The Great Asparagus Experiment has now become two experiments. Of the thirty seeds I started between two wet paper towels on Feb. 10, twelve have become healthy plants, growing multiple stems and reaching up to 8″ high. (They are getting a little floppy, though, which means they’re ready for some outdoor weather: sun and wind to make them stand up straight!) Since I’d like an asparagus bed that’s about twelve feet long, and I want one plant every 6″, so that when I thin out the females at the end of the season, there will still be on average one plant per foot of row, I definitely need some more plants!
Well, I’ve decided to try another Steve Solomon idea and sow some asparagus seed directly in the garden. He says to do this when the apple trees are blossoming, and this week they’ve been in fine form here in central Virginia! So I set to work on the asparagus bed. Asparagus needs very fertile soil, so in addition to digging in a 1/4 to 1/2″ of compost and 2-1/2 qts. of organic fertilizer over the entire 4′ x 12′ area, I added another 1″ layer of compost in a foot-wide strip down the center, along with another couple quarts of fertilizer. I dug that all in, and then I was ready for the seeds.
Back in February, I bought an ounce of Mary Washington asparagus seeds from neseed for $4.95, and even though I started some indoors and gave more away to friends, I had plenty left for an outdoor sowing. I could probably start another asparagus bed of equal size next year as well.
I sowed the seed about 1/2″ deep and 2″ apart. The germination rate stated on the package is 85%, but that’s in ideal conditions. I know that less than half of my indoor-sown seeds made it to seedling-hood, and the conditions outdoors are going to be even more variable, so I’m betting that one in every three will make an appearance. If there are any gaps, I can always fill in next year!
While I’m watering the seeds every day or so to make sure they stay moist in the two weeks it’ll take them to emerge, I’m also starting to harden off my seedlings. Yesterday they were outside for an hour, in a spot protected from the strong wind we’ve been having. Today they might get two and a half hours…