How to Grow Asparagus

comments (31) 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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Harvesting is a snap. Spears should be harvested by hand when they are 6 in. to 8 in. tall and the tips are still tight. I recommend snapping asparagus off at soil level. This severs the spear at the junction between the green tender tissue above the ground and the white woody tissue below. All of the stalk you get is edible, and you won’t injure spears that have not yet emerged. You can use a knife to cut the spears just below the surface, but be careful not to damage the developing spears and the crown.

If you plan to store the asparagus for several days, leave some of the white, woody base. It restricts water loss and helps preserve the upper spear.

Fern formation is critical to next year’s growth.
The asparagus will keep growing throughout the summer. But difficult as it may be, you must stop harvesting so some of the spears can go to fern, the stage when the tips turn feathery.

Ferns should not be removed from asparagus plants until after several killing freezes. I often recommend leaving the tops for winter mulch. This mulch can catch snow and protect the plants from severe cold, while adding moisture. More important, however, the ferns also transfer carbohydrates and energy to the roots by photosynthesis. This process is crucial to the development of spears for the next year's harvest.

How to harvest asparagus Allow the asparagus plants to form ferns
Snapping off the spear by hand is easy, and it 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.

by Karen Pendleton
February 1997
from issue #7

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posted in: asparagus

Comments (31)

timonrooster writes: good one
Posted: 3:42 am on August 20th
charisbaker writes: thank you for sharing. this is awesome.
Posted: 2:05 am on August 20th
hillbillietexas writes: i recently found a small asparagus patch on the property we moved to. its about 3 1/2 feet tall. can i cut it back to get it producing correctly or do i need to just wait til it dies back in the fall and start cutting it net season

Posted: 11:25 pm on May 22nd
forda writes: Oh wow! What are the odds. Searching and find someone cool. My parents were married in the Piqua church! Great advice about asparagus. Haven't had success yet. Hope this will help me. Thanks again!
Posted: 7:17 am on February 20th
DanielBlake writes: Great Post...
Posted: 5:11 am on November 17th
Maxbannett writes: Thats insredible.... nice job
Posted: 5:06 am on October 30th
Oscarwilson writes: Incredibly Awesome Concept
Posted: 3:57 am on October 30th
Masongreen writes: Awesome Project...
Posted: 3:27 am on October 30th
Archiefox writes: incredibly Awesome
Posted: 2:44 am on October 30th
Marquss writes: Thats Cool... Nice Job
Posted: 2:22 am on October 30th
Thomaswain writes: Great Project...
Posted: 8:10 am on October 29th
Mikespencer writes: Great Concept...
Posted: 7:35 am on October 29th
Dominichemmer writes: Awesome Idea.
Posted: 7:17 am on October 29th
Sandraclif writes: Beautiful...
Posted: 6:47 am on October 29th
Adwardstim writes: Thanks for sharing it great idea...
Posted: 6:04 am on October 29th
Jonathanray writes: Incredibly Done....
Posted: 5:20 am on October 29th
taraxiong writes: My quick tip video about asparagus
Posted: 8:49 am on July 1st
Nancyraej writes: While we lived in the city I had a wonderful asparagus patch. 15 years ago, we sold the house and I started gardens at our cottage. I have the asparagus in a raised bed with good soil, but it has never developed many stalks beyond pencil size. I do have the bed on top of our septic field. Would this prevent the development of healthy stalks?
Posted: 12:03 pm on June 13th
fillyc writes: I have had an asparagus patch for almost 15 years. 2 yrs. ago, my strawberry plants went wild, invading the asparagus. I got them out but since then, the asparagus have been sparse. I still a few good-sized spears, but mostly, thinner than a pencil.

My question is: should I just abandon the patch? I'm planting a few green beans in the areas where there don't seem to be any asparagus. Is this a good idea?
Posted: 5:06 am on May 28th
vdarr1 writes: I took a 12/14 inch wide plank dung a trench. wedged the plank in. this was on a bank.. planted 12 inches apart. added a fair amount of sand. cut them to the ground after harvest. not sure i should have done so. but have had a greater harvest each year. i do believe i will add topsoil and sand this year. Remember they hate weeds!!!!!
Posted: 5:10 pm on April 26th
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 and 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
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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