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How to Grow Asparagus Successfully

Learn how to grow asparagus and reap the rewards of your own permanent asparagus garden bed for many years.

When Do You Plant Asparagus? Plant your bed of asparagus crowns in either early Spring or Fall. Sourcing asparagus crowns is easiest in early spring. For Fall Planting divide established asparagus crowns and plant them before freezing temperatures set in.

How Long does asparagus take to get started? You can lightly harvest asparagus after two years. It takes three years of nurturing your asparagus plants to produce strong, thriving plants that can withstand normal harvesting.

Growing an asparagus bed requires a certain amount of commitment from you, the gardener, and long range planning. However, The payback in nutrient and flavor from Asparagus plants grown in your garden gives you the best return of any vegetable you can grow.

You’ll harvest that crop of fresh asparagus for many years with only slight maintenance once the bed is established.

plant asparagus-first year spears
Vigorous first year asparagus shoots in our new asparagus bed.

Dave and I grow asparagus. It took us a long time to make the commitment to a dedicated asparagus bed. But now that we have fresh asparagus popping up for months each spring we are so glad we did. Visit our garden at our Homemade food Junkie Site.

Learn how to Roast asparagus for the table at our homemade food junkie site and make asparagus into yummy recipes.

Asparagus bundle
Store bought asparagus is set in water upright to keep it fresh because it has a high respiration rate.

You will never appreciate the value of eating asparagus straight from the garden until you do. it is so much tastier than store bought.

Due to it’s very fast respire rate, Asparagus is one of the vegetables most adversely affected by long term storage.  It quickly degrades nutritionally. This is one crop that is best fresh picked for premium flavor and nutrients.

Information and Tips on Planting Asparagus Bare Root Crowns:

  1. What is the difference between asparagus roots and crowns? We call asparagus roots crowns once the roots reach one year old.
  2. How long will bare root asparagus last? At least 7 years in proper conditions. Possibly longer. Your Asparagus BED will last much longer. To keep your asparagus bed going you add new crowns in with the old ones every three to five years to refresh your bed.
  3. Choose Bare Root Crowns best suited to your climate zone:
  4. Choose an all-male variety if high yield is your primary goal.  Our local nursery recommends the Jersey Knight variety. It grows well here and is prolific in our garden zone 8a.
  5. When should you buy Asparagus bare root crowns? Buy asparagus bare root crown when they become available in Spring. Have your asparagus bed ready to plant and get the crowns quickly into the ground so they don’t lose strength.
  6. HOW MANY crowns do you need? About 10 to 12 plants per person for fresh eating. More as you prefer.
  7. Plant asparagus from 1-year-old crowns. That gives you a year’s head start over seed-grown plants. Two-year-old crowns are usually not a bargain. They tend to suffer more from transplant shock and won’t produce any faster than 1-year-old crowns.
  8. Buy crowns from a reputable nursery that sells fresh, firm, disease-free roots suited to your climate zone. Plant them immediately if possible; otherwise, wrap them in slightly damp sphagnum moss until you are ready to plant.
  9. Should Asparagus crowns be soaked before planting? Soak your asparagus crowns 8 to 12 hours immediately before planting in prepared beds.
plant asparagus from bare root crowns for many years of harvest.
A well planted first year asparagus bed. Healthy crowns shooting up spears.

Select and prepare your asparagus bed with care

  • Your permanent Asparagus bed will occupy the same spot for 20 years or more. So think carefully about where it will go.
  • Asparagus can tolerate some shade, but full sun produces the most vigorous plants and helps minimize disease.
  • Asparagus needs a DEDICATED bed. Your yield will be adversely affected if you plant other crops in the bed with it.
Garden bed for asparagus. Plant asparagus
Dave chose to use 1/2 of his long raised bed for his permanent asparagus bed. The area is about 12 x 4 feet. Strawberries are on the other end of the bed. We may need to move them. Strawberries are very pushy garden companions.

