Freshly picked asparagus has a unique taste, a pleasant color, and of course an amazing crunch. And thus, there is nothing that can rival the taste profile of homegrown asparagus.
Moreover, it is the first crop of the spring season and one of the very few perennial vegetables. It will grow fresh spears for a long time once the plant matures, requiring minimal space and effort.
So, if you are wondering how to grow asparagus, here’s everything you need to know about the plant. From planting to harvest, this comprehensive asparagus guide will walk you through each step.
- 1 How to Prepare the Planting Space
- 2 How to Plant Asparagus
- 3 Harvesting asparagus
- 4 Storing Asparagus
- 5 Asparagus Pests and Diseases
- 6 Asparagus Care Tips
- 7 Recommended Asparagus Varieties
- 8 Frequently Asked Questions
- 9 How to Grow Asparagus: Conclusion
How to Prepare the Planting Space
Preparing the bed for growing asparagus plays an integral role in growing a lasting vegetation. That is to say, always remember, a healthy crop of asparagus starts with picking the best-suited location. And then preparing the soil the right way.
Asparagus requires at least 8 hours of direct sunlight. Therefore, a sunny location works best for the plant.
Although it can withstand shade but the sunnier the location, the better the plant would grow.
So, without enough daily sunlight, there are fair chances for the spears to grow thin. The overall plant growth will also weaken, making it susceptible to pests.
Asparagus is a perennial plant that lives for a long time, making its crop cycle exceed 15 years. This necessitates the need to improve your soil before you begin planting the seeds or spears.
Be sure to work in a generous amount of organic matter so that the soil bed is filled with nutrients. However, asparagus performs well in loose soil that drains well. As standing water tends to rot the roots very quickly.
So, do not overwork the soil. Add enough amount of composing to help improve the soil fertility for nurturing the plants’ growth.
It will also aid in making the soil structure better.
To get a rough idea, for every 5 feet of soil bed, you can use a 5-gallon bucket of compost.
And lastly, it is important to maintain the soil pH at neutral levels. Any soil pH going below 6.0 or exceeding 7.0 will not favor the growth of asparagus.
The planting space must be free of any weeds. Therefore, you must get rid of any weeds and a large stone in the planting area, before you formally begin the planting process.
Eradication of weeds and grass is critical to the growth of asparagus. Asparagus plantation strictly despises the presence of weed, as it is a competition for asparagus when it comes to nutrients and sunlight.
So, if you wish to have a healthy crop of asparagus, there must be no sign of weed in the planting space.
How to Plant Asparagus
There are two ways to grow asparagus: Seeds & Crowns.
If you want to grow asparagus from seeds, you can get started with seeds about four weeks prior to the last frost date.
But, growing asparagus with seeds comes with a slight drawback.
It will add a few more years until your plant fully matures.
Therefore, this brings us to the second, most practiced option, growing asparagus from crowns.
Most home gardeners find it convenient to plant asparagus wit crowns as they are easily available throughout the spring season.
And the added benefit of planting asparagus with crowns is that it can withstand air exposure.
So, if you are getting crowns, make sure they are firm and fresh with a soft-scent that smells like asparagus. Any withered and mushy crowns with a pungent smell are a big no.
Digging a Trench and Planting of Asparagus
The trench method is the most common way of planting asparagus. In the springtime, dig a trench that is at least 12 to 18 inches in width, and approximately 8 inches in depth.
And if you are planning to dig more than one trench in the same planting area, then you will have to make sure each trench is spaced at 3 inches at least.
A few pointers to note
Before planting the crowns, soak them in lukewarm water for a few minutes.
While they soak, make a soil ridge inside the trench. It should be around 2-inches in height.
Place the asparagus crowns on top of the ridge and spread out the roots evenly.
Secondly, spacing is very crucial when it comes to asparagus.
Make sure you plant the crowns at an equally distanced position. Within each trench, the crowns must be at least 15 inches apart. You can measure this distance from the root tip of one crown to the root tip of another.
