Tips for Transplanting Asparagus

Transplanting asparagus is the only way to get full production in the first spring following planting, and it's the best way to rescue an overcrowded asparagus patch.

| September/October 1983

  • asparagus-seedling
    An asparagus seedling will produce only leaves. It may come up in an established bed, or in the most unpredictable places!
    PHOTO: SHARON MCALLISTER
  • asparagus-yearling
    A yearling plant may develop a tiny spear, but it quickly opens and at that point is no longer worth harvesting.
    SHARON MCALLISTER
  • mattock-asparagus-clump
    A mattock can be used to pry up an asparagus clump by inserting the blade beneath the plant's root system.
    SHARON MCALLISTER
  • asparagus-plant
    When this clump was divided, it produced 250 plants!
    SHARON MCALLISTER
  • spading-fork
    A spading fork makes the transplanting procedure easier on a gardener's back.
    SHARON MCALLISTER
  • washing-asparagus-plant
    Washing away the dirt will help you see how to untangle individual plants from a clump.
    SHARON MCALLISTER
  • asparagus-plant-roots
    The crowns of this asparagus are spent, but it still has some healthy roots. If planted, it will produce small, new shoots, but it will be several years be fore it yields any eating-sized spears.
    SHARON MCALLISTER
  • asparagus-roots
    The young plant on the right has round, firm roots (although a few are stunted from lack of growing space), while the roots of the "mother plant" (on the left) are limp and exhausted.
    SHARON MCALLISTER
  • asparagus-crown
    Each plant you move should have a healthy crown like the one shown here, if you want it to produce edible spears when spring arrives.
    SHARON MCALLISTER

  • asparagus-seedling
  • asparagus-yearling
  • mattock-asparagus-clump
  • asparagus-plant
  • spading-fork
  • washing-asparagus-plant
  • asparagus-plant-roots
  • asparagus-roots
  • asparagus-crown

There's one good reason for not transplanting asparagus: It's a lot of work! However, it's also the only way to get full production in the first spring following planting.

My original asparagus patch, for example, was started with two-year-old commercial plants. But five years later, I transplanted some ten-year-old crowns from a neighbor's garden, and when spring rolled around, these transplants—in spite of having been recently moved—actually outproduced the younger (seven years old), established plants. What's more, they were free for the digging.

But (naturally!) there is one catch: If you don't know just how to handle the scavenged plants, your only reward will be improved muscle tone from all the additional gardening exercise. And should you consult the "experts" for advice, most of them will simply tell you that it's easier to buy new plants.

Well, of course it's easier, but you may have more energy than money, you may not want to wait several years for the payoff, or your present patch may have become overcrowded and so unproductive that it won't satisfy your family's appetite for this delicious, healthful spring crop. (Just 100 grams of asparagus contains 2.2 grams of protein and at least 900 units of vitamin A and beta carotene, a component that many people feel has great potential as a cancer preventive.)



Finding Asparagus Transplant Candidates

If you don't have a crowded "sparrowgrass" patch of your own to raid for transplants, you'll have to search one out. Fortunately, this perennial is quite hardy, and will live for years on abandoned homesteads. When such a site has enough rainfall to nurture old fruit trees, any asparagus that's been planted has probably survived as well. (Remember, even abandoned farms belong to someone, so seek out permission before you start digging.)

In drier parts of the country, "wild" asparagus, which is simply the wayward offspring of the garden plant, is sometimes found along streams and irrigation banks. Neighbors' plots can often provide sources of transplants, too. Although a properly tended bed can be productive for up to 50 years, it will become overcrowded long before that. In fact, if an old plot is dug up and the plants are divided, it will supply enough crowns to plant an area larger than the original patch, and—as a bonus—that same space will actually produce more edible shoots after it's been thinned. Therefore, one of the best ways to get plants of known quality is to exchange the time and labor spent thinning and replanting another gardener's patch for a share of the extra plants. Take heed, though, you might wind up with more asparagus than you know what to do with. I once dug up an 18-inch-diameter clump that yielded more than 250 plants (at least we found out why it wasn't bearing!).

Linda
4/8/2013 2:16:42 AM

I can't believe this article has been here since 1983. I just found it and what a great site. Every thing I needed to know I found here. Thanks. This was my first harvest year for asparagus. Wonderful! Lots of tender large shoots. Great raw or steamed. It is such a delightful plant. Just makes me smile.







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