We usually don’t associate the colors of Christmas with spring but two of my favorite spring delights are the red stalks of rhubarb and the green spears of asparagus. D&B has starts of both plants that can be planted right now. These plants are very long lived and it’s worth the time to prepare a good planting site so they’ll give you years of healthy production. Plant them at the edge of the garden where the roots won’t be disturbed by rototilling or digging.
To plant asparagus, dig a trench about 6-8 inches deep and mix compost or well-rotted manure in the bottom. Check for good drainage. Build a soil mound in the bottom of the trench and set the asparagus crowns on top of the mound, spreading the roots evenly around. Plants should be 12 inches apart in rows that are 3 feet apart. Cover the crown with 3 inches of soil and water to settle. When the plants have grown through that soil, cover with more. By the end of the summer the trench should be filled in.
Unfortunately, asparagus shouldn’t be harvested for the first two years to encourage root and crown development. The third season, harvest spears for about 3 weeks. The following years you can harvest for 6-8 weeks or until the spears start to thin. If your spears are all very thin and have short, sparse tops you may be over-picking or need to fertilize. Fertilizing after you stop picking. Let fern growth develop to build up the crowns for a good crop the following season.
Rhubarb grows well in full sun and deep, well drained soil. This attractive plant can be used as a yummy ornamental in your garden. Prepare the soil by mixing in well-rotted manure or compost to a depth of about a foot. Crowns are planted either by dividing an existing plant or buying new crowns. If you divide an existing rhubarb plant, make sure the division has at least one bud. Place plants 3-4 feet apart with the crown just at the soil surface. This plant, too, should be allowed to establish for two full seasons before you harvest any stalks. The third year you can harvest for about a month. Older plants can be harvested for about 8 weeks. Harvest by pulling. Don’t cut with a knife because the stub will decay which can spread to the crown. Never remove all the stalks from your plant. Remove any blossom stalks that appear. Rhubarb leaves have high levels of oxalic acid that make them poisonous to eat so toss them in the compost pile. Fertilize after harvest.
Both of these plants benefit by covering the growing area with compost or aged manure before growth begins in the spring. With a little preparation before planting and a little bit of patience afterwards, these plants will give you many, many years of delicious spring meals.