When it comes to growing asparagus at home, a little work now can pay delicious home-grown dividends in the years to come.
Asparagus is a wondrous perennial crop that can produce for 20 years or more from a single planting.
And the taste? Well, let’s just say that the first time you taste the just-picked freshness and intense flavor of a home-grown crop, you’ll be hard pressed to ever buy it at the store again!
The crisp, tender flavor is out of this world. It really is hard to describe the difference, but to anyone who grows their own, they know exactly what I am talking about it.
We planted our asparagus beds back in 2011, and every single spring, we are like kids on Christmas morning waiting to see the first delicious spears poke through the ground.
The best part, as you will see below, is that its simple to plant, and even easier to maintain.
Growing Asparagus – The Keys To A Great Crop
Preparing The Bed
Asparagus can grow for 20+ years, so building nutrients into the soil at planting time is a must.
Start by working in generous amounts of compost to the soil. Select a location that receives moderate to full sunlight. Although asparagus can tolerate a bit of shade, they grow best in sunny locations.
Selecting The Right Variety
Asparagus plants are either male or female. When it comes to growing in the garden, male varieties are usually the preferred choice.
They tend to be larger, with higher spear production levels. There are many varieties to choose from, but our favorites are Jersey Giant, Jersey Knight and Purple Passion.
Not only are they heavy producers, they have outstanding flavor as well. As for the purple variety – it’s also quite the conversation piece!
Asparagus can be grown from seed or crowns. Crowns are the roots of 1 to 2-year-old asparagus, and will produce an edible crop much quicker than seed. It leads to an earlier harvest, and crowns are easier to maintain initially in the beds.
Seed crops, with their small, early growth, can be difficult to keep weed-free during the first few years. And when it comes to growing asparagus, competing weeds can significantly impact production levels.
Planting Crowns – The Trench Method
To plant crowns, begin by digging a trench 6″ deep and 8″ wide. You can plant asparagus crowns early in the spring, as soon as the ground can be worked.
Place a few inches of compost at the bottom of the trench. Next, lay your crown into the bottom of the trench, setting them into the compost. Then, cover the crowns with 2″ of garden soil. All that is left is to water and wait.
As the crown grows through the soil, add a few inches of soil every week or so until the soil over the crown becomes level with the surrounding ground.
By growing in a trench with this method, it allows the asparagus to develop deeper roots. This is a big key to long-term health and production.
Allow the plants to grow wild the first year. Do not harvest, instead allow the crowns to put all efforts into developing their root system.
Trust me when I say it’s tempting to harvest a little, but resist the urge! It will pay off in the coming years.
Once the plants have died off in the fall, cut them back to ground level. Mulch with a few inches of compost or straw to keep plants protected, and weeds at a minimum.
The key to a growing asparagus successfully all lies in keeping the beds free and clear of weeds. The more crowns have to compete for nutrients, the less they will produce.
Keep your asparagus beds covered with mulch. Using an inch or two of compost as a mulch directly around plants will also help to re-build nutrients into the soil. See : How To Make Great Compost
Harvesting – Year 2 and Beyond
In year two, the springtime will bring forth your first small crop of spears inching through the earth. In year two, harvest the first week or two of spears and enjoy that amazing flavor!
Then, allow the plants to recover by letting them grow to full size again. Year two is almost taunting. Once you taste the amazing flavor, you really want to keep harvesting. But, trust me, the good years are coming!
It is in the third year where full production and harvest begins.
You will usually enjoy 3 to 4 cuttings of amazing flavor over the course of a month or so. As the harvest slows in late spring, always let the asparagus grow tall in the beds for the remainder of the season.
Cut back again each fall, mulch, and get ready for 20 more years of springtime flavor heaven!
Here is to growing asparagus in your backyard! Jim and Mary!
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