I followed the planting directions in an old organic gardening book, which turned out to be exactly the same as those in Storey’s Country Wisdom Bulletin #A-63, Grow the Best Asparagus, and very similar to Edward C. Smith’s directions in The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible.
- Dig a trench, 12 to 18 inches deep. (My husband did the digging, and he still talks about it!) The bed should be at least 4 feet from the next row or edge of a lawn.
- Put 6 to 8 inches of compost and rotted manure into the trench.
- Place the crowns about 18 inches apart in the trench. The roots should be spread out, like an octopus.
- Cover with a couple of inches of soil, and as the plants grow keep covering them up until the trench is filled in.
After the first year of hard work, all the asparagus has ever needed is basic care: top dressing with rotted manure in the early spring and later in the early summer, weeding, mulching with straw in the summer, and covering the bed with leaves in the fall to protect the crowns.
The asparagus shoots start to emerge around May 1 here in Zone 5A. The harvest usually lasts for a month, and I snap the spears off rather than cut them. Ed Smith recommends this method, too. I keep them in jars of water in the refrigerator until I have enough for a meal. At the height of the growing season in mid-May, I can pick a pound a day from the 25-by-5-foot bed that started as 15 crowns over 30 years ago. What a worthwhile investment!
— Ilona Sherrat, Illustration Coordinator, Storey Publishing