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.

kid3ds
11/10/2017 12:39:56 AM

Attention SweetBee: When I moved here, Zone 1b, my garden was not ready but I wanted to get the asparagus started to I Planted the seeds in the long rectangular patio pots amost to the bottom. Then dug a hole and put the patio pot right into the ground with the top level with the soil. Next spring the garden was created, and I just pulled the crowns apart just like nursery onions, and placed them into their permanent home. That was 16 years ago and they are still going strong. We get really cold weather and about 3 ft of snow that stays all winter.so if they will not be protected with snow lay some straw or leaves over the sunken patio pot. I would also mark it well so no one travels over it.


wezzie
11/9/2017 7:07:18 PM

I have e transplanted a lot of asparagus and it is a lot of work because the roots grow so deep so if you have shallow soil you may not have the best luck I also have started from seed this takes 3 to 4 years I also have used crowns this is the fastest easiest way the crowns will have roots that look like fingers that go down and little buds that go up I live in Iowa zone 5 so I plant mine about 4 to 5 ins. deep and get thick spears I don't know of any way to tell if a plant is male or female till it grow big and gets berries or not but I let them both grow The males may get more spears but I do not think it is much and I have not had a problem with reseeding I hope this helps


wezzie22
11/9/2017 7:07:16 PM

I have started a lot of asparagus from transplants that I have dug up it is a lot of work because the roots are so deep so if you are trying to grow in shallow soil you may not have the best luck I also have started from seed this is much less work but takes much longer 3 to 4 years getting crowns is the best way to start the crowns will have roots that look like fingers that go down and small buds that go up I live in Iowa so I plant mine about 4 to 5 in. deep There is no way that I know of to tell if a plant is male or female till it grows and gets berries or not


rtist4u
11/8/2017 10:54:46 PM

I don't have a yard to plant in, (no dirt!) so I utilize alternate means of gardening: old cast-iron bathtubs (that my dog loves to dig in!) and old tires. I planted some asparagus in the tires in years past, and they were coming up, but spindly and they died last year. Can anyone confirm at what depth I should plant my new crowns next year, and at what time of the year should I plant? Also, I wonder how far down the roots need space for? I am doubling up the tires this time, too.I reside in zone 7-8.


ir4iam
11/8/2017 10:54:44 PM

I don't have a yard to plant in, so I use a variety of alternative methods. Currently, I'm utilizing old tires and cast iron bathtubs. But, my dog likes to dig in those. So, for ext year, when I go to the store & buy crowns, please provide some expertise in when I should plant them in the tires (I tried planting single depth, but I'm thinking double depth will be better!) and about deep? And,m can I leave them in the tires overwinter? I reside in zone7-8.


crosslandaj
11/8/2017 10:49:28 AM

If you water with 5 gallons of water that has 1 pound of salt dissolved in it. I only know 2 plant that love salt. That would be poison Ivy and asparagus. The other weeds will be killed or retarded. Use Hot water to make it easier to dissolve the salt, but let it cool off before drenching your asparagus patch.. Use enough to really drench your patch.


robert
8/5/2017 2:24:32 PM

We started gardening and we were gone wrong. We could not figure out why we were not getting the beautiful vegetables we were hoping for. People suggest to spray chemicals for vegetables and fruits but is poison and it is not organic vegetables. My lab professor referred a guide it helps me to grow my gardening as what we like, you can get the guide from here >> ( http://go2l.ink/plants ) <<. I have recommended this system to all of my friends and family. We got good organic natural vegetables and fruits in the next harvest, one of the beautiful products in the market...*


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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