How to Plant, Grow and Harvest Asparagus

Asparagus is a perennial garden vegetable that is planted once, then harvested for the next 15 years. That’s a good return on your garden investment and with proper care, one planting of asparagus may even produce longer than 15 years. Use these guidelines for planting, growing and harvesting your own bountiful crop of tender asparagus spears.

Growing Climate

asparagus-837664_1280Since asparagus is a perennial garden plant, it does need cold winter weather to allow it to go dormant and replenish energy. Asparagus will grow well in any climate that has a winter season. Growing zones 8 and below are prime climates for growing this garden vegetable.

Bed Location

Asparagus is like any other garden vegetable, it must have well-draining soil and full sun to thrive. One other thing must be taken into consideration when selecting a planting bed site; the location of the sun during the fall.

Asparagus produces ferns above ground during the fall and those ferns will shade nearby plants. So, instead of creating garden rows that run true east to west, angle the rows at a slight north-west to south-east angle so the fall sun will hit the asparagus ferns directly and not cast shadows on nearby plants.

Another thing to consider when selecting planting bed location is the fact that asparagus are perennials and will always be ‘underfoot’. The bed should be in a location that will not receive foot traffic so it won’t be disturbed once it has been planted. If you can’t dedicate an entire planting site just for asparagus, plant it at the back edge of the garden so it won’t be walked on.

An asparagus bed (raised or not) will produce over and over again, and you’ll be dining on delicately flavored, homegrown spears you can pick just before a meal – which might be each meal during asparagus season,

 as revealed by Charlotte of Grow Organic.com.

Planting Bed

Double digging the planting bed will yield the best asparagus crop, and while it seems like a lot of extra work, it’s well worth the effort.

Start the bed preparation by removing the top 12 inches of soil from the selected planting location. Then use a spading fork to break up the subsoil by pushing the tool into the subsoil and rocking it back and forth. Do this every six inches to breakup the layer of hard subsoil. Mix the top soil with organic matter like compost, well-rotted cow manure, wood ashes or leaf mold.

Know that, “A well maintained asparagus bed may produce for 25 years!” Source: learn.eartheasy.com

Variety or Type

There are many varieties of asparagus. But know that white asparagus occurs when the spears have not been exposed to light and photosynthesis has not occurred. Purple passion is unique with its purple-colored spears. Jersey Giant and Mary Washington is popular type and is disease resistant. UC l57 was developed for Southern climates.

Planting Procedure

Farmer planting asparagus into black soil in gardenSpread a two-inch layer of the top soil/organic mixture in the bottom of the planting bed. Set asparagus plants 15-18 inches apart, bounding the soil slightly under each plant so the crown is above the roots.

Remove any rotted roots before planting and spread the healthy roots over the soil mound. Cover the crown with two inches of soil and firm well. Place extra soil between the rows or leave outside of the planting bed for later use.

As the plants grow, the soil will need to be pulled up over the crowns (about every other week) until the planting beds or trenches are filled with soil, level with surrounding ground and no part of the asparagus plant is showing.

Harvest Time and Technique

Harvesting asparagus.Asparagus spears should not be harvested the first season and only lightly harvested during the second growing season.

This allows the plants to develop and store food reserves so they can produce a bountiful harvest for the third and all succeeding growing seasons.

When spears have matured, harvest daily for the 8-10 weeks season in the spring.

Snap off the spears just below the soil level when the spears reach 6-8 inches tall. After harvest, allow the spears to grow and produce their fern-like foliage in the fall.

Trap Crop for Beetles

Easy-to-grow asparagus has one enemy – the asparagus beetle. Fortunately, the beetle is an easy-to-defeat foe.

Once beetles have been spotted, set a trap crop to capture the little menaces. Set aside a section of the asparagus patch in the spring to act as a trap crop. Don’t cut the spears in the spring within the section so the beetles will be attracted to it. Walk through the trap crop early each morning while the temperatures are still too cool for the beetles to fly and handpick them off the spears and drown the beetles in a bottle of water.

Grab a broom after handpicking the adult beetles off the fronds and gently sweep the beetle larvae off. Once on the ground, the larvae are unable to climb back up the asparagus spears. Finish the removal process by wiping each spear with a soft damp cloth to remove any clinging adults or larvae.

In the later summer, cut the fronds of the trap crop back to two inches high. In 3-4 weeks, you will be able to harvest a fall bounty of spears from your trap crop plot.

Learn more by reading 6 Expert Tips to Growing the Best Asparagus at Home.