Dirty Business: Asparagus and Garlic

It's not just a tasty appetizer

This was a good weekend to clear out the asparagus bed.  Asparagus is a perennial vegetable, so if you want to grow it (and I do recommend it), then you’ll need to pick a dedicated spot for it.  Asparagus is best started by purchasing “crowns” or roots from a provider, rather than starting it from seed.  However, one thing to keep in mind is that the deeper the crowns get planted, the thicker they are coming out of the ground.  I planted some of our crowns too deep and the spears tend to get fibrous very quickly.  Anyway, asparagus harvesting season is generally from early May through late June.  After that point, you have to just let everything grow so that the plants can catch a break.  They grow into tall ferns—about four feet in height, as in the header image—which then replenish the root systems.  If they are over-harvested, the root systems will get stressed and won’t produce well the following year.  All that’s to say that by the end of March, it’s time to cut away all of the dead ferns that grew after the harvesting window closed last year. 

So, here’s our asparagus patch before the clean-up:

As you can see, it is a tangled mess of dead ferns, as well as some leftover Fall leaves.  I have to go in there with pruning shears and cut the ferns off right at the dirt line.  Then, it’s important to take a garden rake and stir up the first inch or two of dirt.  This aerates the soil for the crowns, and also exposes a bunch of the shallow weed roots and seeds; and insect eggs and larvae so they can get killed off by the next several frosts that are sure to come between now and May.  However, care must be taken not to grab the crowns with the rake, so it’s best to do this gently at first to make sure that I’m not ripping out the shallower crowns.  Once I’m certain that the rake hasn’t gone too deep, then I can be a little more vigorous.

This is what it looks like after about 15 minutes of work:

Nice and clean, and the soil is loose and even.  I get really impatient at this time of year for the first spears to pop out of the ground.  By the end of June, I am sick to death of having asparagus every night with dinner.

Finally, I wanted to show you that the garlic is up:

Garlic has to be planted at the end of the growing season so it can spend winter in the ground.  As soon as the weather just starts getting warmer, the garlic appears.  Here’s a different shot for perspective:

Mrs. Butcher took both of the garlic pictures, which is why they look so much better than the other pictures in this post.  But for the 2nd one, she actually took a much wider shot which included a very annoyed looking me.  I was annoyed for two reasons:  first, because I told her that you can’t see the garlic shoots from that far back, and second because nobody wants to see my ugly mug.   She insisted that I use the picture…but she didn’t say anything about cropping.  So, this is a very zoomed-in version of the original.  Don’t tell her I did this.

Last year was the first year that we tried growing garlic.  We used regular, store-bought, organic garlic heads and broke them up into their individual cloves for planting.  We got something like 50 heads out of it last year.  But the cloves were really small, which is the downside to using garlic that is grown for direct consumption rather than for seeding new heads.  This is actually a thing.  For example, if you want to grow potatoes (which we have done in previous gardens but don’t have space in this one) you have to purchase what are called “seed potatoes”, which do a much better job of turning into plants, which themselves generate lots of large potatoes; than if you just use regular potatoes from the produce section of the store.  So, this year, we got some seed garlic heads from Johnny’s Selected Seeds and I’m hoping that the cloves will be much bigger.

The garlic will get harvested in early or mid-July, after which we would normally plant something else, but starting last year we began an experiment with the soil that I’ll show you later.

So, if you want to grow asparagus, you should be able to get crowns now, if the suppliers haven’t sold out already.  If you want to grow garlic, the time for ordering the seed heads will be around June or July for delivery in October or November.  I’m not sure if you can get seed heads at a garden center in the fall because I never looked for them.

About butcherbakertoiletrymaker 557 Articles
When you can walk its length, and leave no trace, you will have learned.


  1. Asparagus seems like a stretch for us, but I would love to grow garlic, specifically elephant garlic. Apparently elephant garlic is hard to get anymore, at least locally. You and Mrs. Butcher are impressive gardeners…

  2. I think a big stand of asparagus looks good too, especially with some kind of annual flowers in front. It’s a shaggy, informal look, but it adds a good statement to a garden.

    • If it looks like it does in the header pic it’s very pretty. 

  3. Can the asparagus and garlic take the heat like we have here outside of Atlanta?

  4. Aside from the friends I had there, the only other thing I really miss about living in Alabama during grad school is the farmer’s market. 

    They had this amazing elephant garlic every year that was so mellow and delicious. I talked with local farmers here in St. Louis and they told me it won’t grow well here, which makes sense because whenever I can find local garlic at a farmers market the cloves are always small, even compared to what I see at the grocery store. 

    • Also one of the farmers had this variety of sweet potato that was yellow-fleshed and cooked up like a yukon gold potato. Made amazing mashed potatoes!

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