And don’t forget to cover them with a few inches of soil.
As soon as you are done preparing the trenches and setting in the crowns, here’s what you have to do:
Cover the crowns firmly with compost so as to bury each crown at least 2 inches deep. And then water them.
With the due course of time, you will notice spears growing about 3 inches tall. This is when you are required to add 2 more inches of topsoil to the trench.
However, be careful not to bury the entire spear in soil. A little over one inch should be above the soil layer.
As the spears grow again and rise above the soil bed, you will have to repeat the process of adding 2-inch of soil.
This cycle will be repeated until the entire trench has been filled enough to reach the ground level.
Note that the frequency of adding soil depends on the depth of your trench. The deeper the trench, the higher the frequency of adding soil.
After the trench has been completed filled, the soil must be mounted lightly to prevent water from standing around the spears.
Harvest asparagus comes with a few important pointers. If you wish to keep your asparagus plantation healthy and strong, you must have patience.
Firstly, refrain from harvesting the spears in the first year. You must allow the plant to grow enough so that the root system firmly grows out. However, this does not mean that you don’t cut out the dead foliage.
Be sure to cut out any browning foliage in late fall.
Some home gardeners often harvest a few spears in the first year. But it affects the root system.
In the second year, you can harvest for around 3 weeks. And cut out any signs of dead ferns. In addition to this, the crop will require regular mulching as it will be undergoing a maturing phase.
During the third year, the soil bed will be blooming in asparagus. And thus, you can enjoy this freshly picked vegetable throughout the season as you please.
As soon as the harvesting season comes to an end in late spring and early summer, you must allow the spears to develop naturally.
Eventually, the spears will grow up to 6 inches, surrounded by green foliage. Moreover, keep the soil bed thoroughly moisturized and mulched.
The reason being, the healthier you keep the root system now, the better harvest you will get in the following season.
Don’t forget to cut fronds that transition into a shade of yellow. This will safeguard the plantation from pests and attacks from the asparagus beetle. And will lend it a neat outlook for next spring.
You must know that asparagus does not survive for long after it has been harvested. Therefore, you will have to eat it within the next two or three days.
To store, brush off dirt after it is picked. Then wash them off lightly with cold water and then store them. But, dry them thoroughly before storing to prevent moisture affecting the taste.
Asparagus can be stored in bundles. Make small bundles of spears and wrap the stems of each using a moist towel.
Then you can store it in a Ziplock bag or any other plastic bag and place it in your refrigerator to retain freshness and crunch.
Another way to store asparagus is to store the spears in a cup of water and place them in the fridge.
You can keep an inch of water in the cup.
Asparagus Pests and Diseases
A healthy asparagus plantation is a picture-perfect dream. It not only nurtures the spear production but also lends your home garden a vibrant look.
However, like other plantation, asparagus bed is greatly susceptible to attacks by pests and diseases. Weed being one of the major concerns.
Asparagus Beetles chew on spears during the early month of spring and later tend to attack the foliage in summers. These beetles are metallic blue, with a size of approximately 1/4th of an inch.
They can easily be controlled by handpicking or spraying an infectant spray on the foliage in a careful amount.
Other ways to solve the problem include the use of insecticidal soap on the plantation.
To handle weeds, hand pulling is the most commonly practiced approach. However, for it to be effective, you must be regular, especially during springtime.
And if the weed attacks get severely out of control, you can cultivate the affected areas lightly. Be sure not to damage any growing spears.
Moreover, in summers if you apply 5 inches of straw, it will also prove effective against weed control.
Cutworms are insects that cause the asparagus spears to wilt. Hand-picking is observed to be the solution to prevent their spread.
Asparagus Rust leaves pale green spots on the spears that emerging. Eventually, with time, these spots turn into concentric circles in an orange shade.
To treat the rust, ensure the soil gets good air circulation and regularly destroy infected plant matter.
Asparagus Care Tips
Asparagus plantation is thirsty for water to grow healthy. Therefore, it is important that you regularly water the plant when it is young.
