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Hollandaise or butter? Plant asparagus crowns now and enjoy the tender stalks for decades

Asparagus stalks grow out of brown soil in spring.
Diana Taliun/Getty Images/iStockphoto
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iStockphoto
Asparagus can take some time to get established in your garden but once it does, plan for many springtime meals of the delicious stalks for decades.

If you love asparagus, planting some in your gardens or raised beds might be a great addition.

And as with most new veggies you plant, a bit of planning and patience is necessary.

With asparagus, an even greater dose of patience is needed, as it will take a few season for the plants to get established in your gardens.

For many years the desired asparagus variety were the Jersey hybrids, like Jersey Supreme.

These hybrids came out of Rutgers University, and they were good to grow in all kinds of soil, from sandy to clay.

Also, the Jersey varieties were all male varieties, meaning without female plants, there isn't a lot of seed production.

The male asparagus varieties are a much more productive plant that gave you more spears.

Heirloom asparagus plants are still around and they can be a fun thing to try. One, called Purple Passion actually grows purple-colored spears.

A hearty and productive male asparagus hybrid from Canada known as Millenium is the variety currently recommended.

Once you've chosen a variety to try and purchased the asparagus crowns, head to your garden or raised bed now in early spring and start planting!

First, dig a trench. If you have heavy clay soil, you can dig a bit shallower but the trench should be about a foot deep and as long as you'd like.

You're going to be spacing your asparagus crowns about a foot apart. Consider that, for a family of four, you probably need to plant about 10 crowns.

The asparagus crowns that you're planting will have roots that almost look spider-like. And once you've dug your trench, make small mounds of soil about three or four inches tall at the bottom of that trench.

Drape your asparagus crowns' roots right over those little mounds then backfill with the native soil.

Once you backfill with soil, just let them grow. As they start growing, you continue to backfill until you get up to the actual soil line.

Then exercise extreme patience and water and weed the plants that whole first year.

The second year in the spring, put some compost down, and perhaps some fertilizer to give them a little bit of a boost. And again, patience, watering and weeding all summer long.

This will be the mantra for asparagus-growing those first two years.

By the third spring, you can start harvesting any of the spears that are thicker than a pencil diameter.

Water, weed and occasionally fertilize and your asparagus can last for decades!

Keep in mind that there is a pest that could throw a wrench into the works - the asparagus beetle.

This beetle will not only attack the little spears, but lays eggs which grow into larvae and become caterpillars that eat the ferns on the plant, too.

When the spears come up in the spring, reduce the beetle population by dropping any asparagus beetles into a pail of soapy water.

In the summer, if you see any small gray caterpillars eating the ferns, spray those with neem oil or insecticidal soap.

Q: I will be getting to llamas in a couple of months. I heard that their poop is good fertilizer for gardens. Is this true? Or is it any better than other types of fertilizers? - Valerie, in New Haven

A: Llama poop is indeed an excellent fertilizer!

It's fertility is similar to chicken manure but is not as hot and it is odorless.

Llamas are efficient digesters so any plants they consume that have weed seeds in them will get digested and won't end up adding weeds to your garden.

When llamas defecate, they create pellets similar to deer. These pellets are known as, "beans."

In order to use the llama poop as a compost to use on your gardens, first take some of the llama beans and put them in a burlap sack.

Soak that in a five-gallon pail of water then use that manure "tea" to fertilize your young plants.

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Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

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Mary Engisch is the host and reporter for Weekend Edition Saturday and Weekend Edition Sunday on VPR.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on VPR. Be part of the fun and send your gardening questions here, for Charlie to answer on the air. Plus, find lots of great gardening tips and information for all seasons here. For more gardening information, check out Charlie's website, Gardening with Charlie Nardozzi. Charlie is a guest on VPR's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.