I’ve wanted to grow asparagus for years but the planting instructions always sent me running – Dig a deep trench, make a mound in the center, put in your plants, fill it a little, come back later and fill it more, and wait, and wait… Plus, face it, not many of us have the space to make a real asparagus bed or plan to stay somewhere long enough to get the benefit of it ( Asparagus is a long lived perennial, living 15 to 25 years or more.) Still, I remember picking wild asparagus along the railroad tracks every spring as a child, and the memory of when it was a special treat only enjoyed for a few weeks in the spring makes we want to experience it as a seasonal wonder again, not the year round staple it is now. So, how to get my own little nostalgic harvest without all the back breaking preparation?
Why not grow it in containers? Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is a member of the lily family and originally hails from the Mediterranean and Asia Minor. It was cultivated by the Egyptians, Romans and the Greeks. It needs deep, well-drained soil and undisturbed roots. It loves the sun and will thin out and eventually die in shady areas. The foliage is a soft ferny green and quite ornamental. It turns a rich golden yellow in the fall. A container would be very attractive in a perennial garden mixed with bold foliaged black eyed susans in summer and asters like Bluebird or Lady in Black in the fall. It needs to be a large pot, at least 20 inches deep and wide. I saw pictures of it growing in various motley tubs and such, but why not give it a handsome pot deserving of its history and long life. A good looking pot also adds interest to a bare perennial bed in winter. Use an excellent potting soil. Fill the pot up to 6 to 8 inches of the top and lay your asparagus crown right side up on the potting mix. Cover with about 2 inches of soil. When tips emerge, cover with 2 more inches of soil, and so on until you fill the pot. Then just let the ferny fronds grow. Cut them back in the fall after they die completely back. Don’t harvest your asparagus the next year and only for a couple of weeks the year after that. This will ensure a strong healthy and long lived plant.
So realistically you won’t get more than a taste each year from a potted asparagus plant, but it’s pretty and it’s fun and you may be inspired to plant a few more as a border along the garage. Maybe this spring I’ll stroll along the train tracks and see if some of those wild plants are still there. Who knows?