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Wales, United Kingdom
In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Cultivated plants: Asparagus

I finally got round to weeding and fertilizing the third and last asparagus bed this week. I should have done it in the autumn, but I reckon it's probably better late than never. One notable feature of asparagus is its deep roots, so fertilizer applied to the surface will take ages to get deep enough to make any difference, anyway. Season of application probably isn't critical.

There's nothing to show for this at this stage, just a muddy looking strip with fewer weeds than the surrounding garden, so you'll have to make do with a photo of a tiny asparagus spear, taken in May 2012.


Young shoot of a one-year-old asparagus plant (Asparagus officinalis)

Asparagus is a perennial vegetable, usually grown from crowns, which are one-year-old plants that look like a spidery mass of roots. Having planted some of these in the garden of my previous house, I noticed that one of the plants had produced berries shortly before we moved house. I picked the berries and saved seeds from them to plant in the garden here.

Even when grown from crowns, it takes two to three years before asparagus is strong enough to harvest (some sources say that a limited harvest may be taken in the second year, others advise leaving it entirely alone until the third year). Harvesting involves cutting all the young shoots back to ground level, so the plant needs to be strong enough to put out new shoots and continue growing, several times, for as long as harvesting continues. It's essential to stop at some point - traditionally midsummer - to allow the plant to get on and do its thing. Having sown from seed, this presumably adds a year to the time before I can start harvesting, so from sowing in 2011, it should be ready for a light harvest either this year or next. Last year's spears were a little thicker than the one pictured, but not much, so I'm not optimistic they'll be ready to harvest this year. I'll let you know.

Other garden tasks this week
  • Planting out two more rows parsnip seedlings - gosh, this is fiddly!
  • Planting garlic and shallots in between rows of parsnips
  • Digging over almost half of the potato patch
  • Moving more soil and plants to the terrace
  • Gathering more fallen leaves and adding them to the heap behind the greenhouse
  • Monitoring seedlings in the greenhouse - there are a few - with occasional watering, adjusting sheets of glass, and turning heat on and off
  • Weeding - always weeding
Also harvesting this week
Brocolli
Unexpected potatoes. They get less unexpected each time one surfaces.
Wild garlic - it's only just big enough to pick here. We're a few weeks behind other foraging spots I've heard about, even some quite local ones.
Ground elder
Sorrel

Also eating
Crab apple and rowan jelly
Courgette puree (from freezer)

Also drinking
Blackberry and elderberry wine
Parsnip and nettle ale
Dandelion wine

Cultivated plants challenge summary page here.

4 comments:

  1. OK... so CatMan LOVES asparagus. I planted 6 crowns about this time last year and they sent up about 2-3 shoots each over the course of the summer. He is hopeful that we can take one small harvest this year.

    I also just ordered a package of 100 heirloom asparagus seeds to sow in a different plot. I figure it will be years before they can be eaten, but hey... they're perennials, so less work for me and I have the full encouragement of CatMan on this particular gardening endeavor. He sometimes thinks my gardening stuff is silly and more effort than it's worth, but with the asparagus he's all in!

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    Replies
    1. Maybe asparagus will be the gateway vegetable for him, and he'll get hooked on gardening! Or at least hooked on the idea of you gardening. I do hope you get a harvest this year, and those six plants will keep you going until your 100 heirlooms plants are big. Then maybe we can all come to terms with the alien concept of 'too much asparagus' (I also planted many, many seeds, aiming for about 40 plants - I think I have 30ish).

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    2. Ha! "Too much asparagus" would indeed be an alien concept! :-)

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    3. Well, I recently discovered "too many parsnips" and I've a feeling that "too much broccoli" may be just around the corner, and both of those are pretty foreign. None of these are what you might call a problem, though :-)

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