Since we do actually have plants of both sexes, my wife collected seeds last year and we started them indoors in the spring, eventually transplanting them outside into an extension of the old patch. These additions effectively double the size of the patch, though the new area won’t be ready for harvest for at least a few more years.

There is one rather interesting bit of controversy when it comes to growing asparagus. As a plant, asparagus is naturally resilient towards salt. By contrast, most weeds are not. This opens up an option for weed control that doesn’t exist for a lot of other plants. With asparagus being easily out-competed by weeds, particularly in the first couple years, weed control bears some serious consideration. Traditionally, large quantities of salt have been added to asparagus beds to select for the desired plants. There are concerns, however, that this destroys the microbes that lead to healthy soil, can lead to salinity issues in the future if a different crop is planted and can even create a crust of sorts which limits the ability of the soil to interact with the atmosphere. In our case, we settled on using decent concentrations of rock salt infrequently during the first few years of a bed’s growth and then mulching the beds for the winter after the exposed foliage is cut down. With the mature beds, we don’t use any salt and they seem to do fine at excluding weeds from the center of the bed, though they benefit from a little weeding around the perimeter.

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