Asparagus beds: getting ready to get ready

It still doesn’t look wintry on plot #103 – chipping paths definitely help by stopping the mud that plagued us on plot #201, but even so, this looks ridiculously summery to me.

Allotments are 90% preparation, 10% perspiration, in my experience! So we’re busy trying to work out exactly how to build our asparagus bed.

Those of you who have read the book will know that this is not a new experience for us. It’s the fifth asparagus bed we’ve built in our lives, the third, in fact, in five years … are we crazy? (Don’t answer that).

So, we’ve got some substantial wood, rather like railway sleepers, to make the bed itself, but before we can get on with it, we have to double dig, or as Woody Wilbury has it ‘bastard trench’. I haven’t heard that phrase for years, but his post on the subject is well worth reading, and anyway, I want everybody else to get the earworm it’s given me.

We need to bastard trench with manure so that the soil is both enriched and well drained, then we can put up the bed walls and continue to till the soil so that we can be sure we have no weeds or weed seeds that will compete with the asparagus. As the bed could be in place for twenty years, it’s worth doing the work now to reap the rewards later.

We can only get an east/west facing asparagus bed, not a north/south one which is a bit annoying, and we’ll have to stagger the crowns to ensure they don’t shade each other. We’ve thought a lot about this as the location has to work for the plants and within our overall crop rotation system, but we’ve finally decided that the location will be directly in front of the greenhouse, where the borlotti beans were this year, which is good as it offers a substantial nitrogen load to the soil in that location. But as it’s just been chucking it down in stair-rods and umbrella spokes for the entire day, our bastard trenching may have to wait for a week or so.

In the meantime we got a good haul from the allotment: a smallish red cabbage (ideal for winter coleslaw), a mooli, a huge leek and some oriental greens for a stir-fry. Not bad for the last week of November!

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Blogger Joanna said...

I put in an asparagus bed this year. Ours also runs East West, oh well! One thing I did this year was to grow some short beans in between, so hopefully they have been nourishing the young plants this year. We grew ours from seeds and so I am not anticipating anything next year, but will be interesting to see how they do. Never, ever grown asparagus before and never been one to eat them that much anyway, but anything that fits in with a permaculture theme gets my vote at the moment. Less work in the long run.

November 30, 2011 at 6:41 AM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Growing bush beans between asparagus crowns is a great idea, especially in the years before the crowns are in full productivity - keeps the weeds down too.

I grew my first asparagus from seed and they were relatively productive, but we got lots of male plants that had to be removed and replaced with female ones. I agree about permaculture, it's the only way to go!

December 2, 2011 at 6:44 AM  
Blogger Joanna said...

I was aiming to keep the weeds down as well, so hopefully it worked rather than kept the asparagus in check. They seem alright though.

I think the seeds we bought favoured female production, not sure how or which sort we have - I think I am going to have to do a bit more checking. The reason we went for seeds though is because it is easier to post a packet of seeds than to post crowns.

December 2, 2011 at 6:59 AM  
OpenID 5olly said...

why do you want a North/South bed? I'm only asking as i'm about to build my first bed. I'm hoping to have 2 rows in it as well..

December 7, 2011 at 8:01 AM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

5olly - because the plants shade each other if the bed runs east/west and that means the ones that get more sun outperform the others. When you are planting a bed that will last several decades, it's really good to get as much right in the preparation as you can.

January 26, 2012 at 1:06 AM  

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