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Planting An Asparagus Bed

June 20th, 2011

Adding a large asparagus bed has been in my garden plan for quite a while. I have spent the last 3 years improving the soil in one large area of the garden preparing it for asparagus. Since asparagus a long-lived perennial vegetable, you want to make sure the soil is healthy. I remember those huge asparagus beds at Monticello, they were amazing!

If you like asparagus, growing it in your home garden makes sense. Asparagus is much tastier when cooked immediately after harvesting (in fact it’s quite good when eating right in the garden). Taking the time to install an asparagus bed now will reward you years of fresh harvests. Asparagus does not enjoy having wet feet, so a well-drained bed is essential or you may end up losing your crowns to rot. If you have heavier soil you can now purchase varieties like ‘Jersey Night’ and ‘Millennium’ that have been bred to do better in those conditions.

Each crown of asparagus is supposed to produce about a half a pound of spears during the 4-6 week spring season. I’m guessing that this is under optimal conditions and most likely with synthetic fertilizers. In my organic garden with less than ideal soil, I’m guessing I’ll get about a quarter pound per crown once they’re established. Mr Chiots and I love asparagus, so eating this much will not be a problem for us. I’m actually hoping to have extra so I can pickle some to enjoy throughout the year.

I planted 25 crowns each of ‘Purple Passion’ and ‘Jersey Supreme’ two weeks ago. I have a few ‘Mary Washington’ asparagus crowns in a raised bed in the back. I planted them 3 years ago and have been harvesting a few spears from them. They don’t get full sun, so they aren’t as productive as they would in in another area of the garden. These plants will be moved to the new asparagus bed up front soon. I’ll also be seeding some ‘Precoce D’Argenteuil’ Asparagus as well (source Baker Creek).

Planting asparagus is fairly easy, although if you search for information on how to do it on-line you’ll come up with conflicting information. After reading a few different ways of doing it, I decided to plant mine a little more shallow than is recommended. I found some information from Ohio State University that said plants were more productive and lasted longer if not planted as deeply. The location of my asparagus bed also has fairly heavy clay soil beneath the soil I amended. I wanted the crowns to be above the level of clay so I planted them about four inches below the soil level. The purple asparagus is planted 6-8 inches apart and the Jersey is planted 12-18 inches apart.

I added some bone meal at planting time to help with root development and I mulched well with shredded fall leaves. After about 5 days most of the crowns were putting up thin spears. It looks like every single crown has sprouted.  Fertilize your asparagus patch with a well balanced fertilizer in spring before spears emerge and with a higher nitrogen fertilizer in summer after harvest.  I like to use a mix of kelp meal and fish meal in spring and well rotted chicken manure in summer/fall.

Next year I’ll be able to harvest a few spears from this new bed. Some places will tell you not to harvest any, but I have read that harvesting a few spears will help stimulate the crowns to produce more buds thus making the plants more productive in future years. The second year I’ll be able to harvest a few more spears over the course of a 4-6 week period. My real reward will come in 2014 and beyond when I will have asparagus on my table for about 6-8 weeks each spring.

I’ve been trying to add more perennial edibles to my gardens to lessen soil disruption and asparagus is one step in that plan. Read my post at Your Day on Ethel about my plans for even more perennial edibles in the garden.

Do you grow asparagus in your garden?

Quote of the Day: Tasha Tudor

June 19th, 2011

The gloom of the world is but a shadow.
Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. Take Joy!

Tasha Tudor

I was thinking about this quote when I noticed this peony hiding behind the fence last week. What joy gardening can bring to our lives. I would much rather spend time in the garden cultivating plants than watching the news.

If you’ve never read Tasha Tudor’s Garden you should request it from the library. It’s a great book to enjoy with a cup to tea or coffee on a rainy afternoon. You’ll love seeing images of her gardens and reading about her simple life.

The longer I garden the less I see tasks like weeding as chores. I find that through these “mindless” activities I find peace, joy and solace. There’s something about this type of work that allows your mind to wander the way it can’t when doing other kinds of work.

