Most of us love garlic and use if often when cooking, but many people have a love/hate relationship with asparagus. I heard years ago that both asparagus and garlic were easy to grow, but I never thought they would be as easy as they are. Both asparagus and garlic are long term crops: Garlic takes around six months to harvest, and asparagus produces after its first year for up to 20 years. Don’t worry if you live in a frosty area, as both crops are frost hardy.
Asparagus prefers light soil, as the spears need to be able to easily push through the soil's surface. Consider a space in the garden where they can grow for a long time. I built a specialised raised bed just for the asparagus. Before planting the crowns, prepare the soil to the depth of a spade, and dig in liberal quantities of compost and a general garden fertiliser. If you have acidic soil, then a light dressing of garden lime will be needed.
Set crowns 15-20 cm deep and 30-50 cm apart at the bottom of a trench. Then fill in the trench with 5cm of soil, filling in the remainder of the trench as the asparagus starts to grow. Water regularly, and give liberal dressings of a high nitrogen fertiliser, such as Oderings Garden Replenish, in summer to encourage vigorous top growth. Cut down the dry yellow fern in winter to ground level, mulch deeply, and fertilise again to encourage spears in spring.
Do not cut any spears in the first season of planting. The number of spears increases each year as the plant grows older (reaching full bearing in four to five years). In the second year, start cutting the spears as they appear (generally in August, September depending on where you live). Harvest every day or two and continue cutting for 8-10 weeks.
Garlic is easily grown in the garden or containers but requires good drainage with plenty of compost incorporated into the soil. Use only certified cloves from your garden centre; don’t use those you bought for cooking from the supermarket. Garlic is traditionally planted on the shortest day, and harvested on the longest, but you can plant a couple weeks early and harvest later for slightly larger bulbs.
Plant each clove of garlic 5-8cm below the soil surface and about 15cm apart, making sure the pointed end is facing upwards. Use only the bigger ‘juicy’ looking corms, as the small ones really won’t do much and are a waste of space. These smaller ones, you can use in cooking just like shop-bought garlic corms. It is important to keep the area weed-free and well-watered during the summer.
When harvesting, make sure you dig up the garlic; do not rip it out of the ground. If you lift garlic too early you will have smaller cloves, whereas if they are left too long they will burst. Once you have dug up your garlic, gently brush off any soil clinging to the bulbs, being careful not to gouge them. Allow three to four weeks of drying in a well-ventilated situation or in a dry, shady spot outside, away from direct sunlight. When the tops and roots have dried, cut them off, again being careful to not damage the bulbs.