Do you want to harvest fresh asparagus every spring? Asparagus is one of the first plants to pop up and let us know that spring has arrived. What’s more, if they’re planted and cared for properly, this perennial vegetable will keep producing for decades.
The absolute first vegetable gardening tip for beginners is to make sure you like eating whatever you’re planting, especially when it comes to asparagus because these plants can live for 30 years. It’s delicious, and there are numerous recipes, so go ahead and check how to grill asparagus.
To get the most out of your asparagus plants, you need to be patient. You shouldn’t harvest anything for the first 2-3 years while the plant gets established. However, this patience will be rewarded, as you could be harvesting asparagus for the next 30 years if you get it right. So, are you ready to learn how to plant and grow asparagus? Read on for the full rundown.
Gather Your Supplies
In this tutorial, we will focus on growing asparagus from crowns, because it speeds up production time and sets you up for success. It’s easier and reduces time to harvest compared to growing asparagus from seed. Asparagus crowns are available in many nurseries and garden centers. If you prefer to grow from seed, you should be able to find asparagus seed at most nurseries.
It’s also important to note that there are many different heirloom varieties of asparagus that are suited to various climates. Some are more disease-resistant than others, and they even come in different colors. Green, purple, and even white asparagus exist. Green asparagus is the most common, and Mary Washington is a widely available green variety. Asparagus also comes in purple. The most popular purple asparagus is Jersey Giant. This purple variety is also the most cold-hardy.
You’ll need the following things:
- Asparagus crowns
- Spade or gardening trowel
- Compost or other soil amendments
- Garden bed
A Note On Siting
As with most perennial vegetables, keep in mind that your asparagus plants will grow in the same spot for decades. So it’s worth taking the extra time and care to make sure that your planting location for your asparagus bed is in the right spot. You won’t be able to move them easily later on.
You need a sunny location with well-draining soil. Consider building a raised asparagus bed if well-drained soil is an issue for you. If you plant your asparagus in a bed with other plants, place the asparagus near the edge where it won’t get disturbed by harvesting and replanting of the shorter-lived plants near it. You can also build a raised bed specifically for perennials, asparagus included.
During its life cycle, asparagus will put forth some beautiful, fine foliage. This foliage will shade any plants on the shady side of the asparagus, so plan accordingly.
Step One: Prepare Your Bed
Eliminate all weeds in the area. Your method of doing this will depend on your gardening methods. If you’re a conventional gardener, there is a whole range of poisons you can use to eliminate weeds. If you’re a natural gardener, removing the weeds and using them as mulch should do the trick.
Work in a 2-4 inch layer of compost, aged manure, or other soil amendments. Which amendments you use will depend on what kind of soil you’re starting with. Asparagus thrives in neutral to slightly acidic soil (p.h 6.5), so amend your soil accordingly. Loosen the soil 12-15 inches below the surface so the crowns can root properly and not be obstructed by compacted earth or other debris.
Step Two: Dig and Plant
You want to plant your asparagus deeply. It will help not disturbing the roots and crowns when you carry out regular weeding maintenance in the bed.
Dig a trench 12-18 inches wide and 6-8 inches deep. If you’re digging multiple trenches, space them 3 feet apart. At the bottom of the trench, make a ridge in the middle with 2 inches of soil. Soak the crowns in lukewarm water for a few minutes. Place the crowns on top of this ridge and make sure to spread their roots out evenly. Space each crown 12-18 inches apart within the trench.
Step Three: Backfill Trenches And Water
Now it’s time to fill in those trenches with a combination of compost and topsoil. There are two schools of thought on how to do this simple task.
The more traditional method fills in the trenches over a few months. You put down an inch or two of soil and then wait for the spears to push their way through. Cover the spears again with a few inches of soil. Repeat until the trench is filled to the level of the surrounding soil surface. It’s thought that this method results in stronger plants later on.
The other method is known as the “All-At-Once” Method. This is my preferred method. The “All-At-Once” Method is super easy. Simply fill the trench in all at once and then water the area with a few inches of water.
It doesn’t necessarily harm the plants as long as the backfilled soil is left loose enough for the spears to push through.
Step Four: Aftercare
A good rule of thumb is to always mulch the area once the planting is complete. A 4-6 inch layer of grass clippings or straw will suppress weed growth, keeps the soil moist, and regulates the temperature of the soil.
Asparagus doesn’t like its roots being disturbed. In the first year or two, before the asparagus plants can fill in and dominate the area, take special care when weeding so as not to disturb the soil too much. Give the plants a regular watering (an inch of water a week, minimum) and feed with an organic fertilizer during the growing season.
Step Five: Be Patient
Asparagus needs some time to develop its roots and establish itself in its new bed. For this reason, don’t harvest any asparagus spears for the first two years at least. It will give the plants enough time to get established and develop proper roots.
Allow the plants to ‘fern out’ over the growing season. The plants will push out plenty of fern-like foliage during the growing season. This ferny foliage allows the plant to photosynthesize and stock up on all the nutrients it needs to become a healthy mature asparagus plant. It is an important step, and you need to do this with established plants as well. You may cut the foliage back once it dies or starts to yellow at the end of the fall.
Step Six: Harvest Time
If you’ve followed all the steps above, your asparagus patch is now about to enter its third growing season, and you’re about to enter your first asparagus harvest season. Young plants will produce harvestable spears for about two weeks, while established plants may maintain spear production for up to 8 weeks or more!
The spears shoot up quickly, and if you wait too long to harvest, they may be woody, bitter, and fibrous, so don’t delay. As soon as the foliage begins to open up, it’s too late to harvest. Check on your asparagus patch daily and harvest as soon as the spears are ready.
Spears are ready when they’re about 8-10 inches tall. The younger, thinner spears are more tender, so harvest to taste. To harvest, cut the spear just above soil level and eat within two days. Fresh, homegrown asparagus doesn’t keep well.
Stop harvesting when the emerging spears are thinner than ½ an inch. Leave these spears to fern out and replenish itself with the nutrients it needs. It’s also a good idea to fertilize the area once harvesting is done for the season. Keep the area well mulched, fed, and watered, and you’ll have fresh asparagus every spring for 30 years.
Common Asparagus Diseases And Pests
Asparagus beetle. This beetle feeds on the leaves of the plant and causes browning and scarring. The best way to deal with this pest is to manually pick them off and drop them into some soapy water.
Asparagus rust causes yellow to reddish-brown to black pustules on stems and leaves in humid regions. The best way to combat this is to plant resistant varieties like Mary Washington. If your patch is already infested with rust, cut back and remove all infected plant matter.
Plants and leaves are yellow. It indicates overwatering. Asparagus does not enjoy sitting in wet conditions, and it is a big problem in heavy clay soil. Don’t water again until the soil dries out and reduce watering frequency moving forward. Aim for consistent soil moisture throughout the bed
All The Asparagus Knowledge You Need
Asparagus requires a bit more care and know-how in the initial planting stages. However, considering they’ll keep producing for decades, this extra care is worth it.
What do you think? Are you confident that you can provide a good home for some asparagus after this tutorial? Comment below and let us know. Or share this tutorial with the asparagus lovers in your life with the buttons below.