Asparagus Essentials

by National Gardening Association Editors

Planning

  • The easiest way to start asparagus is from crowns.
  • Plant crowns in the spring as soon as the soil can be worked.
  • Plants will take three growing seasons to become established.
  • Allow ten to twenty plants per person (15 to 30 feet of row).

Preparation

  • Select a well-drained site in at least part sun; full sun is not necessary.
  • Asparagus will thrive in slightly acid soil (pH of about 6.5), but will tolerate alkaline conditions up to 9.0.
  • Eliminate all weeds by repeated tilling or by growing a cover crop a year in advance.
  • About one week before planting, prepare trenches for crowns.

Planting

  • Soak the crowns briefly in lukewarm water before planting.
  • Draw a hoe along each side of the prepared trench to form a mound in the center running the length of the trench.
  • Set the crowns 18 inches apart on the mounds in the trench, draping the roots over the sides.
  • To cover the crowns, mix one part manure to 3 parts topsoil and bury the crowns 2 inches deep.
  • Water the bed thoroughly.

Care

  • First year: Weed the beds carefully. Periodically add more topsoil/manure around emerging shoots until the trench is filled. Then spread a 4-to 8-inch layer of mulch such as hay or leaves or a 3-to 4-inch layer of aged manure, compost, or shredded bark around the base of the asparagus ferns. Water regularly. In the early fall, pull back the mulch and side-dress with 2 1/2 pounds of a balanced fertilizer per 100 square feet. Cut down dead ferns in late fall and side-dress with 2 1/2 pounds phosphate fertilizer per 100 square feet.
  • Second year: Cultivate lightly by hand until the new spears are several inches tall. Keep the bed thickly mulched. Side-dress with a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 at the rate of 2 1/2 pounds per 100 square feet in the spring and early fall. Follow first year instructions for late fall.
  • Third year and beyond: Maintain as for the second year, but apply the spring side-dressing after the harvest.

Harvesting

  • Plants started from crowns can be harvested lightly in the spring of the second year; plants started from seeds in the third year.
  • Harvest only those spears that are thicker than a pencil.
  • Cut off the spears at or just above ground level when they are 6 to 8 inches tall.


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