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
  • Asparagus Spears
    Asparagus is an excellent source of folacin, a B vitamin that helps keep the circulatory system strong, and it’s a good source of potassium and vitamin C.
    KEITH WARD
  • Asparagus Beetles
    Asparagus beetles overwinter in plant debris, so removing fronds in winter will reduce their numbers.
    KEITH WARD

  • growing asparagus
  • Asparagus Spears
  • Asparagus Beetles

(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.

Quinnster
12/1/2018 3:32:10 PM

Tim I read once that asparagus grown in deciduous shade in warm climates, such as zone 9, will produce in spears in fall. Do you need to cut the fronds 2 inches from the ground in late summer the first year to establish that as the pattern for the plants, or is it better to wait until the 2nd 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






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