Asparagus: the Incredible Edible Ornamental
Not only is asparagus a nutritious, early spring vegetable, but it is also an herbaceous perennial: dying back to the ground each fall, and sprouting back from the crown each spring. Plantings can last 15 years or more, making it a great return on a small investment. Asparagus can be planted at the edge of a vegetable garden, but consider mixing it in amongst your ornamental landscape plantings.
Asparagus can fit nicely in the back of a perennial border. The stems or ‘spears’ emerge early in spring, adding a bold vertical element to your design. For more early spring color, consider the purple-speared cultivar ‘Purple Passion’. As the harvest season ends, the spears will open into lovely, light, airy fern-like foliage that can reach heights of 3-5 feet. In the fall, asparagus turns a nice golden yellow, fading to brown for added visual interest in winter.
Asparagus is relatively easy to grow, but there are a few things to know before you get started. First, it likes a pH of 6.0-7.0, which is higher than most native soils in North Carolina. Your soil test will tell you how much lime you need to have the right pH. It requires well-drained soil, thriving in sandy loams. You can improve your soil structure and drainage by incorporating organic matter. Select 1-2-year-old crowns of all-male varieties such as the ‘Jersey’ hybrids. Female plants produce seeds that can germinate and become a nuisance in the garden. For more information, see this NC State Extension Publication Home Garden Asparagus Production.