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Day #4 – Asparagus and the Ruined Bed

Today we addressed “the ruined bed.” Oh what a lament could be intoned about this patch of ground. Instead, we hit the ground running.

The Plan: We decided to view this area as an opportunity to make a dream come true. We’d always wanted a backyard orchard and, if we’ve paced it out correctly, we believe we can fit two more dwarf fruit trees in this area. We are quite finicky gardeners, and are even more picky when the choices involve perennials. For our first apple tree, a Roxbury Russet, we ordered it in advance from Trees of Antiquity, a place that specializes in eccentric, antique varieties. (What’s the point of going through all the effort of growing the same kind of apple you can just buy in a store?) It’s far too late now to order a bareroot tree so we’ll just set out place holders and build the garden around where the new trees will go next year.

There was plenty of “grunt work” to be done. We moved the bricks leftover from the old garden and hastily assembled a three course, running bond brick “wall.” No mortar of course. These are scavenged bricks from here and there, not exactly the ideal kind of brick for a garden but the color provides a gentle contract to the green of the foliage. The foundation for the wall is a ring of cinder blocks we had around the outside of the the old bed. We had heard a few years ago that cinder blocks could be used as the edge of a garden because it both marks the lawn from the bed and because the holes on the sides of blocks can be used as highly durable pots. So we tried. Our verdict is that the capacity for these “pots” are quite small and irredeemably ugly. So ever since our experiment, this bed had a wall of scavenged brick layered on top of the block to hide it.

That is of course until the bulldozer and backhoe scattered the brick and pushed the block into the ground. Initially, it looked daunting but a couple minute’s worth of work cleared the area quite well.

We chose to put asparagus in and around the orchard. We already have a patch of asparagus… sort of. It’s another tragic tale. We had a very well established bed of ‘spargs that was producing so well we even bought a special asparagus steaming pot. We had enough success to develop a serious taste for fresh asparagus. Then I went and added a layer of compost I got from another gardener’s compost pile. I don’t know if it had herbicide in it, or if it was the wrong pH or if I just smothered the poor things but I killed half the bed. What’s worse, is that when we planted more crowns in that area, most of them died as well. A new spot without so many bad memories — that’s all the ‘spargs need.

I bought a clump of crowns on a whim at the local garden store. To be honest they didn’t look TOO lively but, heck they weren’t expensive. We can always plant more next year. We dug holes 18″ deep as the instructions say, and added a shovelful of compost. We knew the crowns point up but we didn’t know if the roots should be splayed out or whether they should be more vertical, like a tap root. We opted for more vertical like a tap root. If they don’t thrive, well, we can always plant more next year.

We were able to dig down just to the point where the hole met into the soil of the old bed. I think this is a probably a good thing. But this was a very exhausting 20 minutes. We tidied up and came inside.

These were the notes on the clump of crowns:

Asparagus — Jersey Knight — Large spears tipped with purple tints. Good Disease resistance.
–needs at least 5 hours of sun
–plant in a trench 18″ deep, place crowns 12-18″ apart. Leave 3-5 ft between rows
–cover crown with 2″ of soil. Fill in as shoots grow, but never cover tips.
–after first year, fertilize with 6-24-24 or similar when growth starts in spring and again in July
–don’t harvest the first year
–harvest a small amount the second year
–big harvest begin the third year
–harvest from May to June
–25 ft row yield 7-12 lbs
–leave ferns until they brown

Posted in • Growing.