St. George is not the only one to be celebrated on his Saint’s day of April 23rd; it’s the start of the asparagus season, to the delight of many. Up until the summer solstice on June 21st you can cut the delicious spears until you can bear them no longer. After mid-summer though, they must be left to grow into ferns until they die back in October or when the first frosts arrive. They are left this long uncut to allow them to draw as much strength as possible from the sun to prepare them for the next year’s harvest.
Asparagus crowns are hungry and need heavy mulching with a rich compost after harvesting and before they appear again the following April. What they really hate is to have their roots in water, good drainage is essential and they also can’t bear competition from weeds. If you give the weeds half a chance, the asparagus will grow into spindly sticks of nothingness which are not worth the butter that we pour over them, best save it for a piece of bread.
Traditionally salt was used as a weed suppressant as asparagus is resistant to it, whilst it dehydrates and kills annual, shallow-rooted weeds, but there is a risk of a saline build up in the soil that in time will get the better of your crop. Time consuming as it is, the best method is to hand weed; I’ve noticed a drastic deterioration in the quality of gardener’s language if they use a hoe, as nine times out of ten you slice through the spear itself; the new growing tip is often purple, easily lost from sight against the dark soil.
Asparagus is a long-term investment; its best to leave the crowns for 3 years until the first harvest, but if you’ve the space in your garden and the patience to wait and hand weed, you’ll be well rewarded.