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Growing Asparagus Made Easy

Grow your own food! Asparagus is the plant that keeps on giving. Get started with these easy tips for growing asparagus!

Asparagus is one of those wonderful plants that keeps on giving. Plant it once, and you’ll be harvesting it for generations. Not only is this an easy perennial crop to grow, but it’s good for you. This delicious veggie is packed with potassium, vitamin C, and folic acid, which is an essential B vitamin. Here’s how to get started with growing asparagus!

Planting Asparagus

Asparagus can either be started from seed or from crowns. Crowns, which are the dormant, rooted section of the plant, are usually your best bet since they grow more reliably and establish themselves much more quickly than seed. If you choose to go with crowns (which you’ll find early in the spring at most garden centers), make sure that you’ll be ready to plant them within a day or two of purchasing them so that they don’t sprout before they’re in the ground.

Speaking of ground, you’ll need to pick a good spot for your new asparagus bed. These plants will do well in both full sun and part shade. The most important thing is to give them well drained soil. In fact, you can plant it in droughty areas, but it won’t thrive as quite well as it will in well drained but not drought-prone soil. Asparagus will also grow in poor soil, but soil with some organic matter will yield you larger crops.

When it comes time to plant asparagus crowns, there is a specific way to do it:

  • Dig a trench that is 12 inches wide, making sure that it is long enough for each crown to have 18 inches of room. Your trench can be wider, but make sure that it doesn’t go more than four feet so that you can reach the center without stepping inside the bed.
  • Make small conical mounds of soil every 18 inches. Spread out each crown’s roots, then place them over the mounds.
  • Once you’ve placed all of your crowns, start filling in the trench. The top of each crown should be covered with approximately two inches of soil.
  • Thoroughly water your new asparagus bed.

After planting, let your asparagus go for a year. The following spring, you’ll be able to come back and start harvesting.

Caring For Your Asparagus Plants

Asparagus doesn’t require much care past the first year. In the first year, make sure to water whenever the soil dries out. During the second year, in midsummer, you can start mulching to prevent weeds from sprouting. The reason that you want to wait until midsummer is that the plants should be somewhat tall so that you don’t inadvertently smother new shoots.

The last point to remember is to not cut back the asparagus ferns until after they’ve died back in the fall. This keeps your asparagus bed healthy and strong, which means bigger harvests the following year.

Harvesting Asparagus

Each spring, when the shoots are between four and eight inches high, you can start harvesting. Every time you harvest, make sure to leave a few shoots behind so that the asparagus can continue to photosynthesize. Use a knife to cut the asparagus at ground level or simply snap the shoots off close to the ground.

For new beds, there is something of a science to how long you can harvest each year. Asparagus can take several years to fully establish itself, so in the first year, don’t harvest any at all. The second year, you can harvest for two weeks, in the third year, harvest for four weeks, and by the fourth year, your plants should be strong enough to tolerate a full eight-week harvesting season.

What Are the Best Varieties of Asparagus?

There are many different types of asparagus to try, each suited to a different purpose. If you live between USDA hardiness zones 4 and 6, try any one of the Jersey hybrids (like “Jersey Giant” or “Jersey Knight”). Jersey asparagus is known to produce the largest harvests.

People living in zone 3 will need a cold-tolerant variety. “Guelph Millennium” emerges later, but is able to survive harsher winters. Finally, there are specialty varieties. “Martha Washington” is the most well-known heirloom asparagus, while “Purple Passion” produces purple spears instead of green.

If you’ve never tried growing asparagus, this is one crop that you’re missing out on. After that first season, you’ll be able to harvest this delicious vegetable year after year. Best of all, asparagus beds take very little maintenance to produce a bumper crop.

Don’t forget to check our Gardening by the Moon calendar before you plant…

Why does asparagus make your pee smell funny?

Amber Kanuckel is a freelance writer from rural Ohio who loves all things outdoors. She specializes in home, garden, environmental and green living topics. Her article on woolly worm caterpillar folklore appears in the 2020 Farmers' Almanac.

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Amber Kanuckel

Clare: The best way is to put on some gloves and pull it out, but if there is a lot, (and I know thistle can spread like wildfire) that can be difficult to do. If your bed isn’t already mulched, I would wait until the asparagus starts to grow a little bit, then cut off thistles off at the ground and top the bed with 3-4 inches of mulch to smother the thistles. You could also try salt, but that can be iffy when it comes to the health of the soil and the asparagus plants.

Clare elliott

How can I kill thistle without harming the asparagus?

Corinna

Thank You We love asparagus, So I’m going to give this a try to ENJOY years!!

Amber Kanuckel

Hi Peggy: Straw isn’t a no-no (it makes great mulch), but salt can be. In small amounts, salt will keep weeds out of asparagus beds without damaging the asparagus since it is a somewhat salt-tolerant plant. But, if too much builds up over time or you put too much on, it can kill the asparagus, too.

Peggy

I have straw over my asparagus bed, is that an oops and do I leave it or rake it off? I also heard about putting salt on the bed to feed it..Is that true or not? Thanks for any info..

Amber Kanuckel

To answer Karen’s question, you can buy two and three year old crowns, but they’re more rare. You’d probably have to order them online. The other issue is that older crowns won’t produce much more quickly than younger ones — it’s not so much the age of the crowns that matters as it is how long it takes them to establish themselves in your garden. Hope this helps! 🙂

Amber Kanuckel

I’ve read that lots of varieties do well in Arizona (Jersey Giant, Martha Washington, etc.) But the Arizona Cooperative Extension says that the very best variety for Arizona is UC 157, which is also called “Farmer’s Favorite.” Most greenhouses and garden centers will sell crowns in the spring, but if you can’t find them, I’ve had good luck ordering online from Amazon, Ebay and seed catalogs like Gurneys. The crowns are pretty sturdy, so they ship very well.

Barbara asked how to clean up the branches in the spring — all you need to do is cut off dead branches close to the ground or snap them off.

Growing asparagus in containers: It can be done, but the plants don’t last as long as they do when they’re planted in the ground, so your plants would need to be replaced every three to five years.

Amber Kanuckel

As to depth: The bed should be about 12 inches deep.

As to Florida: You can grow it, but the thing about asparagus is that it needs a period of dormancy to stay healthy. Since the plant can’t get that in warmer climates, it tends to become weak unproductive after a few years. So, the recommendation is to plant new asparagus every four to five years to replace the unproductive plants.

Rebecca

The article mentioned the width of the bed, but not the depth. How deep should the trench be dug? Thank you!

Virginia Roberts

will asparagus grow in central fl. where we live? We grow asparagus plumosus for florist greens, of course you can’t eat this kind, thank you so much.

Barbara

What is the best way to clean off the branches in spring?

Lee

Where to buy the crowns and what type is good for Arizona?

Lee

Can asparagus be planted in containers or do they need to be in ground?

Karen

I love asparagus, but don’t want to have to wait for two years?? I know, I know, I should have planted it years ago!! Is there any way to purchase two-year-old plants?? I guess if there was you would have mentioned it… thanks!

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