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Asparagus: Anywhere But the Veggie Bed

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Do you really want asparagus, so big and so immobile, in your vegetable garden?

Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis), along with rhubarb, is one of the few truly perennial vegetables. Hardy to zone 2, it is incredibly long-lived. Probably the asparagus you plant this spring will be alive and productive 15 to 20 years from now.

Although asparagus is indeed a vegetable, it really has no place in the vegetable garden. For two reasons:

First of all, it hates having its roots disturbed, yet traditionally a vegetable bed is maintained by hoeing and cultivating. Each spring, as you cultivate the soil to get ready to sow your carrots and peas, you have to be very careful not to damage the still sleeping asparagus. How annoying! And how are you going to operate your rototiller when there is an asparagus in the middle of the vegetable bed? The answer is easy: you can’t!

In addition, asparagus is a very big plant that takes up a lot of space: it can easily reach 6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.5 m) high and 3 feet (90 cm) wide. This is the equivalent of a fairly large shrub (and besides, it will look like a shrub). That means it would take only 3 asparagus plants to fill the average home vegetable plot… leaving no room for your lettuce or tomatoes. Is that really what you want?

In With the Flowers

That’s why the ideal place for asparagus is… anywhere but the vegetable garden.

Find the giant a place of its own… and with its amazingly fine and decorative fernlike foliage, making it a very ornamental plant, why not use it in a flowerbed with the other perennials? It both grows well with other companions that dislike disturbance like phlox and daylilies and needs the same care. Just plant, mulch, and watch it grow!

Admittedly, this is not a new idea. In Victorian gardens, asparagus plants were widely used in flowerbeds. I think it’s time to bring that tradition back!

And if you’re into edible landscaping, you’ve hit the jackpot. In this technique, edible plants are placed, not in static rows in a vegetable bed out back, but integrated into the ornamental garden. They become part of the landscape. And asparagus is one of the stars of edible landscaping. (Learn more about edible landscaping here, from its creator, Rosalind Creasy).

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Asparagus hedge at Chanticleer Garden.

Or, why not plant an asparagus hedge? This is done in the world-famous Chanticleer Garden  (Wayne, PA). If an asparagus hedge finds a place in a show garden that receives hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, why not in your own garden?

 

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

1 comment on “Asparagus: Anywhere But the Veggie Bed

  1. It’s spargel season!!! All over Germany and Switzerland.

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