May 4, 2012

How to Build an Asparagus Bog

If you're anything like me about one week ago, you likely read that title and said, "Asparagus what?"  Here's the deal, I created a list for my Dad of all the vegetables I would like to grow fresh in my garden, and asparagus was on the list.  He responded that asparagus was a pretty complicated plant to grow, that took a lot of time and preparation.  And because I'm really good at not biting off more than I can chew and taking things slowly, I took that as a sign not to grow asparagus.  That's a dirty lie- of course I thought, "I'm down with complicated..." and took on the challenge.  Because I'm dumb like that.

Let me start by saying that I'm no horticulturist, and the only proof I have that this technique of my Dad's works his the abundance of fantastic asparagus he harvests each year.  I also can't speak for the rest of the country, but if you're located up in the Nasty North like we are, this might work for you.  

The first thing I did was identify an area.  this secondary garden bed to the left of my big garden bed was a mess of weeds, rocks and old mulch.  It gets a lot of sunlight from morning to late afternoon, and it was begging for a little attention. 

So we built a 18" x 8' cedar box, and buried it slightly in the ground so that it wouldn't move around.  Then I dug out a 6" trench below the box.  That description makes the task sound like a walk in the park, when in fact it was like Matthew Mcconaughey going for a run with his shirt on- impossible.  There were rocks to scoop out, huge roots I needed to pry and eventually saw out, and a whole lot of dirt to move.  It was a workout baby.

Once it was done I filled the bottom 3-4 inches with mulched leaves. 

Then I topped the leaves with 4 bags of composted manure.  Apparently asparagus needs a lot of rich nutrients and compost to thrive.  I've even read that people fill the bottom of their bog with fish heads.  I did not do that, and not just because I would have no idea where to purchase a dozen fish heads.  Because if I did you all would think I was insane.  You're welcome.

You make a little ridge in the center of the trough, and then cover the manure with a bag or two of top soil, just enough to make sure the poo isn't exposed.  Yep, just wrote that.

Then you plant your asparagus, which comes in the form of root crowns that you can buy in garden and landscape specialty stores.   You want to try to get mature roots (2+ years ), as asparagus takes a really long time to establish (2-3 more years after planting).  Yes, if you're paying attention that means that I spent all this time on an asparagus bog that won't actually grow asparagus for another 3 years.  Apparently once its established though it will produce for up to 25 years, so worth the price of admission.  (As long as we don't ever move.)

The root crown lays just over the ridge in the center with the roots trailing off to the sides.  Creepy looking- huh?

 Then you cover everything up with 3 inches of top soil and manure mixed at about a 3-1 ratio.  Not done just yet, I took the next hour or so digging out the remaining weeds and stumps around my bog and covering the area with weed block.

Then I threw a couple of bags of fresh mulch on the area to clean things up a bit. 

The plants should grow some asparagus this year, but you're not supposed to pick it so that you can let the roots get nice and strong.  When you don't pick the spears, they shoot up to 4' tall fern like bushes.

I'm hoping that these look wispy and magical back in this area, but let's be honest, they can't look any worse than what we had before.  If anything its a new experience and experiment for me to try.  Plus, all that digging really helped tone my biceps.  Anyone else plant asparagus?  Did you put anything gross in your bog?  Fish heads?  Old food?  Or am I just falling for craziness on the internet?

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