It was one of those conversations you have over the phone, when you’re connecting to loved ones and bringing up different topics.

Will was talking to Dawn, who lives in Seattle. The conversation went like this:

Dawn: hey I’m going to the Seattle Tilth plant sale, is there anything you’d like me to pick up?

Will: yeah, asparagus

Dawn: Ok!



She did, got home, emailed us, and then we all went: huh, oops, now what? Asparagus isn’t something that can sit around for a long time waiting to be planted. Dawn lives in Seattle, we do not.

Fedex? UPS? Right.











So two Sundays ago, we met half way and exchanged the goods, she gave us a bag of Asparagus starts and we gave her 18 eggs. On Monday we agreed to plant them – she in her yard in Seattle and us in, well, way out here. It took us awhile to find a space that could work on this property.


Of course there was massive Googling and Youtubing prior to this event.


Asparagus is in a Family of its own, having been split off from the Lillie Family some time ago.

History of Asparagus

Food History of Asparagus

Lots of unusual info and ‘facts’ about asparagus out there:

– like supposedly it helps with symptoms of PMS, can you grow it that big? – I mean like the size of a baseball bat?

– another site explained that asparagus has such a long life of harvest 15 – 20 years, and is so valued by those that partake – that once you’ve planted it, don’t bother moving, just spend the money to rebuild your house.



It grows wild and obviously in cultivation. Origins? Surprise! Mediterranean/Asia…as in ground zero for the first large agricultural  settlements otherwise known as the Fertile Crescent.

It likes sand. We don’t have sand. Instead we planted it underneath an old dead pine snag in probably the only location on this 21 acres that could qualify for 6 hours of sun/ part shade.


Dawn was quite the warrior during her ‘early bird’ grab-and-go assault at the Tilth sale. She was sick, but determined to get these things, and we had settled on the number: 20 plants each. She eye-balled each of the little brown paper bags that said Asparagus Starts and jammed the appropriate number of bags into her crate.

As I continued to pull the little starts out of the double paper bagged container topped with wet moss these things just kept coming – to the point I started to get visions of Jesus and the loaves and fishes, there was no end in sight. Either someone can’t count or someone can’t read.


It should be said that I’m from the city (NYC) and so, my crop farming knowledge is well, a little scafie, so when I pulled one of these things out of the bag and looked at it, I had a dilemma. Will was on the other side of  the GH fence filling in the trench where the overflow valve directed the water away from the water tank.

I was forming the structure of the sentence in my mind that would lead to the question ‘which side is up?” without sounding like I just got off the Fresh Air Fund bus. Don’t remember how I asked the question specifically, but did get the confirmation which end was which.

I called Dawn on that Monday morning and said ‘ok, are you ready?’ and we both began planting 200+ miles apart.

The first round of starts went into my Key Hole design under the deceased pine tree, very fertile ground. When the spade went in, up came dark crumbly pine needle based humus with tons of worms and of course the compulsory Mount Saint Helens ash.


This is a fascinating article on Key hole designs (with lots of pictures) for dry climates like ours:

Half way through I realized there was going to have to be an additional location added to this fiasco. Apparently you don’t ‘just’ plant these things anywhere because they grow for 15 – 20 years and most of us can’t conceive of this kind of timeline in a constructive way, maybe mortgages? – no? ok forget I said that.


X Marks the Spot

And 60 Asparagus starts later, it was done (no not ‘just’ like that) and then we dropped the hog fence for a temporary solution to the chicken asparagus war party.


Chicken Asparagus War Party

Ok, so 120 asparagus starts, one half in a galvanized prepped tub in Seattle and the other half in the soil of the shrub steppe desert in god knows where, purchased on the same day, planted on the same day, in two different Eco biomes.




Asparagus under the tree and the dark rows on the right. The hog fencing covers newly planted apricot trees.

As I crawled on my knees planting along the asparagus ditch I said out loud: this place always keeps me humble, I never plant anything without saying ‘geeze I hope it lives’ and this is as much about my level of expertise in these matters as it is a comment about the very harsh climate we’re all existing in.


thanks for reading,