What kinds of things bring joy to your life?

Ginger Beef Stir Fry

June 18th, 2011

Actually it was Ginger Venison Stir Fry. Our beef recipes become venison recipes since Mr Chiots is a hunter and we are lucky enough to have 3 deer in the freezer. During the winter we enjoy rich hearty venison stews and warming bowls of venison chili. In the summer I’m much happier eating a venison burger or stir fry. The great thing about stir fry is that you can use whatever vegetables you have in the garden. In the spring we’ll use sugar snap peas and garlic scapes, later in the summer it’ll be zucchini, carrots and onions. It’s quick and easy to whip up a stir fry.

Currently we’re harvesting those golden peas, green onions, kale and garlic scapes, so that’s what I’ve been using as vegetables in my stir fry. I was also lucky enough to find some lovely oyster mushrooms at the farmer’s market and I’m always happy to add those to just about anything.

(adapted from Simply Recipes)

2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar or coconut water vinegar
5 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce (naturally fermented is best)
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp peeled, grated fresh ginger
1 tsp red pepper flakes (less if you’re of delicate palate)
1 tsp freshly ground cumin (feel free to omit or substitute other spice)
(if you want a thicker sauce add a Tablespoon of corn starch as well)

3 Tbsp coconut oil or lard
1 – 1 1/2 lb steak cut into strips
2-3 cups mixed chopped vegetables of your choice: green onions, onions, mushrooms, asparagus, garlic scapes, sugar snap peas, carrots, zucchini, etc.
chopped fresh cilantro if desired
cooked rice or noodles for serving

Mix ingredients for sauce in a bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet (cast iron works best) over high heat. Working in batches, sauté beef until just brown outside but rare inside, about 1 minute, transfer to plate.

When all of the beef is cooked, add more oil to pan if necessary and stir fry the vegetables for a minute or two – until vegetables reach your preferred level of doneness. I usually add longer cooking vegetables first, and throw in green onions for the last 30 seconds or so. Return beef to pan. Add sauce and mix everything together. Cook for 1 minute. Mix in cilantro if desired.

Serve over freshly cooked rice or noodles. Should serve four people unless you’re super hungry. (rice is especially good if made with some virgin coconut oil so it has a slight coconut taste)

Nothing beats a quick stir fry with freshly harvested vegetables for a summer evening meal. The great thing about this dish is that you can substitute in other spices if you’d like. Things like coconut milk, ground coriander seeds, orange zest, various chiles and other spices would pair well with different kinds of vegetables and make the dish taste differently each time.

Do you have a go-to quick recipe for using fresh summer vegetables?

Friday Favorite: Open Windows

June 17th, 2011

This past week the weather has been really nice here in NE Ohio. I’ve heard people complaining about how cool it has been, but I for one LOVE it. It’s the perfect weather for keeping the windows open all day long: in the high 70’s during the day and dipping down into the low 60’s or high 50’s during the evening.

I really enjoy having the windows open so I can hear the birds, feel the breeze and enjoy the fresh air in the house. Sadly, here in NE Ohio it can get pretty hot and humid during the summer months and our home is not built to cool off when it’s hot. We open the windows whenever we can and close everything up when it’s simply too hot to handle. We’re hoping to install a whole house fan this fall or next spring so that we can keep the windows open more often during the summer.

Are you and open window person?

They’ve Hatched

June 16th, 2011

Remember those pearly insect eggs I showed you on Sunday?

I checked on them on Tuesday evening and they had hatched. It looks like they are leaf footed insect nymphs just as I thought. The tiny little insects are just as beautiful as the eggs were, stunningly bright red.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of these little guys in my garden before. I probably have just never stopped long enough or been in the right place at the right time to see them.

I grew up in South America so I’ve seen my share of crazy insects. Yet nature never ceases to amaze me, especially when it comes to the insect world!

What’s the craziest insect or animal you’ve spotted in your garden?


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.