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Growing Asparagus from Seed

| 5/4/2016 9:13:00 AM

Home-grown 'Purple Passion' asparagus emerging from the ground.

It’s a common misconception in the home gardening arena that asparagus is a crop that should never be started from seed. I am not sure when this became the standard dogma, but it is far from the actual truth. Asparagus is a crop that thrives when started from seed and those plants that are derived from home-grown stock tend to be larger and more robust than store-bought crowns.

My husband and I are co-owners of a small, diversified organic vegetable farm in Central Washington. We have been farming professionally for the last 10 years but before that time, we were avid home gardeners with an above average interest in homesteading. We first started asparagus from seed before we knew better. No one had ever told us that it couldn’t be done, so we tried it.

Starting Asparagus Seeds

It all started when we purchased several very expensive crowns of a variety of asparagus known as 'Purple Passion'. We planted them in, what seemed to be, ideal soil conditions and allowed them to fully mature during the first season, forgoing the urge to harvest the gorgeous deep purple stems that began to erupt from the ground.

To our surprise, upon maturing, the asparagus took on a fern-like appearance and grew to a height of approximately 3 feet. At this point, we did not cut the plants back, hoping that this top growth would give the asparagus the opportunity to photosynthesize throughout the summer, creating enough food to allow the root mass to bulk up for a more robust crop the following season.

Upon observation in the fall, we noted that several of the crowns produced tops that were covered in small ball-like fruits (females). These fruits eventually matured from green to bright red. When we popped open these little ripe ‘berries’ we found that they contained several hard, black seeds. On a whim, we gathered up ‘berries’ from several different plants and brought them inside to dry.

7/1/2019 11:24:03 AM

Great article, thank you. But this is the first time I have read about leaving the thin stalks. I usually read to quit cutting based on time or the proverbial "before the last stalks" but I haven't read about asparagus that will tell you which stalks are the last. I'll have to research more about the "thin stalk" idea.

5/27/2018 5:35:23 PM

I planted more asparagus this year and I have lots of little ferns about 4" high spaced approx 2-3 inches apart in the garden should I let them grow like that or thin them or transplant at a certain height? Its may 2018 maybe too late to transplant...not sure what to do.

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