There is simply nothing that compares to the fresh taste of home grown asparagus.
The crispness. The bright color. And of course, that amazing flavor! Asparagus is one vegetable that no matter how fresh it might look in the supermarket, it will never taste quite as good as when just-picked from the garden.
And luckily, growing your own asparagus couldn’t be easier! Even better, once planted, you can enjoy fresh tasty spears for years to come.
Unlike tomatoes, peppers and other annual vegetable plants in the garden, asparagus is a perennial. And once established, the crowns will continue to provide a delicious crop for 20 years or more.
Here is a look at how to plant, grow and maintain your asparagus beds, and start enjoying the home-grown difference!
How To Grow Asparagus
Preparing The Planting Space
To grow a lasting crop of healthy asparagus, it all starts with picking a good location, and preparing the soil correctly.
Asparagus performs best in a sunny location that receives at least 8 hours of full sun. They will tolerate partial shade, but the more sun, the better.
Asparagus needs loose, fertile soil that drains well. And with a long crop cycle of 20+ years, asparagus beds need to be filled with nutrients from the start.
That means working in generous amounts of compost before planting. Compost is the absolute king in helping improve soil’s fertility and structure.
For every 5 square feet of planting space, work in the equivalent of (2) 5 gallon buckets of compost.
Planting – Selecting Your Plants
Asparagus plants are either male or female. When it comes to growing in the garden, male varieties are usually the preferred choice.
Male plants tend to grow larger, and have higher spear production levels. Although there are a lot of varieties to choose from, we have had a lot of success growing Jersey Giant, Jersey Knight and Purple Passion at the farm.
Not only are they heavy producers, they have outstanding flavor as well. And our purple passion variety makes for quite the conversation piece at the dinner table! (We have included seed/crown links later in the article)
Growing Crowns or Seeds?
Asparagus can be grown from seed or crowns. Of the two, crowns are the far better and easier choice.
Crowns are the roots of 1 to 2 year-old asparagus. They produce an edible crop much quicker than seed. Not only does it lead to an earlier harvest, they are much easier to maintain in the beds as well.
Seed crops, with their small, early growth, are difficult to keep weed-free during the early years. And nothing impacts a crops production levels like competing weeds!
Planting asparagus is best done using the trench method. To plant, begin by digging a trench 6″ deep and 8″ wide in the soil.
Next, place crowns at the bottom of the trench, water in, and cover with about 2″ of topsoil. Allow about 18″ between crowns, and 12″ between rows.
As the crown begins to grow through the soil, keep adding a few inches of soil, filling in the trench slowly. Eventually, the trench will be filled in completely over the course of a few weeks.
This trenching and fill in process allows the asparagus to develop deep roots in the soil. All of which leads to years of excellent crop harvests.
Maintaining The Crop – Mulching & Fertilizing
The biggest key to growing asparagus successfully is keeping beds weed free. Weeds and grass compete for valuable nutrients, and a weed-filled bed will result in smaller, less productive harvests.
Keep beds covered with a thick layer of mulch to help suppress and eliminate weeds and weed seeds.
We use either straw or shredded leaves to mulch and keep our beds weed-free throughout the year. A two to four inch thick layer will work well to keep beds under control.
Because they are a perennial crop, asparagus plants benefit greatly from added nutrients over time. The best time to do this is in the fall, and is easily accomplished with a top dressing of compost around plants.
Simply pull back the mulch in late summer, and spread a few inches of compost around the base of each plants. These nutrients will work slowly into the soil to help re-energize the soil and crowns.
Beyond that, there is little need for maintenance other than removing weeds. Once established, your asparagus beds will provide you with years of fresh and amazing tasting crops each spring!
Here is to growing your own delicious crop of asparagus this year. And even better, enjoying the fruits of your labor for years to come! For more vegetable gardening tips and secrets, check out our Raised Row Gardening category on the blog.
Happy Gardening, Jim & Mary.
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