We are picking asparagus every other day now, about 25 to 30 pounds at a time. There are another six to seven weeks left to the season, but it will probably take until about May 20 for us to begin harvesting daily — time and soil temperature will tell.
We hope to bring in 140 to 160 pounds a day at the height of the season. Last year, with its cold and rainy spring, our 25th asparagus harvest totaled about 2,400 pounds; some seasons, we’ve gotten close to 4,000 pounds.
Once the soil warms up and the weather settles in, asparagus shoots can grow up to one centimeter an hour! But on cloudy, cool days, we let them stay in the ground till they catch up.
Our current asparagus field is an acre of the Old Waller Farm, a historic Katama property now owned by the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank, which calls it Muskoday Farm. We named the plot Carlos Field, in honor of the man who helped Jim Athearn clear the land for vegetable use some 25 years ago.
We are planting a new field as well, with 1.5 acres of nice, sandy Katama loam. Starting a new asparagus field is a big endeavor: It’s taken a couple of years of soil preparation, with lime and other minerals that asparagus love, to get the land ready for 21,000 new plants from Nourse Farms in the famous asparagus-growing region around Hadley, Mass.
We set the roots — all male, so they don’t set seed and crowd out the bed — in trenches, and carefully cover them up as small weeds grow. The new field should produce a few hundred pounds in 2019, but 2020 will be the first full harvest.