Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The asparagus bed, at last

This is the story of my attempt to grow asparagus at my house.

First, there was the sad asparagus bed, the creation of which is documented here, one of the very first posts on this blog. The short version: I dug the bed in a place that was too shady and wet, and the only asparagus that's come up is extra spindly. If there were such a thing as anorexic asparagus, that's what I had.

Time passed. Nothing changed. No asparagus. But in the fall of 2008, as documented here, a lovely (and very strong) Tibetan fellow came and--much more quickly and efficiently than I ever could--dug a bed out of the lawn right next to the rest of the garden. Voila--a new asparagus bed. I was delighted. The next spring, I vowed, I'd start over.

Except, the next spring, this is as far as I got digging the trenches:

And so another asparagus-less year passed.

But this year, I was determined. I ordered 1 year asparagus crowns from Johnny's Selected Seeds, and while I waited for the crowns to arrive, I got back to the trenches.

And yesterday, it finally happened:

Those are the asparagus crowns in one of the two trenches, uncovered.

And here they are tucked into their bed.

There are things I would do differently--besides taking so long to dig the damn trenches. I wish the bed were a few feet wider (so there would be more space between the rows) and a few feet longer (because I only had room for 22 or 23 of the 25 plants, so I had to pick the sickliest looking roots not to plant). I wish I'd dug it all up last fall and mixed all the compost/lime/organic fertilizer/wood ashes/etc., so the bed could have settled.

But the bed is the size it is, and the trenches got dug this spring. What to do. As the summer progresses and the asparagus grows, I will gradually fill the trenches in bit by bit. Next summer, I might be able to pick a stalk here and there. But the summer after that, there should be enough asparagus to use for soup and for risotto and for other spring delicacies. The best of all, I think, will be when I can pick a stalk right there in the garden and take a bite when it's as fresh as it's ever going to be. I'm looking forward to it.


Tara said...

What an accomplishment. I'll bet that felt good, and I'll bet you soon have some jealous neighbors.

Cara deBeer said...

The crowns look totally freaky in their naked state!

Babette said...

Wow. That's some patient gardening...and could well explain why I claim I have a black thumb...no patience! But asparagus from the garden? Priceless.

Joan Lambert Bailey said...

Yeah! I'm really happy for you. I never had the patience to dig an asaparagus bed, in part because we could forage for it near our home. I always thought it would be nice to have my own reliable patch, though.

I've also never seen the crowns before. That's not at all what I expected. Do you have a favorite recipe?

Sue Dickman said...

Thanks, everyone! I have to admit, I'm feeling rather relieved that it's done and also slightly worried that something will go wrong with this one too--I'm not sure I have a third asparagus bed in me. (I wouldn't have had the second without the lovely Tibetan to dig up the lawn.)

Really, though, when I bought my house 5 1/2 years ago, an asparagus bed was one of the first things I wanted to do, so I'm a bit sad it took so long.

Agreed that the crowns look funky. You're supposed to spread them out like an octopus when you plant them.

And Joan, my favorite asparagus recipe of all is the asparagus soup from the Greens cookbook--it's basically just asparagus, leeks, a potato and some lemon zest and Parmesan cheese, and it tastes like spring incarnate. The recipe is in the link at the beginning of the post, about the first asparagus bed, but I'm thinking I'm going to revisit it. I've made it a couple of times already with California asparagus, but now that local asparagus is coming in, I'll make it again with that.