Asparagus is one of those perennial vegetables that takes patience to grow, but once you learn how to grow asparagus, it’s so satisfying! It is absolutely delicious and is usually one of the first crops harvested in the spring.
As for nutrition, it is full of vitamin C, B vitamins, iron and calcium. Plus, you’ll never get better – tasting asparagus than freshly picked sprouts straight from the garden-no store-bought asparagus ever comes close.
It can be grown in most climates, except in humid areas with mild temperatures like Florida or the Gulf Coast – but I’m willing to solve problems creatively, you could even grow it in these climates.
Asparagus is a monoecious plant, which means that each plant is either male or female. Male plants tend to provide better spear production than female plants. For this reason, many cultivars have been specifically selected to be completely male. Older and old varieties are still a mixture of male and female plants.
If you only want to select male plants, look at your asparagus plants with a magnifying glass as soon as the flowers appear. Female plants have pistils with 3 lobes, males are larger and longer than females. Remove all female plants and transplant the males into your permanent bed next spring.
Those who are not so worried about the high production should check out some of the more unusual heirloom asparagus varieties. These legacies can produce incredibly beautiful plants, both male and female, but if you want to harvest seeds, you need female plants to produce them.
When Planting Asparagus
In general, asparagus is planted in early spring. As soon as the soil can be worked, it’s time to plant.
If you are planting from seed, plan to start your seeds with enough time to develop them into 3 ” seedlings before the last winter frost. This way, you can transplant them directly as soon as the soil can be worked.
From asparagus crowns is the most popular method, especially since the crowns are immediately ready for planting. Again, the moment the soil can be worked, put them in the ground.
Where To Plant Asparagus
It is very important to choose the place where you will plant your asparagus with extreme care. Since you will be harvesting your asparagus for more than 20 years, you need to make sure that the place you choose is absolutely perfect. Many people choose to grow asparagus in raised beds, as they provide great drainage potential and an easy harvest.
Asparagus prefers full sun, although it can tolerate a little shade. It is best to choose a place where your asparagus will have optimal sunshine, especially since they will return year after year!
Whether you start planting seedlings or established crowns, you need to prepare your bed. Make sure that there are no weeds or herbs in the soil.
Dig a trench about a foot deep and a foot in diameter. Carefully adjust your bed with 2 to 4 inches of high-quality compost, manure, or potting soil in the upper part of the bed, just for good fertility. Alternatively, because the asparagus plants should be about 18″ apart, it is good to work a shovel full of compost and a little rock phosphate into the soil every 18″ to provide good fertilization for the root mass.
Some people advise soaking your root crowns in compost tea about half an hour before planting. If you don’t have compost tea on hand, you can only use water. The goal is to completely moisturize the root mass and make it a little more flexible and easy to spread.
Make mounds 4 “to 6″ high at 18 ” intervals, then gently lay your root crowns in place, spreading the roots over the top of the mound. Make sure that the buds, which look like miniature asparagus spears, are directed upwards. Cover the roots and crowns with 2-3″ of soil and water them.
If the shoots begin to appear, add more soil until you finish filling the trench. You can also stack above the ground, if you want. This ensures that the roots are deep enough so that they are well insulated from hot or cold conditions.
In some regions, asparagus grows in the wild. This is usually in areas that get a lot of rain and are in cooler climates. But for those of us who don’t have a natural bounty around, here are some helpful tips to help your asparagus thrive.
Full sun is ideal for asparagus, at least six to eight hours or more a day. It can tolerate partial shade conditions, although it can grow a little slower.
As soon as the soil temperature reaches more than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the asparagus will begin to set up new shoots. However, the optimum temperature range for production is between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 60 to 70 degrees at night. Within this optimal range, it is not uncommon for an established plant to grow three to six centimeters of asparagus spears a day!
Temperatures above 85 or below 55 will slow down root development and shoot production will decline. Warmer temperatures also cause deformed shoots and premature Browning. Colder temperatures near or below freezing tend to cause discoloration or passed away of plants.
Most asparagus, once established, are surprisingly drought resistant. However, for better production, water is essential. Asparagus loves humid but not humid conditions. If you stick your finger into the ground and you don’t feel any moisture in the first few centimeters, it’s probably time to soak well.
A well-drained and nutrient-rich soil is absolutely essential for your asparagus. This plant can be a fairly heavy food, especially on phosphorus. I highly recommend putting compost or composted cow dung or horse manure well in your bed before planting, as well as a little natural phosphate to increase the phosphorus content of your soil.
Fertilization should occur at the end of summer or at the beginning of autumn, and maybe again in spring. Due to the needs of this plant, it is advisable to use a fertilizer with a higher phosphorus and potassium content, such as a 5-10-10 or an 8-24-24.
In the Fall, use a slow-release granular fertilizer. Return the mulch and work your fertilizer into the top of the soil, being careful not to place the fertilizer directly against the plant or its roots. You can add one or two spoons of compost to complete it if you want. Then replace the mulch around the plant.
In the spring, the process is similar. You will always have to be careful, because you do not want your fertilizer to stand directly against the newly formed Spears emerging from the ground. In general, Spring fertilization is not absolutely necessary, but for older plants it gives an additional boost to growth.
Starting From The Seed
When planting seeds, keep in mind that it will take a few years for your plant to start producing harvestable asparagus. In the first year it will develop its root mass; in the second year it will expand and work its roots deeper into the ground and will not produce large yields of Spears.
It’s best to start your seeds early enough so that you have young plants ready to plant as soon as the last frost has occurred. Soil temperatures above 50 are ideal for early growth. Often, those who start with seed will plant their first-year plants in a “nursery bed” to allow them to stretch their roots during this first year and then transplant them in the fall.
Dividing Your Plants
If you have older plants that are starting to get busy, it’s time to distribute your root mass. You can usually tell it’s time to divide your plants when production starts to slow down after several years of harvesting.
To divide your roots, carefully dig up the entire root mass in the fall, after the plant has already died. You can then cut the root ball into several segments so that you have large masses of carrots in each segment. Replant these root segments immediately or store them in a gauze or paper bag filled with sawdust during the winter and plant the root segments as new crowns in the spring.