All About Growing Asparagus

Growing asparagus requires some attention early on, but once the plants are established they'll be productive for years.


| December 2010/January 2011



growing asparagus

Plant once, harvest for years: growing asparagus in a well-maintained bed can provide you with sweet, slender veggies for up to 15 years. In addition, its vibrant, ferny foliage makes an excellent ornamental. Shown here, from left to right, are ‘Jersey Giant,’ ‘Purple Passion’ and fronds of a mature asparagus plant.


ILLUSTRATION: KEITH WARD

(For details on growing many other vegetables and fruits, visit our Crop at a Glance collection page.)

Gardeners have been growing asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) for more than 2,000 years, and this sweet, slender veggie’s staying power is no surprise: A well-maintained asparagus bed will start bearing one year after planting and will stay productive for 10 to 15 years.

A hardy perennial adapted in Zones 3 to 8, asparagus grows best in well-drained soil with a near-neutral pH between 6.5 and 7.5. The edible part of the asparagus plant is the young stem shoot, which emerges as soil temperatures rise above 50 degrees Fahrenheit in spring.

Types to Try

Because asparagus stays productive for so long, it’s important to plant the best variety available for your area. In cold climates, ‘Guelph Millennium’ and other varieties that emerge late often escape damage from spring freezes. In warm climates, early, heat-tolerant varieties such as ‘Apollo’ and ‘UC-157’ produce well before the weather turns hot. Gardeners in Zones 4 to 6 have a wider selection of varieties, including ‘Jersey Giant,’ ‘Jersey Knight’ and other hybrids bred in New Jersey for improved disease resistance and better productivity.

When to Plant

Plant asparagus crowns (dormant roots of 1-year-old plants) in spring at about the same time you would plant potatoes, but don’t rush to plant them if your soil is still cold. A few varieties, such as open-pollinated ‘Purple Passion’ and hybrid ‘Sweet Purple,’ can be grown from seed. Start seeds indoors in spring and set out the seedlings when they are 12 to 14 weeks old, just after your last spring frost. Start with asparagus crowns, however, to eliminate the year of tedious weeding that comes with starting from seed.

How to Plant

Choose a site with fertile soil that’s clear of perennial weeds and grasses. A single row of asparagus plants set 15 inches apart will fill in to form a 24- inch-wide bed, or you can grow a double row in a 36-inch-wide bed. Locate asparagus along the back or side of your garden, as 5-foot-tall asparagus fronds will shade any nearby plants. A bed of 25 mature plants will produce about 10 pounds of asparagus per year.

sweetbee
11/2/2015 9:43:45 AM

I have some asparagus that I planted this spring in small pots. I live in north eastern Kentucky and have been told that young plants can’t survive the winters here and that I should over winter them, and then plant them in the spring. Does anyone know if keeping them in the pots of dirt would be ok?


greenwoodnursery
9/16/2014 12:11:52 AM

Hi SherryB, There are a few things that might be causing the thin stalks. Double check the depth of the plants. There should be at least 3 inches of soil above the crown. Shallow planting is one of the most common reasons for thin stalks. Other reasons for thin asparagus stalks are that they need plant food or the plants not being in full sun. It takes about 4 or so years for bare root asparagus plants to attain size to produce thicker stalks. It's possible that the plants were smaller than usual when planted and need an extra year or two to catch up. These reasons are a good starting point for you to check on your plants. http://www.greenwoodnursery.com/


sherryb
5/20/2014 5:16:42 PM

Help. I really need advice. I am on my forth year with my asparagus and the stalks keep getting thinner and have the texture of a twig. I am not sure what to do but if someone can help I would appreciate it. Thanks Sherry


bcactus
2/25/2014 2:09:21 PM

I was reviewing content for my web site http://cactusblooms.org when I came across your site. I plan on using my site as blog for this growing season and was hoping for a reciprical link - I did put one on my site back to your planning a garden article. Thanks, BC


tnbackyardfarmer
11/7/2013 5:15:43 PM

ATTN. bob farabaugh If you haven't found out by now...yes. Ladybugs were swarming my asparagus this year - most likely for the asparagus beetles. The asparagus beetles seemed to get the head start (and I always hand-pick them when I see them - just hold your hand a few inches underneath them and try to touch them with the other hand; they'll drop straight down into your open hand). Later in the season, dozens of ladybugs and ladybug larvae were all over the asparagus.


kim
8/15/2013 11:57:41 AM

How do you tell male from female plants when you first buy them? Some of my ferns have had seed pods on them already. Now they are on the ground an they are red in color.


kim
8/15/2013 11:49:00 AM

I have a large asparagus patch in Rapid City, SD. They are now tall and blowing in the wind. Can I replant them in North Dakota? Do I have to wait to they die down? or do can cut them back.


alexandra proctor
4/27/2012 6:43:53 PM

I have read how deep and widely spaced they are planted directly affects asparagus width... "Shallower planting depths cause production of spindly, thin spears, whereas deeply planted crowns produce fewer spears of larger diameter and emergence is delayed." - http://www.netafimusa.com/files/literature/agriculture/other-literature/crop-applications/Asparagus-Production-Manual.pdf So maybe building up soil height each year with manure and compost and mulch will keep older plants thicker.


gail simpson
10/30/2011 6:22:00 PM

I have a raised bed for my asparagus, this is its 3rd year, I started with sets from a dutch bulb company. The sets have produced this year but I am thinking that I may have set them in upside down. Are the fingers supposed to go upward or downward when planting. I want to grow more but do not want to plant them incorrectly. I have maybe 2 spears a week so I just wash and eat them raw.


larry puckett
3/5/2011 4:33:39 PM

Sulfur will make your soil more acid not less. Add crushed limestone to the soil if it is acidic.


bob farabaugh
1/26/2011 11:33:31 AM

In my area the European lady beetle is rampant. They winter over in buildings and wake on on warm days to look for food. Does anyone know how far they range? My asparagus is 75 yards from the house. I see them in the basement and garage every spring. I wonder if they would control the asparagus beetles.


mimi winter
1/6/2011 12:01:50 AM

My asperagus spears come up thin and spindly. Anyone have any suggestions of what I can do to make the spears get bigger (fatter)? I live in arizona and the soil is pretty lifeless. I amended with composted soil, and added sulfer to cut the acidity, but they are still too thin.






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