Asparagus (Asparagus aficinalis L.) is one of the great perennial garden crops. Originally, from Western Europe, Eastern Asia and throughout Africa this crop is favored by many. If properly planted and cared for, asparagus can last 25 to 30 years and garden. So, well care for Asparagus beds can be a lifetime investment with a high-value return. Asparagus has been part of the human diet at least since ancient Greek times which is where the word comes from. The American colonists brought asparagus over with them when they landed and it has been a consistent part of the American diet ever since.
Asparagus is prized by many
Asparagus is prized by many and can be found in nearly any grocery section at your local department store sometimes but very interesting prices. With just a little bit of work, and the asparagus bed can provide for your families table 4 years. So, if you’re looking for a high-value low maintenance long-lasting perennial vegetable to put in your vegetable garden asparagus is one of your friends.
General Guidance For Planting Asparagus
Despite the often touted guidance of deep digging to plant asparagus, asparagus likes to grow approximately 4 inches below the soil surface. So normal cultivation to create your asparagus bed will work just fine. However, when you start your bed, you should mark your bed boundaries and place it in a location that you can live with for the next couple of decades. As far as soil preparation goes, the soil should be well cultivated have plenty of humus and rich manure and compost. It helps some if the soil has a slightly sandy character is not overly compact. As usual, I recommend drip irrigation and plenty of good well-aged garden mulch. The site of your asparagus bed should be a well-drained and sunny location.
Starting From Asparagus Seed
If planting seed, start transplants about 80 days before last spring frost. Sow 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep in a sterile growing medium, water and keep temperature 65 to 80 degrees. Germination can take up to 21 days. Transplant to a well prepared, fertilized bed after danger of frost, deeply dug with lots of organic matter. Set plants 12 inches apart in a 6 inches trench, 2 inches deep. Fill in the trench as asparagus grows. Begin harvest in 3 to 4 years.
Starting From Asparagus Root
If Planting Roots. Planting roots reduce harvest by at least 1 to 2 years. Plant roots shortly after receiving them in a well prepared, deeply cultivated, fertilized, garden bed with plenty of organic matter. Asparagus Prefers light, loose soil. Set roots in trenched rows 12 inches apart, in rows 3 to 5 feet apart. The trench should be 4 inches deep. Cover roots with 2 inches of soil. Backfill the trench as asparagus grows. Keep moist. Fertilize again next spring. Begin harvesting in 2 to 3 years.
When to Plant Asparagus
Asparagus roots can be planted in the spring as soon as the soil can be worked in your area. Dig a trench 4 to 5 inches deep and space the plants 18 to 24 inches apart in the row. Then cover with a good mix of your local soil, compost, and manure. If you go easy on it, a little bit of slow release fertilizer won’t hurt. If more than one row is planted, space the rows 4 to 5 feet apart. This wide spacing is necessary because of the vigor of the fern growth during the first season and promotes rapid drying of the fern in the fall to prevent disease problems.
How much Asparagus to Plant
You will need 8 to 10 plants per person.
Care and Maintenance of Asparagus
Asparagus requires little care once it is established. The biggest problem faced by gardeners is weed control. A weed control program should be started early. Weeds can be kept under control by carefully hoeing, cultivating, or using a rototiller. Cultivation deeper than 2 or 3 inches can damage the roots. Also, the use of a nice deep layer of mulch between rows can aid significantly with the reduction of weeds in your asparagus patch. In the spring when the spears begin to appear, a nice fresh layer of compost mix with a slow release balanced fertilizer is very beneficial. Also after applying the fertilizer, a new layer of protective garden mulch should be applied. Stop harvesting when about 3/4 of the spears are about the diameter of a pencil. These should be left to replenish the food supplies to the roots. Because the tops of asparagus plants produce and transfer food to the roots, they should be allowed to grow all summer. The tops can be removed when they die after a killing frost in the fall.
During the first year after planting, you should be able to harvest several times, depending on temperatures. There is no need to wait until two years after planting before you harvest. In fact, harvesting the first year after planting will stimulate more buds to be produced on the crown which means greater yields in later years. Spears can be harvested for a period of 2 to 3 weeks the first year. In succeeding years, the length of harvest increases to about 4 to 6 weeks, or for as long as the spears are large.
Select spears that are 6 to 8 inches tall with light tips. As the tips begin to loosen, known as “ferning out”, the base of the spears will begin to get tough. Stop harvesting when about 3/4 of the spears are about the diameter of a pencil. These should be left to replenish the food supplies to the roots.
Asparagus is harvested by cutting them off with a sharp, well sanitized, knife just below the ground. Care should be taken not to damage other nearby spears just below the surface. Asparagus should be used as soon as it is harvested, but it will remain fairly fresh for up to a week if kept at 35 degrees to 38 degrees Fahrenheit with the cut ends in water.