Tuesday, April 28, 2015

How To: Plant Asparagus Root Crowns in Containers

So! We've been successfully growing asparagus in containers over the past couple of weeks, something we've wanted to do for years, and can't wait to share all the details here on the blog.

You may remember earlier this month we were over the moon to discover a small patch of wild asparagus just starting to emerge from the ground during a weekend trip to the country:

Since that trip and the small bunch of spears we brought home to cook with, we couldn't shake the idea of trying to grow fresh asparagus ourselves. We're always on the lookout for new edible perennials to add into our garden mix and asparagus has been our list for years. We actually thought we'd planted asparagus last spring, but now realize what we thought were asparagus, were probably asparagus ferns (seen in the red pot below) — the ornamental variety. #Fail #Keepingitreal

Since we're in the ideal asparagus planting window of early spring, we decided to try again. After a quick search, we found Plant World, an Etsy shop in North Carolina specializing in established asparagus crowns and other edible perennials. We've purchased plants online before (like our fiddle leaf fig, rubber plant and climbing rose), so figured we'd take the chance and give them a go, opting for the smallest bunch of 5 Jersey Knight root crowns.

They are established 2-year crowns and we've read that the Jersey Knight variety is one of the most adaptable to any soil and region. Not even a few days after placing the order, a huge batch of root crowns arrived at our doorstep — here's what 2 look like:

They were dirty and a little stiff, but we could visibly see where little white nubs were already poking up from the top of the root system — these little nubs are the starts to asparagus.

To plant, we portioned out the crowns 1-2 per container and created mounds of a compost/soil mixture to rest the top of the crowns on, fanning out the roots down and around the sides.

After topping the crowns with more compost mixed soil, we gave them a good watering and set them in the sun to get acquainted in their new home. After about 3 days in the soil, we noticed some of the formerly white nubs beginning to emerge from the soil, turning purple and taking the shape of an asparagus spear.

After a full week, it was undeniable that we had asparagus:

At this stage, the spear was too small to snap off (they are perfect at 6-8 inches in height and about the thickness of a pencil) and we had a trip up to NYC on the schedule, so we wished the plants well and were eager to see their progress when we got back.

Upon returning home only 8 days later, that little asparagus start had already grown from spear stage into the fern formation and we now have 2 more spears emerging, for a total of 3:

We've heard asparagus can grow up to 6 inches in a single day when the conditions are right, but were definitely surprised to see it in person. It definitely makes sense why harvesting is recommended every day to few days when the seasonal window is open.

We're both really happy to have successful plants in containers and aren't as worried about harvesting them this year. We've also heard that 2-3 year crowns are best for a beginning harvest, so we are happy to give these guys a year in their new environment to get happy before reaping the edible benefits next spring.

We'll most likely just let the spears that emerge continue to grow and reach that full fern formation, which we've heard is critical to the success of the next season's growth. The tips should turn feathery and continue to grow throughout the summer, providing essential nutrients to the roots for next year.

So that's how we're faring with growing asparagus in containers — gotta say we're pretty proud. We'll look forward to watching for new spears and be sure to keep you updated with the progress.

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1 comment:

  1. So stinking cool! Do you think they would grow up here? I know that they grow in Idaho because I was planning on purchasing some started ones from a lady at the farmers market. I'm back to the gardening drawing board, trying to figure out what will and will not grow up here :)