Some people create pumpkin patches that teem with scarecrows, witches, and ghosts amongst the pumpkins in fall. Others, like Eric Skokan, envision a verdant spring filled with a veritable forest of asparagus spears.
On the Lousberg City of Boulder Open Space property (Jay Road and 51st) that it rents, the Black Cat Farm will make its first foray into making this vision a reality. It has ploughed six acres in preparation for the great asparagus project.
On Earth Day, Tuesday, April 22nd, the Black Cat Farm crew along with a group of volunteers (from Americorps and other individuals) will plant asparagus crowns on one to two acres of the ploughed land. The planting process is as follows:
- Dig 10 inch-deep trenches.
- Lay drip irrigation tape on the bottom of the trenches.
- Cover with two inches of compost and manure
- Place the crowns at a depth of eight inches and 18 inches apart
- Bury crown with one inch of dirt
- Water the crowns
The asparagus plants should emerge into the open air in three weeks. As they grow, Black Cat Farm workers will periodically add dirt to the base of the plants until mounds form.
On the remaining ploughed acreage and between the rows of asparagus plants, the Black Cat farm workers will plant cover crops, such as clover, once the asparagus plants have emerged. (A shout out to the City of Boulder, which will partially fund the cost of the cover crop seeds.) The Black Cat Farm sheep flock are also located on this land. The cover crops will both enrich the soil and provide forage to the sheep.
The ultimate plan is to treat this property as an integrated agricultural system. So, next year, when the asparagus plants are mature and start producing spears (sorry, no asparagus for Black Cat Farm customers this year), the sheep will forage in the asparagus fields after the plants have stopped producing spears and started producing fronds.
The plants will nourish the sheep, which will also graze on the cover crops between the rows. In return, the sheep will fertilize the fields. Even when grazed to the ground, the plants will remain alive and emerge again the next spring.
Next year, there will be a short one to two-week asparagus harvest. If all goes well, the Black Cat Farm should have 800-1000 pounds of asparagus for sale at the Boulder Farmers’ Market. There should be much bigger and longer harvests in years 3 and 4. Theoretically, asparagus plants can live and yield a crop for 25 years. The hope at the Black Cat Farm is to have at least 10 to 12 productive years.
Eric has thoughts of incrementally adding asparagus to two more acres every year and growing white asparagus and other types of asparagus.
Asparagus has taken root in his mind. Think steamed asparagus with butter. Asparagus with bernaise sauce. Asparagus soup. Asparagus layers in terrine. Mmmm, asparagus.