How to Grow Asparagus

comments (11) July 31st, 2008

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The edible stems of asparagus rise directly from the ground. Spears that are about 8 in. tall are ready to harvest.
Snapping of the spear by hand is easy and protects the plant. You can use a knife, but be careful not to damage developing stems.
At the end of the harvest, allow the asparagus plants to form ferns. These help transfer energy to the roots for good spear development the next season.
The edible stems of asparagus rise directly from the ground. Spears that are about 8 in. tall are ready to harvest.Click To Enlarge

The edible stems of asparagus rise directly from the ground. Spears that are about 8 in. tall are ready to harvest.

Photo: Susan Kahn

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Seeds vs. crowns. You can start your asparagus with seeds, but they take six weeks to germinate and add another year of growing time before the first harvest. So most people start with the asparagus crown, the root mass and buds.

When buying crowns, look for fresh, firm-fleshed roots. If they are shriveled or feel like paper, they may be old and won’t produce well, if at all.

Asparagus crown
  Most people start their asparagus from crowns, not seeds. The root masses should be fresh and firm. Dry sections of the roots can be pruned before planting.
 
  Deeper plantings, thicker asparagus
  Deeper plantings tend to produce thicker but fewer spears.
   

Plant crowns early. Crowns should be planted while they are dormant. That can be as early as late winter. They should be planted when the ground is workable, between frosts. As long as the crowns are covered with about 2 in. of soil, they won’t suffer in hard freezes. They can be planted as late as mid-spring, if plump, healthy roots are still available.

A few crowns can be planted merely by digging individual holes for each plant. If you want to plant more, dig a trench. If the soil is heavy clay, the trench should be deep enough to accommodate a layer of compost or other organic material under the crowns. The optimum depth to plant crowns is 6 in. to 8 in. Shallower plantings yield many spindly spears, while those planted deeper produce fewer spears of larger diameter. Place the crowns in the furrow, and cover initially with 2 in. to 3 in. of soil. Keep adding to the trench as the spears emerge. By season’s end, it should be filled. You can fill the trench completely at planting time, but by doing it gradually, you move the dirt and control the weeds.

Asparagus stays healthy with breathing room.
Space the asparagus crowns so you get as many plants as possible in a small area, but still allow for good air circulation to protect against disease. I plant my crowns 15 in. to 18 in. apart in rows 5 ft. apart. Figure on 10 plants for each person in the family who loves asparagus. This ought to enable you to harvest enough at one time for a meal.

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posted in: asparagus

Comments (11)

malleeboy writes: I've read with interest all the articles on asparagus growing but they all seem to end up before my questions starts ...

I hate the stuff but will happily grow it for my wife who loves it. I bought 3 crowns a few years ago off ebay and did all the right stuff ... bug the trench, planted the crowns, added plenty of manure, etc in the backfill which I added bit by bit, didn't pick any the first year and only small amounts the next, left the ferns to mature but now, 3-4 years later, there doesn't seem to be anymore shoots than at first and what I picked this season were about knitting needle in thickness ... so my thinking is, they need more manure and I've already ordered 3 more crowns for next winter/spring. My question is ... can I keep adding more manure to the surface or am I risking burying the crowns too deep? Also, can I add the new crowns to the same part of the garden or should I start a whole new bed? Space is not an issue.

Posted: 12:30 am on April 16th
jjflyaway16 writes: I was wondering if anyone would be able to help me out with my asparagus patch. When I moved into the house that I am still at, there were 2 beautiful asparagus patches each (5'x100') and produced like crazy. There was so much asparagus I gave a bunch to everyone I knew and still had a bunch. I was told to leave it alone and just throw salt on it to keep the weeds down, so thats all I did. The following year it was just as plentyful. This past year things were different even though I did the same things as previous years. This year there were very few stalks and there was just a mess of weeds etc. I tried to till a few inches down and hope that would kill off the weeds and the asparagus would grow again but no luck. After a bit of research, learned to cover the patches with leaves and some manure. I did that, so we will see. I was wondering if anyone has had this problem and what else I can do. Would the asparagus roots just die if it was a bad year? All thoughts are welcome and thank you!!!
Posted: 3:08 pm on January 19th
midgrow writes: Hello Karen, thank you for your asparagus article. It is very interesting and helpful. I have a few questions related to growing asparagus I would like your assistance with. I am experimenting with growing asparagus indoor using a hydroponic system. I have been successful creating a nice root base and crown. Since I can control the temperature, lighting and moisture I am expecting that I can extend the yield of my plants. Is this accurate? Also, do you have any recommendations with regards to ferning. You mentioned in your article that ferning was important for next years yield. How often should I fern my plans in order to get a better yield? Is a frost or freeze critical for future success? Of course, this is not an option for me since I am working indoors.

