If Nothing Else, We’ll Grow Asparagus

The weather and other hurdles have meant a slow start for our garden, but the asparagus row is making us feel like rockstars.

by Rachael Dupree
PHOTO: Rachael Dupree

As a farmer, do you ever feel like you have a million tasks competing for your attention, and even if you accomplish just one of those the items, you feel like you’ve conquered the world? Perhaps this isn’t new to the seasoned farmer, but to me, it’s something I need to learn to embrace.

As eager as I am to get in the garden this year, getting my plot prepped has come with its fair share of hurdles. We’re still acquiring the equipment we need to tackle a larger plot. Rain comes at the most inopportune times (evenings and weekends), turning our bottomland garden into more of a bog. And I’m pregnant—yes, Mr. B and I can now go national with this news—meaning some evenings, even if the weather is perfect and the soil is beckoning, it’s all I can do to take out my contacts before I collapse in bed.

However, even if we never get around to building up some garden beds, and the tomatoes and squash and peppers and cukes I’ve started in our sunroom never get transplanted into the ground, there will be one shining light in the garden: our asparagus.

When we moved to our land, we were lucky enough to inherit a 150-foot row of established asparagus. If you don’t know anything about asparagus, don’t worry, I’m not far behind you. What I do know, though, is that asparagus crowns take a good two to three years to send up their first shoots. So for us to be able to walk out to the garden and harvest our vegetable side for dinner is a real treat—especially for a farmer with a limited attention span, such as myself. Despite the year or more of neglect they’ve received during our moving and settling process, the asparagus has been good to us this year, so it only seemed right that we show them a little love at the front of the season.

When I was sure that we wouldn’t compact the soggy wet clay soil by treading upon it, we headed out to the garden for some weeding. Now, while I’ve heard that you can grow white asparagus through a blanching method that includes erecting a sun barrier around the stalks, I’m not sure that weeds are the barrier that most gardeners who do this have in mind. Over the past week or so, we’ve been pulling out creeping Charlie, deadnettle, grass, sedge, chickweed, bindweed and more. While some of these plants are plant medicines when growing in opportune places, in my asparagus patch, they are weeds competing for water and sunlight.

weeding the asparagus row
Rachael Dupree

After getting up as much of the undesirables as we could, we followed up with a thick layer of mulch. Hopefully this will keep the weeds at bay, at least for a small stretch, while adding some organic matter to the dense soil and giving the asparagus spears a chance to shine.

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While we’re still not finished taking care of our row—the rain hit again today, delaying our work for a few more days—soon, one item will be ticked off of our to-do list and we can turn to other tasks to conquer.

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