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Growing Asparagus

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on September 6, 2010

Asparagus are delicious.  They are also expensive.  The ones you get in the store have been transported long distances and are not at all like the ones you get from your own garden.  While asparagus have a reputation of being hard to grow, that is not really true.  They just take their sweet time producing edible spears.  Of course, when a crown can last 15 to 25 years, it may not seem long to the asparagus.

Asparagus has separate male and female plants.  The stems, or spears, of asparagus are what most people want.  Male plants produce better stems because they are not wasting resources reproducing.  For the average family of four, 20 crowns, or root knots, planted in a 20 foot row produces all the asparagus they can eat.  Uta, from Crooked Run Orchard, tells how to grow asparagus from seed, but I will be discussing the more usual method of growing it from 1-2 year old crowns.

Because asparagus live so long, it is important to place them in a well prepared bed where they can stay for the next 25 years.  Prepare the area by mixing in 3 inches of compost into the top 10-12 inches of topsoil.  Do this the fall before planting.  Then test the soil around December and lime if necessary to bring the pH up to at least 6.0.  It would be better to have it around 6.5-7.5.  Lime takes a while to work, so do this in December if necessary (Northern Hemisphere, if in Southern Hemisphere, June).

Planting requires some effort.  Dig a furrow in your prepared bed that is 4-12 inches deep and 4 inches wide.  Spread phosphate fertilizer (0-0-46) in a band in the furrow at the rate of .75 ounces per 20 foot row.  Place the crowns 12-14 inches apart in the furrow.  Cover the crowns with one inch of compost and 2-3 inches of soil.  Leave the rest of the furrow open. Water the crowns in.

As shoots grow out of the crown, gradually fill in the furrow around them.  By the end of the year, the furrow should be level with the ground and the stems should be above the ground.  Asparagus does not compete with weeds, so it is very important to keep the weeds eliminated in the area of the asparagus bed.  Once the stems are above ground, mulch three inches of mulch around them to control weeds and keep in the moisture.

Every year in late January or early February, scatter 2 pounds of 10-20-10 fertilizer per 20 feet of row.  After the harvest is over, apply an additional fertilizer of 21-0-0.  Always water in your fertilizer.

Asparagus needs lots of water.  If watered properly, the roots can go down 10 feet.  Water one inch at a time, then let the top inch of soil dry out again before watering again.  That usually takes 3-5 days.

Finally, the good part.  Asparagus beds are established after about two years, and you get to start eating them then.  They are harvested for about 8 weeks in the spring.  Cut spears when they are 4-10 inches long.  Any bigger and they are fibrous and nasty.  It is important to cut the spear at ground level so no stump remains.  That way, diseases and bugs do not invade the plant.  You need to stop harvesting when the spear diameter becomes less than 3/8 inch or the heads open up in the heat.  At this point, let the stems grow and fern out.

After the first hard frost, but off the ferns and mulch the bed with manure or compost.  Burn or compost the ferns to avoid leaving a pest residue around the plants.    It is important to keep the beds clean, with just compost and mulch on them, throughout the year to avoid disease or pests.

So, asparagus are a lot of trouble to get established, but need normal maintenance and fertilization after that.  They are so good to eat that they are worth it, though.

Gardenbookfrontcoverthumbnail For more help gardening, buy my book, Preparing A Vegetable Garden From The Ground Up
Available in print or ebook from Amazon.com or other retailers, this book walks you from choosing the site of your garden all the way through what to do after the harvest. Buy a copy for yourself or a friend today! 


{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Patricia September 7, 2010 at 2:55 am

I love asparagus. Although not too hard to grow here, it won’t something I will be having in my own garden as I can buy them at our local farmers’ market and support the local economy. Also here in Perth we are on water restrictions so have to be careful with choices of what we grow for the moment. Home grown veggies are delicious though.
Patricia Perth Australia
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Stephanie Suesan Smith September 7, 2010 at 6:32 am

My parents have water restrictions and cannot have anything that won’t survive from rainfall. That is a bummer. Hope your water situation gets better soon.

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Alex from Gardening equipment September 7, 2010 at 9:35 am

Personally I don’t like asparagus but I live in an area that produces loads of it. How do you manage to keep it alive for 25 years when it can’t contend with weeds? It seems like a lot of hassle to me

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Stephanie Suesan Smith September 7, 2010 at 12:43 pm

I think it is mainly the first two years that they have to be babied. After that, they do better without weeds but don’t die as readily.

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Dave Berning September 7, 2010 at 12:00 pm

I love Asparagus and have try to grow some in my garden in the past.. thanks for the information because I want to try again next spring..Dave

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Stephanie Suesan Smith September 7, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Maybe this time, with clearer instructions, you can be successful.

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Fleece September 10, 2010 at 4:31 am

The fleshy green spears of asparagus are both succulent and tender and have been considered a delicacy since ancient times.

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Ron from Sell Property Fast September 16, 2010 at 5:16 am

My family loves asparagus and I plant it on our garden, once a week we are cooking Asparagus recipes like, asparagus salad, asparagus onion casserole, asparagus and chicken pasta hmm yummy! Maybe you can try one of these sometimes, I told you its best! Asparagus is very low in fat and cholesterol; and a typical stalk is less than 4 calories. So it’s just healthy!
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Stephanie Suesan Smith September 16, 2010 at 7:11 am

Why don’t you write up two or three recipes and email them to me in a guest post? I am sure everyone would appreciate ideas on how to use their garden bounty.

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Simplicity bags September 18, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Asparagus grilled on the webber just makes my mouth water, I planted in my garden but now its all has died off maybe some day another go at it..

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Stephanie Suesan Smith September 19, 2010 at 8:19 am

Asparagus is only harvestable for about eight weeks. Then you need to let it make the fern, which will die off about now. In the spring, the asparagus will start producing again.

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Patricia October 27, 2010 at 9:03 pm

And now I know how to plant an asparagus. Leet share also to you my favorite recipe. Asparagus and Bacon Fondue recipe. Ingredients:

¼ cup butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 pound asparagus, chopped
2 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1 loaf French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Directions:

1. In a medium stockpot or fondue pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk vigorously to mix. Cook 90 seconds, whisking, until lightly browned.

2. Slowly add milk in a steady stream, whisking constantly to break up clumps, and raise heat to high. Bring to a boil, whisking, lower to a gentle simmer. Cook until thickened, whisking to prevent burning.

3. Stir in the asparagus and bacon. Cook until warmed through and serve with bread.
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Arthur Broyles July 30, 2011 at 11:41 am

I have a bed of asparagus, appox. 30 sq feet in size that I have had for appox. 5 years. It’s almost like having milk cows as you have to harvest every other day or they will grow to large and tough. Many days I have harvested 50 or 60 stalks. We put them in a steamer, just like all of the other vegetables we cook, and they are wonderful.

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