There’s nothing quite like freshly picked asparagus from your own garden. It might sound exaggerated, but I promise you that there’s no comparison between store-bought and homegrown asparagus. So, I’ll share our experience with planting asparagus at our new property. Learning how to grow asparagus is really easy and you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labor for many, many years to come (about 20 for what you plant this year).
We bought 10 acres of land a couple of years ago and after the necessary dividing and getting permissions, last year we build a new house: my dream house!
And while the construction was going on, I just couldn’t sit still. I wanted to start a new garden. There was no water, and we lived several miles away, but that didn’t stop me from searching the web for something to plant!
I always knew I wanted to plant asparagus, and I also knew it would be some time before we could actually enjoy any. So, I went on a mission to learn more about asparagus.
What You'll Be Needing:
Some asparagus are all male, and others are both male and female. If your goal is more production, choose an all-male asparagus variety, such as:
- Jersey Supreme
- Jersey Knight – These are the most sought after for their flavor, texture, powerful nutrients, minerals and fiber, high yields, disease-resistant ability, and hardiness
- Jersey Giant
Since they don’t have to produce seeds, they’ll produce a lot more asparagus spears (as much as 3 times more than the female plants).
If on the other hand, you’d like to propagate asparagus to give to family and friends (or just because you’d like more asparagus), you’ll need asparagus varieties that have both male and female plants, such as Mary Washington.
Can You Grow Asparagus From Seed?
Yes, you can, but you need patience. It will be 3 years before you can eat your new asparagus.
I don’t have that kind of self-control, so I decided to go with crowns. BUT, now that I have a bed of gorgeous asparagus already growing, I plan to experiment with growing it from seed this year. By the end of the summer, I’ll come back and share my experience.
Want to try your hand at growing from seeds? Amazon has an assortment of asparagus seeds here.
How To Grow Asparagus From Crowns
Planting asparagus crowns is easy and straight forward. You need to follow a few important steps, but other than that, there’s not much to the process.
Step 1. Choose your asparagus bed site
Start out by choosing where you want to plant. Asparagus needs well-drained soil and a sunny spot. Think this through, as asparagus is a perennial that will stay in the same spot for 20 or so years.
Do you have any trees nearby that aren’t full size yet, and will eventually shade your asparagus? That’s not a good spot! Clay soil? No good.
Here’s a neighbor helping us prepare our asparagus bed: it’s about 5 feet wide and 24 feet long. He dug quite a bit more because we wanted to add some space around the bed for walking.
After tilling our bed, it sat there a few days while we were busy with other things. As the soil dried, so did the grass, and a few days later we removed clumps of grass and other green matter that were already dry.
Step 2. Amend the soil
Since asparagus will be in the same location for years to come, it’s important that you start out with good nutritious soil. We made 2 trenches about 2 feet apart, and about 18 inches deep.
Next, we added a good rich compost from a local farmer, forming a small mound in the middle of the trench. It’s a good idea to add an organic fertilizer too, depending on your soil. Our soil was really good, and we only added compost.
Step 3. Plant the asparagus crowns
We planted our asparagus crowns 12 – 13 inches apart, on top of the compost mounds we created. After setting the crowns in their place, we tucked the roots on the sides of the mound and added another couple inches of compost.
Step 4. Mulch around the bed
Next, we covered the area around the new plants with a nice thick layer of mulch to keep moisture in and the weeds out.
In between the 2 rows of asparagus, we took even more care: we first laid out some newspaper sheets, and then added the mulch on top. This will hopefully keep the space between rows weed-free.
Step 5. Water your fresh asparagus bed
It’s time to water your new veggie bed. The crowns need to be watered a lot more often until they get established.
We didn’t have water at the new property and had to borrow the neighbor’s hose the first time. Later, we ended up watering by hand. Yes, we transported water in plastic bottles and watered the asparagus by the cupful.
This goes to show that nothing is impossible if you want it bad enough.
Step 6. Stay on top of the weeds
Make sure you keep up with the weeds: it’s a lot easier to pull a few weeds every couple days than have to deal with hundreds of them after they invade your asparagus bed. What I did was go in the morning for 5 minutes to inspect my new babies: a great way to start my day!
Step 7. Don’t eat your asparagus yet!
Look at that adorable baby asparagus! I don’t remember exactly how soon this was, but probably a few weeks after we planted it.
This might be the hardest step in the whole progress. It’s so exciting to see the asparagus come to life! Of course, in the beginning, it will be thin and fragile, but as the summer goes on, they’ll look a lot better.
How to care for your asparagus plants
Once established, asparagus plants are easy to maintain:
- add some compost in the spring
- water them when it doesn’t rain
- pick fresh spears every other day for 4 to 8 weeks, depending on how old your plants are
- don’t pick any of the spears that started turning into ferns
- let the ferns grow, so they can feed the plant
- cut ferns after the first frost, once they turn yellow
- after trimming the ferns, cover the plats with a thick cover of mulch to protect them from the winter cold
FAQ about planting asparagus
Can I grow asparagus in a pot? It’s possible, but not necessarily recommended. Asparagus roots like to spread, so you’ll need to plant one plant per 18″ pot. Not very efficient! Also, the pots would have to be brought inside for the winter, or berried in the ground: otherwise, they would freeze.
Can asparagus grow in shade? It can handle a little bit of shade, but it needs a sunny area to thrive.
Can I grow asparagus from cuttings? I haven’t tried it, but I don’t think so. You can (and should) divide asparagus roots as the years go by and it starts to produce less.
How To Harvest Asparagus?
If you plant 2-year-old crowns, you can start harvesting the second year. Only harvest 3 to 4 weeks, then let the fern grow to strengthen the plants.
After the second year, you can harvest around 6 weeks.
Pick asparagus every other day in the spring: if you wait longer, it will go to fern and you’ll miss out. Gather spears that are 8 to 10 inches tall and ½ to ¾ inch thick.
While it may be tempting to just snap the asparagus as you harvest it, it’s a lot better to use a sharp knife to make sure you don’t accidentally damage the roots.
How To Store Asparagus
Asparagus is best when used fresh. But if you need to store it for a few days, you can wrap it in a damp paper towel and store it in the fridge. You can also gather it up in a bunch and stand it in a glass jar with 1/2 inch of water. Place it in the fridge for a few days.
If you have a big patch of asparagus, you might not be able to consume it all as you harvest it. If that’s the case, you can blanch it and store it in the freezer. It’s a good idea to store it in the right amount needed for a meal.
How To Use Asparagus
At the beginning of the season, I like to eat a few spears fresh from the garden. They are crisp and full of life, something I really need after a dreary winter.
Here are some ways to use asparagus:
- add to fresh salads
- make cream of asparagus soup
For more details, check this post about 7 ways to cook asparagus.
I hope you now know how to grow asparagus in your garden, and enjoy the fruits of your labor for many years to come.