If you’re starting asparagus in your garden this year, remember that you’ll have to wait three years after planting for your first crop.
But that patience pays off, because once planted, an asparagus plant can keep producing for another 20 or 30 years. It’s definitely the veggie that keeps on giving.
Bed Prep for Growing Asparagus
Bed preparation can be done in the fall before the ground freezes, or you can wait until spring.
Choose a spot in full sun and where a 5-foot-tall hedge won’t be a problem. Don’t opt for your regular vegetable garden because yearly cultivation will disrupt the asparagus, a perennial. Remove any grass, weeds and rocks, then incorporate a lot of compost or other organic matter, which asparagus loves.
SEE ALSO: Recipes With Asparagus
Using a mechanical tiller or by hand, till a trench 12 to 18 inches wide and a full 6 inches deep. Now you are all set for planting.
Planting Your Asparagus Garden
I prefer to order asparagus crowns from a catalog because you never know how long they’ve been sitting around drying out in discount stores. Order one-year crowns that have compact centers surrounded by dangling roots. Picture an octopus to get an idea of what they look like.
When the ground can be worked in the spring, add a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10. Place the crowns at the bottom of the trench, spaced 9 to 12 inches apart, splaying out the roots. Cover with about 2 inches of soil. Over the remainder of the summer, gradually fill in the trench as the asparagus grows.
SEE ALSO: When to Plant Springtime Vegetables
Now comes the hard part – patience. You can’t cut any spears this first year or for the following two years. Well, maybe you can cheat a little on year three if the bed establishes nicely. Let the plants grow up into ferny hedges collecting as much energy as possible from the sun. Cut down the hedge after a hard freeze in fall or wait until late winter, if you prefer. Each spring the asparagus grows back more plentiful and with thicker spears.
How to Harvest
Harvest by snapping off the spears at ground level or cutting with a knife slightly below the soil surface. Watch out for emerging tips of other spears. Harvest spears pencil width or larger and switch to fertilizing after harvest instead of early spring.
Weeding can be a challenge. The first asparagus emerges at the same time as the first weeds. Be careful of the unseen tips that have yet to grow. Reaching into the hedge in summer to weed risks death by tickling.
Asparagus beds last for 30 years, so are well worth the wait.
- Asparagus is one of the first vegetables ready to harvest in the spring.
- Native to the Mediterranean, asparagus was eaten by the ancient Greeks.
- Nutritionally, it’s high in fiber and contains bone-strengthening vitamin K and antioxidants. Read More
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