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Monday, 19 May 2014

Growing asparagus from seed

I haven't mentioned my asparagus yet, but that's because the growing process takes years and I thought I'd see if they actually came to anything before writing about it. I grew asparagus from seed so it takes a year longer than if you buy one year old crowns, so it's a three year process. In fact I sowed the seed in September 2010 as I was given some berries, which then ended my years of procrastinating about whether to bother, what with all the palaver of making a dedicated asparagus bed, or not. 

It was worth waiting 3.5 years for them! We won't always have them in melted salted butter though;
I imagine in the future there will be lots of them so a healthier option needs to be found!

Female asparagus ferns have red berries like in the picture below, and this is what I was given. Each berry contains many seeds but I just put the whole seed in a small pot, and put the pots in my cold frame during winter. In the spring tiny fern fronds emerged. Loads of them of course, so I had to do a lot of pricking out to get individual plants into their own pots.

Asparagus berries. (The orange colour in the background were some marigolds
that self seeded and I didn't have the heart to weed out).

Here are some baby ferns which have just come up this year in my asparagus bed, and as I lost one of my original plants I'll be potting up one to nuture this summer before planting out in the autumn. So this is what they looked like that first year. But from now on these will be weeded out!

Asparagus seedlings.

Some plants grew bigger than others but by the first autumn it was time to plant them out in their final position. This of course entailed creating an asparagus bed and preparing the soil well. I added quite a lot of bought compost rather than using our own home grown because I thought there would be fewer weeds this way, but that was a stupid waste of money because there are weed seeds in the soil anyway, and weeds will appear whether you like it or not!

One thing I could not find on the internet which is why I am writing this now in the hope that it helps someone else who has the same dilemma, is how do you plant out asparagus that has been grown in a pot? If you buy crowns, they are bare rooted and you are supposed to dig a trench, make a ridge within the trench, and spread the roots over that ridge, then backfill in over the crowns. But my plants were just plants in pots so what was I supposed to do? In the end I planted them like any other plant in a pot - made a hole and bunged them in. It works.

I planted out 14 plants not really knowing how many would be the right amount for 2 people, but I'll let you know in later years if that was too many!

23rd Sept 2011. Newly prepared and planted asparagus bed. Surprisingly my OH even
managed to find some decent straight wood which is very hard in France.

26th May 2012, thin spears.

Each year we have added more compost to the soil to enrich it, and I have no idea what other people do, but these ferns get very tall and flop everywhere and often break off in the wind.

July 2012. They really are ferns, only they flop all over the place. I tried to keep them
upright a bit with the wire plant supports but it didn't help much!

This year was THE year, the year that I could crop. I was very hesitant as I didn't want to cut too many, so waited until I could see another spear appearing before I cut one. A few plants still had thin spears so I didn't touch them, but some were a lot thicker than my thumb so altogether I've cut about 30 spears. Also I didn't know if I needed one of those special asparagus knives but I just used an ordinary gardening knife and that was fine.

This year (25th March), the first spears to start
to emerge through the horse poo.

Yes they are pushing up through a nice ridge of well rotted horse poo, courtesy of my horsey neighbours. I think the asparagus will be happy. :-)

As you can see, they green up as they grow bigger.

6th April, coming through fast and furious.

So, I think I can say it has been successful! I have no idea what variety these are but they are certainly chunky ones and very tasty.

Yum! Every bit as delicious as I had imagined.

7th May - they are bushier now but also a lot weedier so I'm not showing you that!

It's a crop which should fill some of the hungry gap between the PSB and early summer veg but I wonder if we'll be sick of asparagus eventually? Well if we are, I doubt the neighbours will say no!


  1. I am very jealous! I planted my seeds only a few months later than you - I sowed them in spring, direct in the ground. I did cut three spears this year, but they were far too small really. I just had to have a taste, and they were sublime. Other animals in my garden aren't as cautious as I am about leaving the spears, so I think mine have been knocked back a lot harder than they should have been. Still they are getting a little bigger and a little stronger each year. On average, they're currently about where yours were two years ago, so maybe in another three years, I'll have a crop like yours!

    1. Hi Rachel - well I don't know what I did right but I haven't had any creatures eating them or knocking them over, only the wind. It can't be the weather can it, because they grow OK in the UK! I do have free draining soil which is what they like apparently. Anyhow good luck and I hope you will get a good crop soon!

  2. Well I hope they taste good, I never new they were so hard to grow.....
    Amanda xx

    1. They did taste wonderful Amanda! They are not really hard to grow, just slow. So you have to be patient...... :-)

  3. How Exciting!!! Nothing tastier than your own home grown asparagus :-)

    1. Hi Marianne - home grown anything is tasty but this was soooo worth the wait!
      I don't know if you get emails with my replies but I checked your Instagram pics this morning and they are wonderful, I especially love the baby snake. I tried adding the Chrome extension for Instagram which is supposed to allow you to comment but not upload photos, but can't get it to work!

    2. No...I wasn't notified but I try to check your blog often for replies. There must be a setting I'm supposed to check to get notified but I haven't been able to figure it out.

      Anyway...I tried to find the tiny snake to see if it survived and since I couldn't find him, I have hopes he did :-) Our giant cactus (Saguaro) are blooming like crazy right now so the next time you visit, you'll see more of their blooms. Each individual bloom only lasts a day so I'm checking every day.

      I thought of you today as I was eating asparagus :-) I feel sure it didn't taste nearly as yummy as yours!

    3. Marianne - Under where you type your comment, on the left is the blue button that says Publish, and on the right is a square box with Notify me written next to it! You click on that and then you will get my replies sent to you. The only downside is that you will get everyone else's comments and my replies to them too. But it's not like I get dozens of comments. :-)

      I'm not sure though if you are on your phone, in which case it may appear differently. I've never viewed my blog like that!

      I will scoot over and look at your cactus blooms soon but I have really got to ignore everyone and get my hundreds of photos sorted. Trouble is, I keep taking more..... lol. :-)

      Anyway I shan't be eating any more asparagus until next year!

  4. Hi MMM, I've just found your blog through Amanda at Quiet Walker. Very envious of your beautiful asparagus, we eat stacks of it here (steamed for a minute or so) so it must be wonderful to eat your own! I'm looking forward to reading more of your posts- loved the black and red shield bugs in the earlier one, been dying to see those here. CT :-)

    1. Hello Countryside Tales and thanks for visiting! I may have looked at your blog already as I had a nosey through Amanda's blog list a while back but I'll have to visit you again. Got busy with the garden and all the bugs in it which keep me from doing the gardening!!

      I hadn't eaten asparagus for ages as it's so expensive here so it was really great after such a long time. I don't know if you meant the Ornate Shield Bugs or the Striped one but I've got to find a home for the Ornate ones as my winter brassicas have got to come out, like now! I've got veggies waiting to go in that plot. :-) Thanks very much for following my blog.