My Asparagus And Potato Beds

One of my readers, Dan, asked to see pictures of what my asparagus bed looks like now as I’m harvesting my first spears, as well as a question about growing potatoes under straw. Hey, I’m always ready to share pictures!
This bed is four years old now, so I can harvest it the full six weeks this year- yeah!
This is my first bed of asparagus, so I’ve been learning as I go the last few years. It’s truly a mystery plant- one I had never seen except in the little bundles in the store. When it is leafed out in the summer, no one who sees it knows what it is. And boy does it get big.
The first spears appeared the beginning of April, but we had a couple days of 29 degrees and they were frozen to death. I cut all the mushy frozen ones off, added more compost, and more grew.
This is one hardy plant. I’ve harvested about four pounds so far this season and we’ve got until mid-June, so I’m seeing a real return on money spent for the roots this year.

It’s just amazing to me how they just appear as if by magic every spring. Sometimes I don’t get out to the garden for a few days (like today- barely 50 degrees and downpours) and the spears have shot up about a foot! I just harvest them and cut the bottoms off to make them the length I want. I’m not too picky.

This is purple asparagus. I grew it because it was different, though it turns green when it’s cooked. It grows different, too, producing fatter stalks and more of them.
I’m still up in the air about how to harvest the mature spears. I’ve read different techniques, some calling for cutting at the dirt level, some below, some breaking off at the natural point, and yet others saying never to cut under the soil as you could cut one growing next to the one being harvested.
You can see in this picture that some stalks are visible. I think I’m supposed to cut them below dirt level in case of fungal growth? Like I said, I randomly do different things.

This shows a close-up of another mound of purple asparagus.

One thing I’ve learned about growing it yourself is that all the spears are not uniformly round like the bunches in the store. I get thin ones, normal ones, and really fat ones. And I do mean fat- I’ve personally never seen asparagus as fat as some I grow. But they still are tender and I’ve learned to adjust cooking times accordingly.
Also, they don’t all start getting thinner toward the end of harvest as I’ve read. There are always good sized spears even after six weeks, but I decide to stop harvesting at that point to provide the roots with the food they need to produce well the next season.

Here’s a look at my potato bed for this year. I planted my potatoes late, only about three weeks ago. This is the amount of straw I put over each potato piece, basically just a little hill. You can find more details of how I plant potatoes with this straw-planting method by reading this post, but basically I make sure to loosen the straw (it comes off the bale in flakes that sometimes take some effort to get apart) so the new growth can push it’s way up.


Here’s my one little new growth, though I did pull back some hills to see if the others were growing (yes, they are!).

I went ahead and pushed the straw closer around the growth. I will put more straw around/over it when it gets about 10 inches to a foot tall. I might put a little more on them as they grow, but usually not, so each plant has maybe a foot and a half of straw around it’s base. The straw is used to keep the sunlight from turning the potatoes green, but some tubers grow in the soil, too, just not deep enough to need a shovel to harvest.

The biggest question I get about this method is “doesn’t the straw make a lot of weeds?”
If you buy your straw from a reputable source, you will have some tufts of grass that appear occasionally over the course of the growing season and these are really easy to pull out, as they’re just in the straw layer. I’ve got the bed I used last year for potatoes still covered in the straw (it’s waiting for warmer weather and the corn), and I counted about 12 tufts of grass after sitting the whole winter. These will come up easily when I rake and prepare the bed. I don’t find this a problem at all, and the straw keeps other, more noxious weeds from the bed.
However, when we first moved here we bought “straw” from a farmer in the area who advertised in the paper. Being new to rural areas, we did not know what to look for and we were actually sold old hay. And yes, this grew the most beautiful lawn we’d seen in awhile, right there amongst the potatoes.
Since then I just buy it at the feed store to make sure I get the right stuff. And I’ve not had that same experience again, so I feel comfortable recommending it to others. Anyone else have experience with this method?

And thanks for the questions! Keep ‘em coming, I’m happy to answer (as best I can…).

-Jami
     


 


  

Comments

  1. says

    Thanks Jami, for the update on the asparagus and potatoes plants. I can not wait until my asparagus (2 year old now) can produce like yours! and I’m loving your videos. Dan

  2.  says

    Wow! Your asparagus look awesome! That is a really cool vegetable to be planting. I did plant the purple potatoes like you said, but I put them under some dirt…I hope they’ll be ok :)

  3.  says

    My mom had two asparagus beds, a spring and fall bed. She’d let one go to fern while the other we’d harvest. Even years after she got rid of her garden, we’d harvest straight out of the grass. It took her 3-4 years of mowing the bed over twice a week to get it to stop producing. And even then, it might have stopped only because it was a 20 year old bed.

    We just started our asparagus bed this year. I hope it will look as good as yours. Enjoy!

  4.  says

    Candi- I do cover the seed potatoes in dirt, just very shallow, and then hill up with straw instead of dirt so you should be fine!

    Striving- Oh, I’ve read somewhere about getting the asparagus to be fall and spring. I’ll have to try to get my beds to do that one day!

  5.  says

    Witchymee- I get a lot more than 4lbs. over the course of the season, though I don’t know my total amount because I don’t always weigh what I bring in and this is the first year I’m going to harvest for the full six weeks. I have two beds set aside for asparagus, each 3×12. I planted 10 crowns in each, but they didn’t all make it, so I have about 15 established plants. I have this much because, frankly, I had the room and I wanted to have enough to pickle and eat plenty fresh and give away. Hope that helps!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>