How to Grow Asparagus
Asparagus is one of the most nutritionally well-balanced vegetables around. It is high in potassium, fiber, folacin, thiamin, vitamin B6 and rutin and contains glutahione. It is not only low in calories but is fat free and has no cholesterol. Asparagus can be a tasty side-dish when steamed or grilled on the BBQ. Not only can you eat asparagus, once the plants have matured the ferns from them can be used to add flare to floral arrangements.
When to Plant
Asparagus should be planted as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring. One-year-old crowns or plants are preferred. Seeds are sown in a production bed and allowed to grow for a year. The young plants have compact buds in the center (crown), with numerous dangling, pencil-sized roots. Adventurous gardeners can start their own plants from seed. Although this adds a year to the process of established the bed, it does ensure fresh plants and the widest possible variety selection. An optimum planting site for asparagus would be a sandy well-drained location. Asparagus don’t take well to saturated soil conditions.
Spacing and Depth
Place the plants in a trench 12 to 18” wide and a full 6” deep. The crowns should be spaced 9 to 12” apart. Spread the roost out uniformly, with the crown bud side up, in an upright, centered position, slightly higher than the roots. Cover the crown with 2” of soil. Gradually fill the remaining portion of the trench during the first summer, as the plants grow taller. Asparagus has a tendency to “rise” as the plants mature, the crowns gradually growing close to the surface of the soil. Many gardeners apply an additional 1-2” of soil from between the rows in later years.
As asparagus plants grow, they product a mat of roots that spreads horizontally rather than vertically. In the first year, the top growth is spindly. As the plants become older, the stems become larger in diameter. Following freezing weather in the fall, the asparagus tops should be removed to decrease the chances of rust disease overwintering on the foliage. Because asparagus remain in place for years, advance soil preparation helps future production greatly. Working green manure crops, compost, manure or other organic materials into the proposed bed well in advance of planting is a good approach. Asparagus should be fertilized in the same way as the rest of the garden the first three years. In the spring, apply an organic fertilizer such as the gaia green 4-4-4. Starting in the fourth year, apply fertilizer but delay the applicant until June or July (immediately after first harvest). This approach encourages vigorous growth of the “fern” which produces and stores nutrients in the roots for next year’s production season.
Weeds and grasses can be problematic with asparagus. They compete with the developing spears, making an unsightly area in the garden and will significantly decrease yield and quality. Start frequent, light, shallow cultivation early in the spring in both young plantings and mature patches that are being harvested.