“Olive oil â€¦ asparagus â€¦ if your mother wasnâ€™t so fancy we could shop at the gas station like normal people.â€ť â€”Homer Simpson
I, like Marge Simpson, have always been a fan of asparagus. Even as a kid, I loved it. Yet for some reason, Iâ€™ve never attempted to grow it â€¦ until now.
Mainly, the deterrent was lack of secured space. I donâ€™t really have room in the Fortress Garden for a bed of the size I would need to plant an appropriate supply, but now that we have put up a fairly secure perimeter fence, I am preparing to venture outside of the Fortress Garden to build the mega-bed that will contain enough asparagus plants to feed my asparagus-lovinâ€™ crew, and hopefully, provide enough extras so I can make and freeze asparagus soup, quiche and the like.
The smart people on the worldwide webway seem to agree on the calculations for planting: one plant per square foot, 10 plants per person. Because the boy one is away at college and the girl one just stares at me blankly when I suggest she eat dinner at home, Iâ€™m going to go for 30 plants: 10 for me, 10 for Danny and 10 for extras. This means I need a 30-square-foot bed.
Fortunately, I still have a lot of lumber left over from my super-thrifty purchase on Craigslist of 100 redwood fence boards for only $3 each. I used a lot to build the beds for the Fortress Garden, but I still have plenty left to build a big olâ€™ asparagus bed. I shall call it “The Bed of Destiny.â€ť Or perhaps, more accurately: “The Bed of Hope.â€ť If things do not work out, I can always change the name to “The Bed of Despairagusâ€ť and plant pansies in it.
Asparagus likes depth, so I need my bed to be at least 12 inches deepâ€”not a problem, as I like my beds nice and tall so I donâ€™t have to bend down so much. Three boards high makes them about 16 inches tall, and Iâ€™ll be sure to tack 1/2-inch hardware cloth across the bottom to deter the gophers. Because Iâ€™m building this bed outside the Fortress Garden, Iâ€™ll need to defend it from The Girls, as well, but thatâ€™s an easy fix; some bird netting will keep them at bay. In any case, Iâ€™m shooting to have everything ready by early spring.
Asparagus is a long-term commitment. If properly cared for, the plants can continue to produce for up to 20 years. So Iâ€™m choosing my location carefully, where it wonâ€™t interfere with any future activities or shenanigans. This project will also call for patience: If I start with seeds, it will be two years before my first harvest. Iâ€™ll probably start with crowns that are at least 1 year old, and 2, if I can find them, to reduce the wait.
As for varieties, the internet gardening wizards uniformly recommend all-male types, like Jersey Knight or Jersey Giant. Luckily for me, the University of California has come up with “UC 157,â€ť which is designed specifically for mild-winter areas like mine, so Iâ€™ll be checking that out for sure.
The wait will be worth it. I have to borrow from my 401k to buy organic asparagus from the local market. At 7 bucks a pound, itâ€™s reserved as a special treat and canâ€™t be squandered in experimental recipes or casseroles. But if the Bed of Hope produces, Iâ€™ll be in clover. Or asparagus.