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When I returned home from college, many years ago, I moved onto my grandfather’s farm and into his old house. This was also the home my father grew up in, so I still feel pretty lucky to have had that privilege. As I explored a rather wild yard, (the place was vacant for a year), I came upon a plant protruding from the grass that instantly spawned memories from childhood. You see, right under the big power pole in the yard, my grandfather had one of the most amazing gardens this side of the Mississippi. He passed at 99 years of age, and he spent a good 40 of those golden years tending to this masterpiece. The spot I found the asparagus spears was where he had planted those babies almost 50 years previous. The entire area was solid sod grass now, but asparagus, (especially established) is a resilient plant. I snapped those few spears off and got them in a frying pan that evening. We’ve been farming this land now for 20 more years and that patch is still producing. I don’t know the variety and I really don’t care. They are delicious and they are a part of my history. I can’t wait for you to bring forth a life that will span generations as well.

So what’s the trick?

Asparagus crowns will come and seem pretty gangly and voluminous. The trick to a successful establishment is truly in the ground preparation.

You never know where they’ll protrude, but when they do….

It all starts with a big ol trench. If you’re a commercial grower, this is of course not true, but when we do this by hand – the trench is king. I go about a foot deep and about 8 inches wide (shovel width). The trick is to find some manure. Asparagus is a plant that you really can’t burn the roots. It’s also a plant that will enjoy the smorgasbord over the next year as it gets established. The more you can put down there the better. Horse, cow, sheep, or turkey. This all encompassing fertilizer brings all the little bits necessary for solid development. Once you have a layer of poo laid (3″ is ample), a little barrier of dirt in the middle to build a little mountain to nestle the crowns over is next. I’ll shovel a little mound down the center, pack it a little with my boot, and then place those babies every 18-20″. Throw the rest of the dirt over the trench, making sure the crown roots are spread evenly over the mounds, and pack in firmly. The tips of the crowns should be buried, don’t worry about leaving anything out of the ground right now. You have a two year maintenance duty now. An application of a grass herbicide will do wonders, but if you are looking for a chemical free option just be careful when hoeing the weeds. I’m a huge fan of the Hula-Ho as it does a great job, doesn’t uproot the good stuff, and is very quick and low impact. Keep them watered and remember to fertilize once a year to keep everyone happy. Enjoy these fruits of your labor for years to come!

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