7 Top Tips for Growing Asparagus
Asparagus makes a yummy side dish, often sautéed with a little butter or grilled for a steak and potato plate. If you want to enjoy the vegetable straight from your garden, you need to know how to properly grow the plants. A well-done asparagus bed can yield you a bountiful crop year after year!
We cook a lot of asparagus around here, in fact, I have shared several recipes on the blog:
Parmesan Oven Roasted Asparagus Recipe (one of my favorites – and SO easy!)
Asparagus and Corn Salad Recipe (awesome for summer picnics!)
Asparagus Parmesan Cheese Crescent Roll (wonderful for holiday meals)
It takes time to grow a nice harvest of asparagus but once planted correctly and tended to, you can enjoy these plants for years and years. Read on for seven tips for growing appetizing asparagus that you will enjoy each year.
1. Choose the variety of asparagus you plan to grow based on your climate.
There are different kinds of asparagus, and not all grow equally. Here in Idaho, asparagus is commonly referred to as “ditch weed” and let me tell you, we have spent many an afternoon walking ditch banks as a family during prime asparagus picking season. My husband is a veterinarian and many of his clients have offered up their ditch banks and you don’t have to ask us twice! The seasons are short though, so you have to be ready, and depending on where you live, this will mean figuring out what peak times are in your area.
Ask at your local garden center, but you will definitely want to pick a variety that matches your climate. If you live in a cooler area, go for a variety that emerges later in the season like the “Guelph Millennium”. “UC-157” thrives in warmer climates because it can withstand the heat better than other kinds.
2. Ensure the planting area is well suited and well prepared.
Where you plant your asparagus is very important. Choose a well-drained area that gets at least seven hours of sun exposure every day.
Asparagus plants will not stand up against lots of weeds. It’s important that you clean up the area, removing any sign of weeds or grass. It may be necessary to begin clearing the area a year in advance, if you want the best chance for your produce.
3. Prevent future weeds or grass in your asparagus bed with mulch.
Even a well-prepared area can fall victim to intruders after you’ve planted your asparagus. Before you plant, mulch the area with dead grass and straw. Weed the space often, using caution with tools. You don’t want to damage the asparagus roots that grow just beneath the surface of the soil. It’s ideal to weed by hand around your asparagus.
4. Plant asparagus crowns in your garden in May.
While a few varieties can be grown from a seed, most gardeners start with asparagus crowns (a 1 year old plant). You’ll be able to pick these up from your local gardening store in April or May. If you go with a seed variety, start growing them indoors and transplant to your bed in 12 to 14 weeks.
5. Create shallow trenches for your asparagus.
A trench about 12 inches deep and 12 inches wide is sufficient for your crowns. Set the crowns 15 to 18 inches apart so they have ample room to grow. Do not plant anything else in the area, as asparagus doesn’t like to have competition at all!
6. Give your plants lots of phosphorus.
As they grow, asparagus plants thrive when there is lots of phosphorus present in the soil. This can be found in composted manure as well as compost made from your kitchen wastes. Mix the compost into your soil prior to planting for best results.
7. Go easy on picking after the first year.
If you want your asparagus to grow and be fruitful for several years, you want to give it time to become established in your garden. After the first year, you shouldn’t pick more than a few spears from each plant. Harvest will last for about two-three weeks after year one.
Watch your plants closely though so that you don’t miss the harvest window! Break off spears that are 4 or more inches, separating them from the plant down at the soil line and snapping them off (my preferred method) although some people do like to use a knife or shears, I don’t like this method because it can cause damage to surrounding buds and it could also spread disease. Check your plants daily for spears that are ready to be picked!