Asparagus is one of our primary crops, so we’re always thinking about varieties to add.
Precoce d’Argenteuil is a French heirloom asparagus from the 1700s that gets rave reviews on the Internet (just google it!). It’s pretty (green spears with lavender buds), early bearing and produces thick, delicious spears that taste wonderful steamed. Since it’s not as productive as the “all male” modern hybrids, it’s only available as seeds, not crowns, which means 3 years, rather than 2 years to a harvestable yield.
Being a farm that showcases heirlooms, I decided to give in to the Internet hype and give this variety a try. I ordered my seed from here,as most of the reputable US seed companies said their seed was from Italy.
Growing asparagus from seed takes patience (up to 3 weeks to germinate!) and space. Rather than start the seeds in flats, as I usually do, I instead ordered Jiffy 7 Peat Pellets so that I could place one seed in each pellet, then when that pellet germinated, put it under the grow lights while the other seeds could slumber until they were ready to germinate. It would also prevent the roots from each seed from entangling with each other.
Here’s how the pellets look when purchased:
Asparagus seed has a hard seed coat so recommendations range from a soak of two hours to 2 days in water before planting. I gave mine at least two hours to soak while I readied the pellets for planting. Use enough water to generously cover the seed.
As a child, I loved Jiffy 7 Peat Pellets because it was so much fun to soak them in water and watch them plump up. It’s not cost-effective to use them on a large scale unless you are planting perennials with delicate root systems that could be damaged while trying to untangle them, so I hadn’t used the pellets in years. A friend advised me to use hot water which swells up the pellets in minutes. (Don’t use cold water — that bucket took 2 1/2 hours to swell up to a usable size!)
After two hours, both asparagus seed and pellets were ready for planting. I borrowed my dogs’ tick removal tweezers (which has the handy magnifying glass for finding tick mouth parts embedded in one’s dog) to pluck out an asparagus seed from the cup and plant it about 1/2 an inch into the rehydrated pellet.
78 pellets fit in a standard plant tray, which I then put on the heat mat.
I covered the tray with plastic wrap (like most seed savers, most of the household plastic wrap is used for seed germination, rather than food storage!) I have two trays for a total of 156 aparagus seeds planted
Now we wait for germination! I keep my germinating trays next to my computer so I can keep an eye on them during the day and add water or place baby plants under lights as needed. With bottom heat, the asparagus seeds could germinate in as little as 5 days or as long as 3 weeks. I’d like to have 200 plants to set out in the Spring, so if this techinque works, I’ll add another tray once these trays begin germinating.
In just 3 years, we’ll have an interesting (and tasty!) asparagus variety for sale! Stay tuned to watch these plants grow!