During the early stages, the root system is developing, and the plants is gaining strength.
And so, watering is crucial for the plant in this phase. This shall save you from any potential future problems in the asparagus plants.
Mulching is another key element when it comes to plant care.
After removing weeds, mulch the soil bed properly. And be sure to fertilize the soil in spring and fall.
This can be done by following the top-dressing method using liquid fertilizer. You can also side-dress the soil using a balanced fertilizer.
It is important to keep your asparagus bed well-mulched to prevent perennial weeds from residing there.
If grasses or other types of weeds manage to get hold of the asparagus plant, then it is nearly impossible to retrieve the plantation back in a healthy state.
This is where mulching plays a vital role. So do make use of a good amount of shredded straws.
Temperature and Humidity
Asparagus requires a temperature range of 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the growing season.
It is preferred that the temperature stays between 60 to 80 degrees at night.
And then in the springtime, you shall notice shoots growing up even when the soil temperature is at 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, soon after that, you may notice the growth slowing down if the temperature range falls below 55 degrees Fahrenheit or exceeds 85.
Recommended Asparagus Varieties
There are two types of asparagus plants, male and female. While female plants bare berries, the male ones do not and thus, are observed to be more productive than female plants. And this is the reason why male asparagus plants are considered best to grow.
Some male varieties of asparagus plants are:
- Jersey Giant
- Jersey King
- Jersey Knight
While some older female ones include Mary Washington and Martha Washington.
There is also white asparagus that is grown in the absence of sunlight. It is slightly sweeter in taste but has less fiber content than the green asparagus.
Moreover, in some regions, you may also find purple asparagus. It turns green on cooking and has thicker spears as compared to commonly grown green asparagus.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to keep the asparagus bed free from weed?
To control weeds, cover your asparagus bed with a good layer of mulch. Either makes use of straw or shredded leaves to mulch the bed. This will help eliminate mature weeds and also deactivated the weed seeds. However, be consistent with your mulching cycle. A four-inch thick mulch layer will work best against weeds.
How do we know asparagus is ready to harvest?
The best time to harvest asparagus is based on two factors. First, when the spears are at least 5 to 7 inches high. And second, when you notice the spear tips are tight and not loosen. As soon as the tips begin to loosen, the spears get tough, affecting the flavor profile and quality of the harvest. To harvest them, cut just above the soil level.
What is the best fertilizer for asparagus?
Asparagus plantation needs fertilization. The best fertilizer is the one that is balanced in all essential nutrients. So, make sure to use a fertilizer with an equal amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Either a 10-10-10 or a 15-15-15 blend.
How often should I water asparagus?
The watering cycle of the asparagus plant depends on how much rainfall your area receives. Initially, in the first 2-3 years, asparagus needs 2-3 inches of water every week. Then after 3 years as the plantation matures, you can water every 2-3 weeks.
Why is my asparagus thin?
A number of reasons account for the growth of thin asparagus. The two major ones are improper feeding and incorrect trench depth. The asparagus plant is a heavy feeder, so make sure the soil is well-mulched and well-fertilized at all times. And since the spears grow through the soil over time, the depth of the soil must be appropriate enough.
Does asparagus need direct sunlight to grow?
Yes. Asparagus needs aa full sun to thrive. However, it can also manage to survive in shade but only if it receives 8 hours of sunlight for the day. Therefore, when planting asparagus, pick a sunny location.
Will asparagus regrow after cutting?
Asparagus can be picked for up to 24 harvests per season. After that, the crowns are given time to grow ferns, this helps them grow out further. Not to forget that the asparagus plant is a perennial plant and thus, allows you to enjoy the harvest for up to 20 years.
How to Grow Asparagus: Conclusion
Asparagus is a well-loved vegetable when it comes to preparing sides for dinners. And what could be better than a freshly picked asparagus right from your garden?
This fresh produce would guarantee an amazing flavor profile without compromising on quality.
And if you follow the right guidelines when planting asparagus and also if luck sides you, you can marvel on the organic spears for years to come.