Why is asparagus so expensive to buy in the grocery store? Once you know how to grow asparagus, you will be surprised at how easy it is to grow and maintain.
With just a few plants, not only will you have the bonus of fresh asparagus right in you own backyard, but you will have it for up to 25 years! Yes, asparagus is actually a perennial vegetable, and when properly maintained, the plants will produce for years and years!
Let’s dive into how to grow asparagus:
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Planting, Growing & Harvesting Asparagus
The botanical name for asparagus is Asparagus officinalis.
Optimum growing conditions
Asparagus will grow in USDA Zone 3 and warmer, but asparagus actually prefers a climate where the soil freezes in winter. Most varieties will not do well in hot, humid climates. (Sorry Florida!) Asparagus does not like boggy, wet soil either and prefers a ph of 6.5 – 6.8. It loves full sun, but will tolerate partial shade too.
Best varieties to plant
Zones 4 – 7 have the most varieties to choose from, and these include Martha Washington, Jersey Knight, and Mary Washington. Gardeners in warmer and cooler climates need to do research in their seed & plant catalogs to find a variety best suited for their climate.
Here in Zone 7a, I planted 2-year Martha Washington crowns.
How to grow asparagus
Asparagus can be grown from seed, but it is best to buy 2-year or 3-year crowns. Crowns are funky looking, long, spindly roots coming from a central point. Once the soil has warmed in early spring and you are ready to plant the crowns, soak them briefly in warm water.
Meanwhile, dig a trench about 8″ deep and about a foot wide. Crowns should be spaced about 12″ apart. Once you dig the trench to the length needed, add some organic fertilizer. Then make a little hill in the center of the trench, because you will fan out the roots to go over the hilled up soil. Cover the crowns with soil and keep watered. For the first year with 2-year crowns, do NOT harvest any asparagus. And you have to wait two whole years to harvest if you buy 1-year crowns.
For this new patch, please make sure to place it in an area of the garden where it won’t be disturbed by your yearly gardening activities. If you take the time to do the beds properly, your asparagus crowns will keep producing for 20 years.
Follow the instructions on the fertilizer package for subsequent feedings during the summer.
In the fall, you will cut back the foliage (it’s a really pretty airy fern-like foliage too. I cut a little bit now and then to use in flower arrangements during the summer.) Wait until it is yellow/brown and dried before you cut it back. When it’s green, the foliage will be feeding those roots all summer for next year’s shoots.
Diseases, pests & problems
The biggest problem with asparagus is any weeds growing in the bed that fight for the nutrients the spears need. Keep up with weeding while the weeds are small, so that their root system does not get tangled up with the asparagus crowns.
Honestly, I have never seen any type of bug or disease in my asparagus bed, but your mileage may vary. Once established, they are pretty much maintenance free – other than watering and adding the special fertilizer that I use.
Now comes the best part!
For new beds (after the third year), harvest sparingly for the next two years. And for an established bed, leave a spear or two per crown to go to fern. Remember, the fern-like foliage is what is feeding the crowns for next spring’s harvest.
As the spears emerge, cut them at the soil line with a sharp knife. Cut the spears while the tips are tightly closed, and keep checking and harvesting daily. Once they start shooting up in the spring, you will be harvesting for up to 10 weeks!
I keep the cut spears in the fridge, in a tall glass with about 1/2″ of water in it until I have enough to steam for dinner. I use one of these asparagus steamers:
Enjoy your home-grown asparagus!