Asparagus and broccoli in the May garden

Carolyn's garden is blossoming as well as her orchard, especially the asparagus and broccoli. Plus, get her recipe for asparagus dip!

Credit: Carolyn Herriot

Asparagus may be a long-term investment, but when those juicy spears appear in May it’s worth it. Fresh picked asparagus is so tender it can be eaten raw, when it tastes like sweet green peas straight from the shell. Lightly steamed and dipped is my favourite, but asparagus in omelettes or frittata comes a close second.

Simple Asparagus Dip:

Melt 1/4 lb. butter and whisk in
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Juice of one lemon
1 tsp. finely minced parsley or chives
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper

How to grow:

A bed of asparagus can consist of between 10 to 20 plants that, once established, should produce for around 20 years. I grow ‘Jersey Knight’ a male variety and particularly good cropper, giving a steady supply of 2cm spears from its second year. It also has a good tolerance to fusarium and crown and root rot.

Spring is the time to plant asparagus ‘crowns’. Give the soil a good digging over to improve drainage and add compost, mixing well. You can plant the crowns 
23 cm (9 in.) apart in rows 45 cm (18 in.) apart. 
 Dig a 15 cm (6 in.) deep trench, lay the crowns in it and cover them with the compost-rich soil.

Do not harvest much the first year, so they can produce stronger spears in the second year; and don’t be greedy in the second year either! The time to cut is while the tip is still closed. Cut the spear under the soil, being careful to avoid damaging the crown. 
Harvesting usually continues for about four weeks. 

When left to mature spears turn into decorative airy ferns 
which turn yellow in fall. Cut them off and put them on the compost pile. Then feed the asparagus bed with manure, leaf mulch or compost as winter mulch, and add dolomite lime, which asparagus loves.

Problems to look out for:

If spears turn yellow and the outside of the stem is nibbled you’ve got asparagus beetles. This is rare, but the beetle and its grubs eat the stems and the leaves. If this happens don’t compost dying leaves. Handpicking beetles as they appear in spring should keep them at bay, but you could spray with Neem oil, which makes plants taste awful.


Over-wintering broccoli is a real treat in April and May. I grow a perennial white sprouting broccoli called ‘Nine Star’ which is ready for harvest three weeks before the purple sprouting broccoli. It has masses of tender heads and shoots that melt in the mouth when lightly steamed. The best time to harvest is before flowering when the buds are still tight. They will freeze well for later. As it warms up pretty yellow flowers precede the seedpods.

These vegetables were transplanted into the garden in mid-September after an early July seeding.

Carolyn Herriot, broccoli