Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Awesome Asparagus

Imagine, Freshly Cut Asparagus Spears from your garden every spring!
You'll just need a little preparation, planning and patience before you can pick this delicious, nutritious vegetable. The wait will be worth it since the flavor of fresh Asparagus spears is incredibly better than any you can buy in a store. While waiting, you'll get to enjoy Asparagus' attractive airy, fern-like foliage (some grow up to five feet tall). Asparagus is a member of the lily family (along with onions, leeks and garlic).
How Awesome is Asparagus?
  • It's one of the first veggies of spring.
  • Once it's planted, your Asparagus bed will produce deliciousness for many years.
  • Its spears grow several inches in a day - fascinating.
  • Asparagus is really nutritious, naturally low in calories, loaded with fiber, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins (folic acid, vitamins A, B and C, calcium, iron).
  • A delicious gourmet vegetable on its own, it's also a versatile ingredient in many dishes, including quiche with ham and swiss.  yumm.
  • Stock your freezer with the extra harvest to enjoy year round.
  • Plant it at the back of your garden bed, or as a hedge, or even an unconventional ornamental border.
With PLANNING and PREPARATION each plant can produce spears for 10 to 15 years.
- Asparagus is such a beautiful plant that you can add it to your perennial garden.
- Plant Asparagus in full sun in the back (northern end) of the garden so it doesn't shade other plants.
- Asparagus doesn't like competition; so clear the bed of all other plants
- Dig a wide trench at least 8" deep to give each plant plenty of room.
- Sandy loam, well-drained with a neutral pH of 6.5-7.5 is best.
- Loosen the soil 16" deep and amend it well with compost and rotted manure.
- Raised beds ensure that weeds and grass are kept to a minimum.
- If more than one row is planted, space the rows five feet apart from center to center.
- Line the bottom of the trench with two inches of a mixture of compost and well-rotted manure mixed with a teaspoon of phosphate fertilizer for each foot of row.
-Next add an inch of good soil to separate the crowns from the fertilizer.
- Slightly mound the soil down the center of the trench. The top of the mound should be 6" below ground level.
  • Choose strong, one-year-old plants (crowns). Plant them before the roots dry out. They will keep in a plastic bag in the refrigerator up to a week.
  • While crowns can be planted in late fall, EARLY to MID SPRING is better time since asparagus plants are still dormant. As soon as the soil is workable in spring, you can prepare a nice bed for your asparagus. Asparagus is a long-lived plant, so a well made bed will reap happier plants.
  • Carefully spread out the roots as you place the crowns on the mounds. Leave about 12-18 inches between crowns.
  • Cover the crowns with an inch or so of soil and firm well around the roots. As shoots begin to appear, lightly cover the shoots with soil. By mid-summer the trench will be completely filled.
  • Mulch with a two inch layer of composted horse manure after planting to keep the deer and weeds away.
 ANNUAL ATTENTION varies for the first few years. Basically your asparagus need food, water and weeding.
• Keep the soil moist, but not wet. Roughly an inch of water a week is enough.
• Mulching with composted manure is strongly recommended. 
• Weed regularly by hand. Hoeing may damage the shallow root system.
• Provide protection against heavy winds which might damage your plants.
PATIENCE. Expect to be able to harvest a few spears of your asparagus next year, and more each year after that.
• Allow your Asparagus to grow lush foliage
• In the fall, cut back your plants to the ground before they go to seed. This will encourage the growth of more spears in the spring.
• Female plants will also produce red berries, but fewer, smaller spears. Some growers replace the female plants with males to maximize their yield, but you can easily cut the spears before the berries ripen.
In the SECOND YEAR, you can HARVEST two or three of the heavier spears per plant this year:
  • Harvest with a clean, sharp knife. Cut each spear about 1 inch below the surface of the soil.
  • Avoid letting the knife injure nearby stalks.
  • Do not injure growing stalks by stepping on them while harvesting.
• Let the wispy spears to grow into ferns once again.
• Mulch the bed with a thick layer of well-rotted manure or compost.
• Apply a 10-10-10 fertilizer (3 pounds for each 100 square feet of area) over and between the rows. Work the manure and fertilizer into the top three inches of soil.
•At the end of JUNE, apply 2 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer for each 100 square feet of row.
• Keep the planting free of weeds.
Finally, the THIRD YEAR:
It's time to harvest spears once they reach 6 to 8" tall -- as many spears as you can cut - you'll see that the wait was well worth it. Do this for four weeks, then let the spears grow into those beautiful airy ferns. Your amazing asparagus will grow will so fast, you'll need to harvest every day. Expect to yield 8 to 12 spears from each plant each year. Now your plants are established, just leave some of the spears to mature and put out new shoots.
FREEZE extra harvest, or share with friends.
Loosen and fertilize the soil if it has become compacted. Give your asparagus bed, the same loving care as last year. If you wish, increasing the nitrogen to 3 pounds per 100 feet of row, will give them a boost.
Next, in the FOURTH YEAR, you can extend your harvest to eight weeks long.
The common asparagus beetle and the spotted asparagus beetle. See GreenShare Factsheet on asparagus beetles for identification and control recommendations:

Plant Your Own Asparagus!

Debbie will be ordering asparagus crowns for this spring.

Call her or email to pre-order your asparagus crowns.

You will avoid disappointed if she sells out.

University of Rhode Island GreenShare Factsheets
In my garden there is a large place for sentiment.
My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams.
The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers,
and the dreams are as beautiful.

~Abram L. Urban

Fresh Asparagus Soup

Fresh Asparagus soup is only one way to enjoy your fresh asparagus.   For a twist, try replacing the asparagus with brocolli.

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Place asparagus and onion in a saucepan with 1/2 cup vegetable broth. Bring the broth to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer until the vegetables are very tender.
  2. Reserve a few asparagus tips for garnish. Place remaining vegetable mixture in an electric blender and puree until smooth (or use an immersion blender).
  3. Melt butter in the pan that was used for simmering the asparagus and onions. Stir while sprinkling flour, salt, and pepper into the butter. Do not let the flour brown. Allow the mixture to cook only 2 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 1/4 cups vegetable broth and increase the heat. Continue stirring until the mixture comes to a boil.
  4. Stir the vegetable puree and milk into the saucepan. Whisk yogurt into the mixture, followed by lemon juice. Stir until heated through, then ladle into bowls. Garnish with reserved asparagus tips. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired.
  5. Savor the Flavor!