How Do you plant Asparagus Crowns in Raised Beds?

We are firm believers in the value of growing asparagus in raised garden beds. Here’s why

  • Raised Garden beds are easily amended and weeded.
  • A raised asparagus bed won’t get accidentally squished by a wheelbarrow or in the way of other lower garden crops as the years go by.
  • Plant asparagus in a place that allows you to rotate other crops easily.
  • It’s logistically easier to weed, amend the soil and harvest asparagus in a dedicated raised bed.
  • The soil will warm quicker too for an earlier harvest time. (You can could push that timeline even further by hooping the beds with plastic).
asparagus bed. Plant asparagus
A dedicated raised garden bed makes Asparagus much easier to manage.

Here’s A quick video of tips for planting your own asparagus in a raised bed. It says two years to harvest and that is true. However over harvesting in your first two years will reduce the vitality of the crowns. So just pick a few fresh asparagus spears in year two.

Your first big harvest will occur in year three.

How Do You Prepare Soil For Asparagus?

  1. Asparagus does best in fertile, lighter soils that warm up quickly in spring and drain well.
  2. Heavy wet or water logged soils keep moisture around the roots too long causing root rot. Asparagus does best when well watered, but the soil must drain well.
  3. Prepare a planting bed about 4 feet wide by removing all perennial weeds and roots and digging in plenty of aged manure or compost.
  4. Asparagus is a heavy feeder so amend the soil before (or while) planting the crowns.
  5. Those roots need years of fertile, nurturing soil to grow and get established.
  6. Use organic garden soil and mix it into the bed around the crowns when planting.
  7. Any good organic garden soil will work or good aged compost if your soil structure is already light with good water and nutrient retention.
Asparagus crowns in a dirt trench.
Asparagus crowns are planted in a trench. The roots are arranged over a dirt mound for each crown.

Planting Asparagus in Bare Root Crowns:

While planting asparagus from seeds is possible, for most home gardeners planting bare root crowns is a better experience. Growing asparagus takes years from planting crowns to harvest. Seeds take even longer.

planting asparagus crowns in a dirt trench.
Plant asparagus crowns 1 1/2 feet apart.
shoveling dirt on asparagus bed.
Keep adding dirt a couple of inches at a time over the next few weeks to set the crowns properly.
asparagus spears-first year
Asparagus Spears emerging from two crowns. Notice the spear form distinct groupings. Over time the spear will merge together as the roots grow. These crowns were properly spaced to allow future growth of the crowns.

At the end of the growing season unharvested asparagus stalks grow long and make asparagus ferns with inedible red berries.

asparagus fern with berries
at season end asparagus stalks go to seed if left unharvested. They form into Asparagus ferns and make red berries like this.

Dead head these ferns back before the next growing season.

How Long before a mature Asparagus harvest?

THIS is the hard part.

The first two years let the asparagus go to fern. This helps the crown under the soil mature and develop. You can snag a spear or two to see if you like the variety you chose but NO heavy harvesting.

When you plant asparagus expect to wait three years for a truly good harvest you can actually enjoy.

Over harvesting spears the first several years will weaken the crowns and make a less productive bed. keep the bed fertilized, mulched and watered.

How to correctly harvest Asparagus:

Once the beds matures asparagus stalks will get larger and stronger.

Harvesting asparagus

Once the asparagus bed is mature look for firm asparagus stalks 5 or more inches high with CLOSED tips. Open tips indicate over ripe (going to seed) asparagus.

Use a sharp knife or pruners to cut the spears off at or just below the soil line.

Your Printable Planting Guide:

We hope this printable guide to growing Asparagus from bare root crowns is helpful to you. Please ask us questions and share your experiences with us.

Have you grown this crop? How do you plant asparagus? Where are you and how is it going? Our readers love to read the comment tips.

Yield: Asparagus bed

How to Grow Asparagus Successfully

growing asparagus

Follow this guide to grow your own permanent asparagus bed. It will last up to 20 years and give you fresh nutritious and delicious asparagus every spring.

