A few years ago, my husband and I decided to grow our own asparagus. It certainly seemed like a wise investment considering our passion for it and the rising cost of it on our weekly grocery bill.
Asparagus is definitely our favorite vegetable. Well, actually fiddleheads give them a run for the money but we’re having little luck with keeping our ostrich ferns alive here in Northern Illinois. 2 ferns purchased, 2 ferns dead. sigh I’ll be trying again this year though, and probably every year until I have a healthy, hearty patch of them.
But I digress. Back to the asparagus patch, which we’ve had no problems with at all.
It was a bit daunting at first, realizing that once we’d planted the asparagus, it would be 3 years before we could start harvesting (aka enjoying) it. But we ordered it anyway. I ordered a package deal of Jersey Supreme and Purple Passion from Park Seed. I figured for $30 bucks it would eventually more than pay for itself, and it has.
It came in bare root form, called “crowns” which basically looked like super-skinny dead brown squids. Really? Yes, really. I had little hope that this was going to work.
But my husband and I dug the trenches, making three very long rows about 6 inches deep. We tossed in some compost and laid the roots on their sides. We covered them back up and then…we waited. And waited. And waited.
We watered the patch occasionally and still…nothing.
I don’t remember now how long it actually was – I tend to block painful memories from my mind – but I know that we’d both reached the “I knew this was never going to work” phase. I am pretty sure we even stopped watering it.
Enter Angels Singing
Yes, one day, a little asparagus tip peeked its head out of the ground. And then another. And then there were 20. And then there were…I don’t know, but it was a lot.
Well, now at least it was growing. We still couldn’t eat it, but damn it, it was growing.
So it grew, and that fall it went to seed.
And the following spring, it appeared again.
And we drooled. And we left it alone.
And that fall, it went to seed again.
We did it! Just one more year and we’d be rolling in fresh asparagus.
Another season passed. And we sighed. But we waited.
I will note here that it was at this point I read a gardening article saying that you didn’t really need to wait 3 years to harvest – 2 years was usually sufficient.
And then came the magical 4th year. cue the angels singing
It was delicious. And it still is. Crisp, fresh, pesticide-free, gosh-darn delicious.
Is that photo not vegetable nirvana?
Now, here’s some added details: We don’t live in a magical-dirt-zone nor, aside from breaking up huge clumps of earth, did we do anything special to the dirt before we planted this. Yes, we threw in some compost while we were planting it but remember: this is a plant that grows in fields and along highways and country roads. It’s not a high-maintenance vegetable. Trust me on this one. I don’t do high-maintenance well unless we’re talking about me going out on a Saturday night, in which case I can be a tad high maintenance and do it quite nicely.
Special planting spot: It’s planted between our driveway and a hedge of wiry shrubs gone awry.
Special sun requirements: It does get sun most of the day unless the shrubs go woefully more awry than usual or my husband decides to park the boat right next to them, which has happened.
Special watering requirements: It gets watered when one of us feels like dragging the garden hose ALLLLLLL the way over there or in conditions of extreme drought.
Are you feeling me here? This is an easy, perennial vegetable to grow, at least here in Northern Illinois, which is the only area I can personally vouch for.
It is truly the Age of Asparagus.