How to Plant and Grow Asparagus

Planting and growing asparagus is a bit different from the standard vegetable. Unlike most garden vegetables, asparagus is a perennial, which means that once planted, it comes back year after year. Asparagus plants have been known to continue to produce for more than twenty years. This means choosing a site that can be used for a long period of time. Full sun is best, but partial sun will also work. Choose a soil that is rich in nutrients and well-composted. The ideal pH is 6.5 to 7. Asparagus grows to be near six foot, so don't plant it where it can overshadow other plants requiring full sun.

Asparagus in the Garden

Gardeners will want to purchase crowns to plant in the asparagus bed. It is very difficult to grow asparagus from seed. When choosing crowns (or roots) for planting, get bundles with ten to fifteen roots that are not yet showing green shoots. They should look firm and fresh, not limp.1 These can be found at the local nursery or from mail-order companies via catalogue or on-line. Planting should be accomplished in the springtime when the soil temperature reaches approximately 50° Fahrenheit (10° Celsius).

With a hoe or shovel, dig a seven-inch deep, V-shaped trench, long enough to accommodate the number of crowns you have purchased. Expect to plant the crowns approximately twelve-inches apart with the rows about four feet apart. For best results lay-in a thin layer of bone meal and wood ash, followed by about a 1-inch layer of compost. Place the crowns on top of this and cover with soil. As the crowns grow, cover the stems but keep the leaves exposed. Continue until the trench is filled in. Weed and mulch during the season, feed moderately with side dressings of compost or fertilizer. Water moderately during dry spells.

Allow the plant to grow all season and leaf out. To allow the plants to establish, do NOT harvest any plants in the first year. In the second year a few large spears may be harvested. On the third year harvest the spears of approximately one half inch in diameter for two to four weeks. After the third year harvest for as long as six weeks or until the spears appear to become thin and weak. Harvesting involves cutting the stalks or spears with a sharp knife near the base when they reach eight to twelve inches, before they have a chance to leaf out. Some recommend using a weed puller to cut about one-inch below the surface. To get blanched spears, mound up mulch around the spears as they grow. (Other garden vegetables that are often blanched are leeks and celery.)

At the end of each season, when the asparagus plants turn yellow, cut them at the base and either have them hauled away or burn them. There is a definite likelihood that they can harbor the eggs of harmful insects which will assault the plant in future years. Mulch for the winter season and wait for spring!

Plants can be afflicted by fusarium wilt, tiny black slugs, or asparagus beetles. Fusarium wilt can be controlled by fungicides. Nevertheless, prevention by keeping the garden clear of dead organic matter is preferred. The black slugs can be dealt with by a bit of salt around the plant with dried eggshells. Slug bait may also draw them away from affected plants. See next page for how to handle asparagus beetles...

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  1. How to Grow Asparagus, by Erin J. Dingle

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