Last year when I told my mother that I was planting a strawberry patch, she sent me an article and said I should consider intermingling the strawberries with asparagus. Well, asparagus really wasn’t on my to-do list and I didn’t want to spend the time researching it. I was already down the road three steps in my mind – and I didn’t want to slow down or turn back. I’m happy with the strawberry patch, but in contemplating the facts that (a) strawberry plants don’t last forever, (b) you can’t ever have enough strawberries, and (c) you shouldn’t allow strawberry plants to produce in the first year of planting – I decided that a second patch would be a good idea. And this time around, I decided to slow down and incorporate asparagus.
Actually, I really like asparagus. However, I’ve never thought of growing it. I can’t remember my father growing it. But if you can grow it in your area – it’s actually a great crop to add to your garden. It takes several years to establish itself. After that, it’s around for 20+ years. That kind of intentionality seems perfect for Patch405!
In hindsight, I’m rather pleased with myself and my previous blog on the initial strawberry patch. Having that formal record of my efforts allowed me to readily determine how to proceed with this second patch.
In late March, this is how the initial strawberry patch looked:
And this is the area to the west of that patch – where I planned to install the new patch.
Same basic configuration, just a foot wider on the north and south side boards. I used my go-to method of creating a raised bed using 2”x10” untreated lumber, covered with a waterproofing wood stain. These boxes are actually a little deeper than the initial strawberry patch (where I used 2”x6” lumber). In theory, asparagus and strawberries work well together because asparagus feeds off the nutrients deep in the box, and strawberries feed on the area closer to the surface.
Once again, I brought in a rich mix soil purchased from my local dirt guy. I amended the lower level of the soil by adding bone meal as well as some ashes from our fireplace. As recommended by the Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service, I selected the Mary Washington variety of asparagus from my local nursery. Several sources said that 25 plants will be more than enough to feed a family of four, so I used 16 plants anticipating that it would be just Brad and me and the occasional guests.
The packages I purchased said “2 year” – so I am assuming that this is their second year of life. Still, it’s their first year in my ground – so I think that timing will impact my ability to harvest in the short-term. Per the instructions, I was to plant the “crowns” eight (8) inches deep in rows that are four (4) feet apart. Within each row, the crowns are 8-12 inches apart. The crowns came bunched together. I soaked the entire bunch in a compost tea while I was digging the holes. Each hole had to be wide enough to spread the roots out so that the asparagus can grow properly. The first summer, no harvest is expected. During the second summer, I can harvest for two to three weeks – although some sources say do not harvest at all. In the third summer, harvest expands to four to six weeks. And then after that, harvesting could take place for eight to twelve weeks.
I added a flat (18) of strawberry plants – half Allstar and half Sequoia. These are the same strawberry varieties I used in my initial patch. The amount of plants seems sparse compared to my initial patch. This in intentional. With the first attempt, I did not take into account that the strawberry patch would expand and grow by sending out runners. Since I’m being patient and intentional, I thought I would anticipate such a natural progression with this second patch and plan accordingly! Also intentional, I added a soaker hose to aid me in the process of daily watering! I mulched around the strawberry plants with straw, and then I enclosed the entire area using chicken wire.
According to the instructions, I was to add dirt to the asparagus holes throughout the summer as the plants took root and began to grow. What I did not anticipate is this fern-like stem that shot up out of nowhere in each of the sixteen holes, seemingly overnight. I did a little more reading and consulted with a vendor at my local farmers’ market. I’ve determined that digging the hole and filling it over time is not necessary. I could have filled it in initially. But it is still okay to do now. And the fern is a good sign. I want to see the fern shoot each season, as that is how the plant is feeding itself.
I went back in this weekend to fill the holes and cover the area with straw mulch. And I have been pinching blooms from the strawberry plants every day.
And while I don’t have a more recent picture, here is my initial strawberry patch looking gorgeous by mid-spring:
And my first strawberry in 2020 – delicious!