I am excited for what I am learning. From my results so far, I am confident that I can produce asparagus much quicker, indoors with less effort than outdoor gardening.
Posted: 10:09 am on August 18th
notsmart writes: After reading erqberht comment with his clay, I think I will just buy mine. Did have a lot of wild growing on our old land. Love it! After all I went thru just to write that little comment, when I went to submit it I got "Diagnose connection problems. Will forget this along with my asparagus!!!
Posted: 10:47 pm on June 17th
notsmart writes: After reading erqberht comment with his clay, I think I will just buy mine. Did have a lot of wild growing on our old land. Love it!
Posted: 10:44 pm on June 17th
ecgberht writes: Asparagus ... the bane of my existence - I think until today. I had heard for so long how hard asparagus was to grow. I've been trying in a 6 x 4 bed for years with almost no success. But roaming the web, now I read how easy it is to grow and how hardy the plants are. I am now convinced those posters are right!
First, I determined that my soil was not right. This was a raised bed that existed when my wife and I bought our house (along with two other larger raised beds). I read how asparagus likes loose somewhat sandy soil with lots of compost so I decided to dig up what was there and create the environment I needed. I did that this weekend. What I found was, that there were just three or four inches of top soil and then clay! Solid clay. No wonder my asparagus wouldn't grow. I'd like to get some feed back from anyone who has experience as to my "perscription" for the soil. Here goes:
Removed the existing topsoil and saved it.
Dug down and removed the clay to a depth of about 18". (In one spot, I used a long-nosed spade and a post-hole digger to see how much farther the clay went down - I was able to dig down another 10 inces or so and still solid clay!)
My six by four foot bed now looked like a big bath tub with clay sides and bottom.
Put the old topsoil back in the hole first after removing the surviving asparagus crowns (about nine of them). Interesting thing about that topsoil - it was full of little bitty roots of all varieties (probably mostly weeds) - but zero, and I mean ZERO roots in the clay!
Mixed with the old topsoil, in the bottom of the hole, three 50 pound bags of gravel for drainage.
Layered fresh garden soil (in bags made for flowers and veggies) two cubic feet with 25 pounds aged manure and 50 pounds sand, well mixed together - two layers.
That brought me within six inches of the top of the raised bed. Laid in my surviving crowns and some new crowns and watered in.
Then covered with more top soil and some more sand. I did not want to add more manure because I was afraid of burning the plants with direct contact.
So, what does anyone think my chances are?! I think they are pretty good. The reason I was struck by the hardiness of asparagus is that it did ANYTHING at all in that clay soil with so little topsoil. One crown was big enough to divide. After digging them, I dunked in a bucket of water to remove all weeds and mud (a great tip from one site) and found that some of the soil up underneath the crown was clay! Again, if these could survive in these conditions they should love their new home. The new crowns I planted were Jersey Giant. I still have room for about eight more plants so would appreciate any feedback on that as well.
Posted: 5:59 pm on April 7th
Jackie24 writes: I've been searching for some articles on how to grow asparagus/vegetable farm. I'm very much satisfied about this information from http://farmingeek.org and http://vegetablegardener.com. Your articles are much appreciated. Thanks and I hope my crops will be successful.
Posted: 4:25 am on February 23rd
wildgarden writes: I looked up your town on google earth and it has more streets than mine (Luggate Central Otago NZ)
We grow asparagus just for us to either eat raw or if it lasts long enough cooked. I dont think it grows wild in NZ My husband was more interested in the car your father had but he does do most of the vege gardening. We are not organic but dont use sprays or artificial fertilizers
wildgarden
Posted: 9:57 pm on October 14th
cocovette writes: OH MY GOSH! I thought we were the only ones who found asparagus on the side of the road! On our way to church in the fall our father would point out asparagus that had "went to seed" and he would tell us 3 kids in the back seat to remember where it was for spring and sure enough it was always there! We lived in Michigan and the side of the roads were loaded! Thanks for a great memory.
Posted: 11:52 am on April 5th
petuniababi writes: This was a very interesting article.It has made me want to grow a asparagus garden and i have never eaten it! Would it be alright to use an old truck tire as a raised garden for it?If not i will get my husband to till me a spot for it.He's gonna love that:)
Posted: 12:01 pm on March 16th
curryleaf writes: Very timely article. I planted my first crowns last year. Good to know that I could potentially harvest a bit this year "gardeners can harvest for about two weeks during the first season, a year after planting. A light harvest seems to stimulate the plant to produce more spears. A full six-week harvest season may follow in year two, provided the average size of the spears is larger than a pencil."

Even though the asparagus took up a lot of space in the garden last year and I didn't get to eat anything, the fern-like fronds were beautiful--especially when red berries emerged late in the season. The unique-looking plants drew many comments and questions from fellow gardeners in my community garden.
Posted: 8:41 am on March 16th
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