We pre-ordered a set each of ‘Ariane’ and ‘Mondeo’ asparagus crowns from Thompson & Morgan in January and thought it would give us plenty of time to build an asparagus bed. It did of course, but then it rained and snowed and rained a bit more, and as I recall we had even more snow and it’s practically been raining ever since. So, by the time I received a dispatch notification from Thompson & Morgan on the 27th March we had only got as far as digging and weeding the proposed bed site.
Expected delivery was 4 days so we still had time to crack on, but the asparagus arrived only 7 hours later. How dare Yodel be so efficient! I’m a bugger for following instructions, so when something says ‘plant as soon as possible’ I know it actually means PLANT IT RIGHT NOW, DAMN IT. Guess what the asparagus instructions said? And we weren’t even ready. Cue a flurry of activity.
I’ve done a lot of asparagus planting research. I’ve Googled the life out of it and watched YouTube videos and consulted all my gardening books. I overloaded myself to such an extent that when it came to actually physically doing the work my mind blanked and I had to research it all over again. I made some handy diagrams the second time around:
Now all we had to do was remove the claggy, heavy, waterlogged (because it still hadn’t stopped raining) soil from the asparagus site and replace it with nice, lovely, asparagus friendly compost, sand, and other organic matter. In our waste-not, want-not manner we used the claggy soil to plant the potatoes (sorry spuds, no special soil for you) so we filled old malt sacks scrounged from our local brewery with a mixture of clagginess and spent hops (also from the brewery) and planted our ‘Maris Peer’ potatoes. I’m not going to lie, they were too long chitted and had become wrinkly as though they had aged well beyond their years. I think they were grateful to be planted.
We should have planted two per sack, but that didn’t occur to us in our rush to plant until afterwards (and then Monty went and rubbed it in by planting 2 per sack on Gardeners’ World). So now we have a bazillion (ok, 15) sacks of ‘Maris Peer’ lining the west side of our plot.
But it did leave us with the required crater within which we could start to construct our asparagus bed.
We neatened up the edges of the bed and lined it with a few layers of weed suppressant fabric before adding gravel for drainage.
We then layered compost with sharp sand, and more spent hops. It made a nice lasagne of layers that would later get mixed together as we dug the trenches for the crowns. We did have a discussion about whether we should have bought horticultural sand due to the possible high salt content in builders sand, but a) we couldn’t afford to buy posh sand, b) the van broke down so even if we could we couldn’t transport it, and c) I ate the builders sand and it wasn’t salty at all. Or pleasant, for that matter. I really don’t recommend eating sand.
Once our layers were back at ground level Rob built the wooden frame for the bed. The question, ‘Where are you going to get the wood from?’ was swiftly superseded with ‘WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY FRUIT BED???’
Needs must, apparently. Soon we had something resembling a raised bed.
It still needs to go a little higher, but we ran short of compost and in a bid to save what we had we decided to use it only to cover the crowns (see my ‘Not a Spider’ diagram above). We’ll add extra compost as and when we need to.
After digging the trenches I positioned the asparagus on little mounds whilst Rob followed behind repositioning them because my maths is terrible and therefore my spacing was wrong.
And we backfilled the trenches and added the last of the compost. We had one crown of each variety left over so I planted them in the overspill bed so we can compare growth in our purpose-built-but-cost-a-fortune-to-fill bed with our grubby-old-run-of-the-mill-clay bed. We did add extra sand to the clay bed to give the crowns a fighting chance.
Now we just have to hope that they grow and survive the rabbits.