Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that is commonly grown in the garden. With the proper planting, care, maintenance, and harvesting, asparagus can be profitable and rewarding for many years to come. This article will focus on how to best provide the right care and conditions for optimum asparagus growing.
Asparagus likes areas that are full sun and are well-drained and moist. A good watering after each harvest helps the plant re-grow faster. Asparagus likes slightly acidic to neutral soil. It is perennial, so plant asparagus along the edge of the garden to prevent it from interfering with the rest of the garden. A north side is preferred as the plants will grow tall and cast shade.
Prepare the area well, as a plantation can last for many years. Work in soil amendments so that the soil is well-drained and can retain moisture, and has nutrients. Do not overfeed the soil; additional nutrients will have to be supplied from top dressing the area. Work at least a foot of the soil, as the plants will be planted in the top foot of soil.
Asparagus can be grown from seeds or from crowns. Crowns are preferred as seeds can take some time to sprout and require care in order to establish. Crowns can simply be planted and be established. Inspect roots and be aware of dry or soft and squishy roots. Roots should be moist and solid. Crowns should be showing buds for new growth. Plant crowns as soon as possible, or cover temporarily in soil if they cannot be planted in the next couple days.
Dig holes a foot deep and set the crowns in the holes. Spacing should be about a foot and a half between plants. Make a small mound in the hole and rest the crown on it, allowing its roots to spread out. Gently fill soil in around roots and fill hole. Firm the soil but don’t pack it too hard, and water well until established.
Allow the asparagus to grow freely the first year without harvesting. The crown needs to be established before it can handle the strain of harvest. It needs to grow leaves with limited resources so it can grow, and harvesting would force the crown to deplete itself. Harvesting forces the plant to re-grow what was harvested from its storage resource, as the crop is the young shoots of the plant. Therefore, the first year the plant will be allowed to grow freely and the second year only be harvested lightly. Harvest for only a few weeks the second year, and in subsequent years it can be harvested for the first two months before being allowed to grow freely and replenish its storage for the next year’s crop. Be alert for spear quality and cease harvesting if new spears become weak, thin, or spindly.
Harvest spears during the two month harvest period in spring when they are about six to nine inches tall. Snap them at the base, at the soil surface. If they have become tough, cut at that level. Do not cut below the surface as that part of the stem is needed to make new spears.
When foliage yellows in fall, cut down a few inches above soil level. Spread a thick winter mulch of leaves to protect plants in the winter and remove the mulch in the spring. Top-dress the bed in spring with organic matter before spears arise. Be careful not to break any spears that have appeared.
Asparagus sometimes gets verticillium and rust. If rust is a problem in the garden, plant resistant varieties. Occasionally, asparagus beetles can be a pest. If plants are too weak or spindly, they were not properly established before harvest began or were harvested too long. If soil is not properly enriched and is heavy or drains poorly, the plants can rot. This can be averted by proper planting.
So by following these simple cultural practices, asparagus can be grown successfully and bear prolifically for many years.