Trying to remember when different seeds need to be planted in your garden at what time of the year can be frustrating. But with asparagus, all you need to do is plant it once and every spring it will magically pop up, gifting you with a delicious and healthy crop.
When to plant asparagus? The best time to plant asparagus is in early spring, either March or April. You will need to do a fair bit of digging but once the ground is no longer frozen you can get out. With a bit of preparation, you can adequately create a welcoming environment for your asparagus. This way it will thrive and continue to produce year after year.
Planting Asparagus in Different Climates
While asparagus might enjoy the summer times of tropical climates, they need long and cold winters which a tropical climate just can’t provide.
Asparagus loves long, cold winters and a dry climate is often not able to provide this. If there is not enough moisture in the soil, then asparagus will not grow.
The best climate for asparagus is a temperate climate. The cooler summer months help preserve the vegetable and the winter months are often cold enough to create a robust plant.
The long, cold winters of a continental climate are great for asparagus. However, hotter summer months mean that more water needs to be used to keep the plant cool.
Unfortunately, asparagus is not able to grow in a polar climate as it is far too cold.
Choosing Asparagus Seeds
There are both male and female asparagus plants and because males don’t grow berries, and therefore instead use their energy simply to grow, male plants are preferred.
While you can purchase seeds, asparagus crowns are preferred as they are already a year old and thus you won’t have to wait as long before being able to eat them.
Some of the better varieties to choose include Jersey Giant and Jersey Knight.
If you live in a warmer climate, then Apollo is a good variety whereas if you live in a cooler climate, Guelph Millennium are better as they tend to grow after the threat of frost has passed.
While you may have seen white asparagus in the store, this is actually not a variety. Instead, it is specially grown where there is no sunlight, so is not a practical option for the home backyard.
How to Plant Asparagus Seeds
Asparagus plants need quite a bit of time to get going. They don’t emerge from the ground until the spring but, unlike other plants that come up at this time, asparagus should not be planted in the fall but instead the previous spring.
As soon as spring occurs and the ground is no longer frozen, you can start getting ready to plant your asparagus.
There are two ways to plant asparagus: via seed or from asparagus crowns.
Growing asparagus from crowns is the easier way. Essentially, a root structure with a cluster of root tips is known as a crown, and it is actually an asparagus plant that is one-year old.
Alternately, some varieties can be grown from seed. For best results, start the seeds inside at the beginning of spring and about 12 weeks later, after the last frost, you can transplant them to the garden.
When selecting a place for your asparagus bed, you want an area that has full sun. The one important tip when planning where you plant your asparagus is to choose an area that is off to the side. Because asparagus is perennial, and therefore comes back every year, you don’t want to accidentally dig it up.
With the garden, be sure to include 2 to 3 inches of organic matter, such as compost. This will start the soil off with plenty of nutrients.
Another matter to consider with your soil is that there is proper drainage. Because asparagus roots don’t like to get wet, you want soil that is not compact and therefore can drain properly. If are concerned about your soil, you may want to consider a raised garden bed.
The next step in preparing your garden is to start digging. Asparagus crowns need a lot of room to grow and they also need to be protected from the perennial weeds that will grow above them.
Take a shovel and dig a trench that is about 12 inches deep. This will loosen the soil for better drainage and root management. Then, fill the hole back in so that it is only 6 inches deep.
The easiest way is to place the asparagus crowns inside the trench so that they are 12 inches apart. Then, cover the crowns with dirt and start waiting.
How to Water Asparagus
Even when underground, your asparagus still needs plenty of water. Aim for about 1 to 2 inches of water for every square foot, once a week.
If possible, consider drip irrigation so that the water has a chance to really permeate deep into the soil.
How to Grow Asparagus
In the first few years, the roots of asparagus are pretty delicate, which is one of the reasons why you need to wait until they are older to start picking them.
Weeds are the biggest issue when growing asparagus as you don’t want them to get big enough that the roots of weeds disturb those of asparagus. Pay attention to the area and remove weeds gently as soon as they grow.
You can always put down a 2-inch layer of mulch over the asparagus bed. This will help prevent weeds from growing in the area.
In the first two years, you can cut back any asparagus that has grown. Do this during the fall, once the plant starts to become dormant again.
Even though you might not get to see it, your asparagus is growing all the time. Therefore, it needs a steady stream of nutrients. Add compost around the asparagus bed as well as an organic fertilizer.
In addition to weeds, another threat to your plants are asparagus beetles. If your asparagus spears are starting to turn brown or bend, then this is a sign of an infestation.
If you see any asparagus beetles, remove them from the plant by hand before destroying them. Also look for collections of eggs and once fall hits, remove the foliage that could house more eggs.
How long does it take to grow asparagus?
The short answer is that asparagus takes one year to grow but the long answer is actually three years. This is because while asparagus will start to shoot up the following spring from when it is planted, it is not really edible until two or three years.
You will probably notice very thin asparagus tips emerging from the soil after a year and it’s important not to panic at this spindly sight. Yes, the asparagus is thin but if you wait another year or two, it will be much thicker and much more edible.
While waiting two or three years may seem like a long time for a plant, the good news is that after it has been established, asparagus will keep growing for many years. In fact, some asparagus patches produce up to 20 years.
Starting in spring, you will see asparagus tips emerging from the soil. Wait until these tips are about 8 to 10 inches tall before harvesting them.
One thing to note is that asparagus grows quickly once it is ready. If you wait too long the stalks will become quite woody and tough. Once the foliage at the end of the spear starts to open, it is too late.
Harvesting is easy as you simply need to take a knife or scissors and cut the spear at the base, near the soil.
At first, your asparagus plant will only produce edible spears for 2 to 3 weeks. However, once it has become more established, you may have asparagus available for up to 8 weeks.
What to do after harvesting asparagus?
After you have cut and enjoyed your asparagus, there are a few steps left to take. Because this is a perennial vegetable, you can’t simply remove the plant.
Instead, you will want to leave any remaining asparagus ferns in your vegetable garden. This is a crucial step so that the roots still receive nutrients which makes for a better crop the following year.
Wait until fall when the foliage naturally dies off and then you can cut everything back. You also want to continue placing a layer of compost or manure on top of the asparagus bed, as well as fresh mulch to prevent weeds from growing.
What is the best month to plant asparagus?
The best months to plant asparagus are March and April. Once the ground is no longer frozen and you can start digging, you can get the soil ready for planting.
Growing asparagus takes a bit of patience, as it can be up to three years before you actually get to enjoy it.
However, once it is ready, asparagus will continue to produce lovely, nutritious vegetables for you. It really is a great addition to any vegetable garden.