Maybe more asparagus...

11 July, 2014

Asparagus is one of the best things to grow in the garden I reckon. It grows in profusion once established and really isn't that picky, apart from not liking being in a damp location (not so much an issue in our arid climate). 

It will like you it if you spare the time to give it a bit of manure and compost every year or two, but will still crop well if you don't. (This year was the first year my asparagus patch got a compost topping in 5 years! I've still had lots of asparagus from it.)

I originally grew asparagus plants from crowns (variety Mary Washington) I bought in the big green shed hardware store. All five crowns survived, and some even were strong enough for me to risk picking a spear or two in their first year.

Year 2 (2011) harvest. Please ignore the weeds here.

The following year I extended the supply by growing them from seed (from Diggers, varieties Fat Bastard - LOVE the name - and Purple). These germinated well and were planted out after they went dormant - i.e. homegrown first year crowns. Sadly all of the purple ones died, but the Fat Bastards have grown well.

Now I have a large patch with about 10 plants. I harvest them from first spear to around December, then let the spears grow into the amazing fern like plants they are.

Stalks transmogrifying into ferns.

Asparagus plants let grow.

These then die back in winter, ready to re-sprout delicious asparagus spears come spring.

But I'm interested in extending the asparagus bed further. Rather than buying more seed, I'm wondering if I can grow my own.

The asparagus patch has fully gone dormant now we are in winter.


When looking closer I can see the remnants of the bright red berries that only some of my plants develop. These have mellowed to golden orbs and have an almost translucent quality to them.


 Inside these golden orbs are what looks like fully mature asparagus seeds.


Five seeds in one berry. Not bad.

I scratched a little dirt aside and planted these in the patch then and there.

Then I went inside to do some research. The fabulous book 'Seed to Seed' by Suzanne Ashworth sheds a little light on seed from asparagus. Turns out asparagus plants are hermaphroditic, bearing both male and female parts on the flowers, but as the flowers develop one part aborts leaving either male or female flowers only. Makes sense now that only some of my plants develop seed pods.

However the book is a little less detailed on the seed usefullness part. It outlines how to store the seed (wash off the red gunky stuff and dry well, then store. But there appears to be no reason why my asparagus produced seed won't be viable.

So this weekends to-do list now contains the added task of gathering the left berries and washing and drying asparagus seeds, for spring planting.

Then I shall cut back the dead asparagus stalks and mulch the plants well and count down the days to spring and the first asparagus stalk harvest.

6 comments:

  1. I wish asparagus was so easy here. It really doesn't want to grow for me. I'll leave it in a couple more years - maybe - to see if it will every grow, but so far it is pretty sad.

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    1. Darn. Could it also be a variety thing?
      I'd be hanging in there like you. Even if it doesn't grow spectacularly its still a great thing to have a few fresh asparagus spears.

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  2. When I can't be bothered to separate, sow and pot up individual seedlings, I just poke one ripe berry into the top of one of many small pots. It seems to work more often than not. If more than one seed germinates, I just leave them to grow on, or I can separate them at that stage if I want.

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    1. Love it! I'm totally doing this. Lucky thing I didn't actually get around to harvesting the berries this weekend.
      Thanks for the tip!

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  3. *bowing down before an expert asparagus growing*
    wow! the height of those ferny fronds is amazing.
    my dad has had Fat Bastards too (cue childish sniggering). i love asparagus but haven't got the knack of it yet.

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    1. Not even close, but thanks for saying so. :)
      They are amazing plants. I always use it as a "guess what plant this is" game when I have people over to check out the garden. Endless amusement.

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