How to Grow Asparagus: A Gardener’s Guide to Delicious Spears

Posted on Categories:"How To Grow", Edible Plant Growing Information
How to Grow Asparagus

How to Grow Asparagus

Asparagus, with its tender and delectable spears, is a prized addition to any garden or culinary repertoire. Growing your own asparagus allows you to enjoy this delectable vegetable at the peak of freshness. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through the steps to successfully grow asparagus, from selecting the right varieties to caring for your plants and savoring a bountiful harvest.

1. Choosing Asparagus Varieties

Before you embark on your asparagus-growing journey, it’s essential to choose the right asparagus varieties that suit your climate and preferences. Here are some common asparagus varieties:

  • Mary Washington: A popular heirloom variety that produces thick, green spears. It’s known for its disease resistance and adaptability.
  • Jersey Giant: This variety yields large, tender spears and is prized for its high productivity. It’s well-suited for both home gardens and commercial cultivation.
  • Purple Passion: As the name suggests, this asparagus has striking purple spears. The color changes to green when cooked, and it’s known for its sweet, mild flavor.
  • UC-157 F2: A hybrid variety known for its uniform, large spears. It’s widely grown in commercial asparagus production.
  • Millennium: A newer variety that is disease-resistant and produces small, sweet spears.

2. Site Selection and Soil Preparation

Asparagus is a long-lived perennial plant, so choosing the right site and soil preparation are essential for its success. Here’s what you need to consider:

  • Location: Select a sunny spot for your asparagus bed. Asparagus requires at least 8 hours of sunlight each day to produce well.
  • Soil Type: Asparagus thrives in well-drained soil. Raised beds are a good option if your soil has poor drainage. The ideal soil type is sandy loam, rich in organic matter.
  • Soil pH: Asparagus prefers slightly acidic to neutral soil with a pH level of 6.0 to 7.0. You can adjust soil pH with lime if necessary.

3. Planting Asparagus Crowns or Seeds

Asparagus can be grown from crowns (roots) or seeds. The method you choose will determine the time it takes to establish your asparagus bed:

Growing from Crowns (Recommended):

  • Plant asparagus crowns in early spring, as soon as the soil is workable.
  • Dig trenches about 12 inches wide and 6-8 inches deep.
  • Space the crowns about 18 inches apart in rows with 4-5 feet between rows.
  • Cover the crowns with about 2 inches of soil, and gradually fill in the trench as the asparagus spears grow.

Growing from Seeds:

  • Starting from seeds takes more time and effort but allows you to grow a wider variety of asparagus.
  • Begin by sowing seeds indoors in late winter.
  • Transplant the seedlings into your garden in their second year.
  • Growing asparagus from seeds can take up to three years before you can harvest spears.

4. Care and Maintenance

To ensure healthy and productive asparagus plants, it’s essential to provide proper care and maintenance:

  • Watering: Keep the soil consistently moist, especially during the growing season. Asparagus prefers well-drained soil but needs regular watering.
  • Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or compost, to help retain soil moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature.
  • Fertilization: Asparagus is a heavy feeder, so amend the soil with organic matter and a balanced fertilizer. Apply fertilizer in early spring before spears emerge.
  • Weeding: Keep the asparagus bed free of weeds to reduce competition for nutrients and water.
  • Disease and Pest Control: Keep an eye out for common asparagus pests, such as asparagus beetles and aphids. Organic pest control methods, like neem oil or handpicking, can be used to manage these pests.
  • Support: As asparagus spears grow, they may become top-heavy and droop. To prevent damage to the plants, install stakes or a support system to keep them upright.

5. Harvesting Asparagus

The reward for growing asparagus comes when it’s time to harvest those delicious spears. Here’s what you need to know about harvesting asparagus:

  • Timing: The first harvest typically begins in the second or third year after planting crowns. Harvesting may extend for 6-8 weeks in spring.
  • Spear Size: Harvest asparagus when the spears are 6-8 inches tall and the tips are still tightly closed.
  • Harvesting Technique: Gently snap or cut the spears at ground level when they are ready. Use a knife or asparagus shears to avoid damaging the crowns.
  • Stop Harvesting: Once the spear diameter becomes smaller than a pencil or the spears start to open, stop harvesting. This allows the plant to store energy for the next growing season.
  • Post-Harvest Care: After the final harvest, let the spears grow into tall fern-like foliage. These ferns capture sunlight and provide energy to the plant for the next year. Do not cut the foliage until it has turned brown in the fall.

6. Winter Care

Asparagus is a perennial plant, and proper winter care ensures its longevity and vitality. Here’s what to do during the winter months:

  • Cut Back Foliage: After the foliage turns brown in the fall, cut it back to ground level and remove the debris from the asparagus bed.
  • Mulch: Apply a layer of mulch to protect the crowns from harsh winter temperatures.

7. Container Gardening

If you have limited garden space, asparagus can also be grown in containers. Here’s how:

  • Choose a Container: Select a deep container (at least 18 inches deep) with good drainage. A large whiskey barrel or similar container works well.
  • Planting: Fill the container with well-draining potting mix. Plant asparagus crowns or seeds at the recommended depth, as you would in the ground.
  • Care: Provide regular water, fertilize as needed, and make sure the container receives sufficient sunlight.

Conclusion

Growing asparagus can be a gratifying experience, whether you have ample garden space or just a small container. By selecting the right asparagus varieties, preparing the soil, providing proper care, and safeguarding your plants against pests and diseases, you can look forward to bountiful harvests of tender, flavorful spears. Homegrown asparagus not only offers freshness and taste but also the satisfaction of cultivating your own gourmet vegetable. So, roll up your sleeves, don your gardening gloves, and start growing your very own asparagus.