Prep Time 2 hours
Active Time 6 hours
Additional Time 3 years
Total Time 3 years 8 hours
Difficulty medium

Instructions

Asparagus Planting Process-Year one.


Prepare the crowns:

  1. Soak the bare root asparagus crowns for about 20 minutes (or according to the package directions) in vitamin B solution to help them easily transition to the new bed. You can also use a compost tea for soaking the crowns if you prefer.


Prepare the beds:

  1. Dig trenches 12 inches wide and 6 to 12 inches deep. The bed depth can vary due to your variety and local conditions so be sure to check with your local nurser.
  2. Dave put three trenches in side by side about 6 inches deep and 12 feet long. We live in zone 4 to 8 micro climates. Mostly temperate with occasional winter Arctic winds.
  3. NOW BUILD A MOUND of dirt for each crown and arrange the crown roots evenly around the mound. So the crowns are topping at about 4 inches under your bed top line.


Plant the Asparagus Crowns

  1. Place the crowns in the trenches 1½ to 2 feet apart. The crown mounds should be far enough apart the roots of one crown do not touch any other. 
  2. They need room to grow over the years and make room for the crowns to grow and expand.
  3. Top the crowns with 2 to 3 inches of soil.


Maintaining the beds

  1. Two weeks later, add another inch or two of soil.
  2. Continue adding soil periodically until the soil is completely settled and slightly mound above surface level. The bed will settle even more over the year and those crowns need to remain covered with soil
  3. Keep adding dirt a couple of inches at a time over the next few weeks to set the crowns properly.
  4. Once the dirt is properly mounded on the bed Apply mulch (Dave used straw) to smother weeds and retain water and nutrients to the crowns.
  5. Carefully remove any weeds that do appear as they compete with the crowns for water and nutrients.
  6. Water regularly after planting.


Fall Winter and Spring Maintenance:

  1. MULCH your bed through the winter to provide protection from the cold and keep it moist.
  2. Top-dress the asparagus bed with a good all purpose 10-10-10 fertilizer or compost tea or a balanced organic fertilizer like Doctor Earth.

How Long before harvest?

  1. THIS is the hard part.
  2. When you plant asparagus expect to wait three years for a truly good harvest you can actually enjoy.
  3. YEAR ONE: A few spears the first year are ok for a taste but leave most of them alone. The roots need time to grow and support the plant spears.
  4. Over harvesting spears the first several years will weaken the crowns and make a less productive bed.
  5. Keep the bed fertilized, mulched and watered.
  6. YEAR TWO: You can take about half the crop. keep the bed fertilized, mulched and watered. Let those roots develop!
  7. YEAR THREE: you should have a vigorous crop of asparagus that you can harvest as you wish. Continue to care for your bed and the plants will multiply themselves and reward your hard work.

Maintenance of beds:

  1. Be sure to Remove and dead head the bed asparagus fern like foliage before new growth appears in spring. It can harbor diseases and pests.
  2. Every spring before the new spears emerge weed the asparagus bed.
  3. Carefully dig in holdover mulch and compost (avoid disturbing the crowns).
  4. Apply fresh deep mulch, like straw to hold the weeds down and help retain moisture.
  5. Continue to mulch the bed and fertilize with good compost to refresh the crowns every year and to keep weeds down.


How to correctly harvest Asparagus:

When the spears emerge and grow 5 inches tall or so you can harvest them from your mature three year bed.

Be sure to harvest before the tops go to seed. The tops should be completely closed. The stalks firm.

Use a sharp knife and cut the spears off just below the soil line. Long term Maintenance of your asparagus bed:

Asparagus in year one and two will grow into asparagus ferns since you are leaving the stalks unharvested. You can allow these fronds to mature and go through winter. They will grow red berries. Very festive.

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resource:

HomemadeFoodJunkie.com-Ulitmate Success Guide-Plant Asparagus from bare root crowns

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