This is a vegetable that people seem to either love or hate with no middle ground. It is one of the first vegetables that you see growing in the spring.
Read on to learn how to grow, plant, and harvest asparagus.
Asparagus – Planting, Growing & Harvesting Guide
1. All About Asparagus
Asparagus is a very tasty vegetable. It is loaded with a lot of minerals and vitamins like folate, copper, iron, and vegetables A, K, and C plus it has a lot of fiber. It is a perennial plant, which means that it will grow every year after it becomes established. In addition to eating it, the ferny foliage makes it a great ornamental plant.
This plant can be grown in most parts of the country and does well in zones 4 thru 9. It can grow in two different types of soil; slightly acidic to neutral and slightly alkaline to neutral. It also needs full sun. It is a plant that grows better in cooler regions that have long winters.
Because asparagus stays around so long, you need to make sure that you plant the best variety for your area. Plant your asparagus in the spring as soon as you can work the soil. They are generally grown from one-year-old plants but you can start them from seeds. On average, if you are planting it for the first time. You should plant 10-20 plants per person who will be eating it. This will take up a row 15 to 30 feet long.
Asparagus plants are fast producers and will send up new spears every few days for weeks in the springtime. The plant, on average, will produce about a half-pound per foot in the spring and early summer. Although it takes a while to be able to harvest them, it is worth the wait.
If you decide to grow from seeds, you will need to soak them in water for at least 24 hours before you sow them. Sow the seeds in seed-starting soil or moistened peat most. Once your plants have reached 12 inches in height, take them outside for a week to harden them off. After the last spring frost, you can them to a temporary bed.
In the fall, after they mature, you need to identify the male asparagus plants, which will be berry-less, and transplant them to the permanent planting place. You can remove the female plants that are not as productive.
When choosing a permanent place to plant your asparagus, find a site that has partial sun. You can also plant it toward the edge of your garden so it will not be disturbed by the replanting of other areas. Make sure that it will drain well and not pool water. If you have no area that drains well, you can grow then in a raised bed. Make sure that there are no weeds in the planting area. Work in some aged manure or compost. Loosen up the soil to 12-15 inches in dept. The plants should not be disrupted by rocks.
If you are planting small plants or crowns, dig a trench six to eight inches deep and a trench 12 to 18 inches wide. Soak the crowns briefly in lukewarm water. Make a ridge of soil in the center of the trench and put the crowns on top, evenly spreading out their roots. Fill in the trenches with compost and soil and then lightly water.
After you have planted your asparagus crowns, add four to six inches of mulch. The biggest problem with growing asparagus is that during the first two years you will have to manage the weeds. Since their roots cannot be disturbed you will have to hand pull the weeds gently.
As the plants fill in, the weeds will become less of an issue. To help reduce weed growth and keep the soil moist, you should mulch around the plants with grass clippings or compost.
The plants will need one to two inches of water each week for the first two years. If there is not adequate rainfall, you will have to water the plants using drip irrigation if you can. They also need a steady supply of plant food so use organic fertilizer, following the instructions on the product.
When you are growing asparagus, you should not harvest it for the first couple of seasons. The reason is that the plants need to mature before you can harvest them and it takes that long for them to mature. You will have your patience rewarded because the bed of asparagus will be productive for 15 to 20 years, sometimes as long as 30 years.
In the first year, you will need to cut out any dead foliage in the fall and then use compost to side-dress. In the second year, you should harvest for only three to four weeks. In the spring and early fall, you need to use compost to side-dress.
During the third year, the asparagus will be in full production so you can start to harvest it sparingly all season, which can last from two to eight weeks, depending on the maturity of the plant.
Check for harvest-ready spear every day. You can harvest them when they reach eight to ten inches. Harvest by cutting the spears even with the ground with a sharp knife. Stop harvesting when the spears decrease to the size of a pencil.
As you can see, growing asparagus is not that hard but it takes at least two years before you can harvest and have some of the delicious asparagus for dinner. This vegetable has one unique feature besides a long time before harvest.
You need to be able to tell the female plant from the male plant because the male plants are more productive than the females. There are different varieties of asparagus and each has its own zone that they grow best in and get a larger harvest. Asparagus is good for your health and a cup has just 40 calories so enjoy.