Greetings from Abingdon,
Heather here; it’s been a while since my last blog…(over a year ago) Nice to be back!
Spring of 2013, as an eager Americorps VISTA, I went on a seed-buying spree at the local health food store. Among the purchases: Mary Washington asparagus seed. How exciting I thought. An inexpensive alternative to crowns, (bare root asparagus plants), and one may just need to wait another season or so longer! The cost of plants was on my mind as many of our gardeners longed to plant asparagus but could not afford crowns, nor could we budget them into the program.
I sewed the asparagus in 72-cell flats about ten weeks before the last frost date ~ March 10th. Green needles emerged soon after, already the perfect shapes of asparagus spears, in delicate miniature.
The seedlings were planted on the far edge of the garden, heavily mulched, and left to do their thing, whatever that might be. No one we knew had ever planted asparagus from seed before. The first season the spears got taller, but remained spindly. Time passed, and other than occasional weeding, and cutting back the many plumes of feathered fronds, in late fall/early winter, the bed was left alone. Cutting back asparagus fronds prevents asparagus beetles from having too easy a time hanging out and laying eggs.
Spring of 2015 – Eruption in the asparagus patch! 3 years plus? Not on our watch! In just TWO YEARS we had edible spears coming out of our ears! We’ve been selling the majority of the spears at our local farmers market, at $7 a pound. I planted the seeds for fun, but also as an experiment to see if giving out asparagus seeds to families might be worth it. I really think it is a worthwhile investment, for families that want to sell produce, and who want to add some more vegetables to their diet but find asparagus cost prohibitive to buy.
We brought some extra spears to cook up with some of our high school gardeners. Of the ten students there, and three teachers, none of them had tried asparagus before! None of the students could identify the vegetable. One teacher said she had always been interested it but it was just way too expensive to buy. Perhaps we will get some seed for our school gardens now!
The kids had fun wiggling the spears at each other and baking them in the oven with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Everyone tried a piece, and some students went in for seconds. We devoured the plate. There are plenty more spears poking up so the fun is just beginning! Now if we keep it healthy and weeded, we should have asparagus for over ten years!