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).
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?