growing asparagus

Asparagus is a garden delicacy that is easy to grow in the home garden. Asparagus is harvested in the spring and can be planted in the fall. This vegetable is perennial and best
put in the landscape or an area of the garden you do not plan to rotate to other vegetables. This vegetable will stay productive for many years.asparagus
The key to success is location, soil
type, fertility, size and age of crowns,and correct planting.

  • Varieties -Mary Washington (a rust-resistant variety) is a
    standard for most home gardeners. The all male hybrids
  • Jersey Gem (cercospora leaf spot tolerant) and Jersey Knight
    have a higher yield and produce no seed. With no seed
    production you do not have seedlings that you will have to weed out.
  • Atlas is a very large diameter spear but only
    available from California Asparagus Transplants and Seed in Davis, California.

    How Much To Plant - Ten crowns are needed for each family member to have enough for fresh table use. If you are especially fond of asparagus then 25 crowns per family member is recommended so you will have a surplus to can
    or freeze. If using the new hybrids other than Mary Washington you can cut the number of plants in half.

    Soil and Soil Preparation - Any well-drained soil will produce good asparagus. Use deep, fertile, sandy loam or loamy soil. If your soil is clay, you should condition it with compost so spears will emerge straight. Using a raised bed is
    especially helpful with heavy soils. Have a soil test taken before planting. Take soil samples 12 inches deep. The soil pH should be 6.0 to 6.7 because asparagus grows poorly in acid soils. Choose a site relatively free of perennial broadleaf weeds and nut-grass.

    Planting - Crowns (roots) should be planted in rows 5 feet apart with the crowns spaced 12 inches apart in the row. The distance between rows can be reduced, but this may shorten the life of the bed. Closer in-row spacing will
    increase yield. Use large, well-rooted, one-year-old, disease free crowns, purchased from a reliable source. In the Piedmont, plant in late winter after the danger of a hard freeze is over, but before plant growth starts. Plant the
    crowns in a furrow 8 inches deep. Make the furrow wide enough to accommodate the root system of the crowns when fully spread out. When placing the crowns in the furrow or trench, be sure to have the buds pointing
    upward. Cover the crowns with 2 inches of soil. As the plants grow, pull soil around the plants gradually until the trench is filled.

    Annual Bed Care - Cultivate when necessary to control grass and weeds to insure a good crop of large spears.
    During the harvest period, asparagus can withstand shallow cultivation. Each spring just before the spears start to grow, broadcast a complete fertilizer such as 5-10-10 on the bed at the rate of 2 to 5 lbs per 100 square feet. This should be done about March 15 for the Piedmont.
    Give the bed a second application of fertilizer at the end of the cutting season. Allow the plants to grow until they have turned brown in the fall usually after a couple frosts. Then cut down the tops and destroy them. If cut down before frost, the next year's crop of spears is reduced.

    Harvesting - Do not harvest asparagus the first growing season after planting crowns. It can be harvested for a short time (not to exceed two weeks) the second year.Weak plants and small spears result from harvesting too much, too early. The third year after planting crowns, harvest spears of asparagus for a 6 to 8 week period each year.Weak plants should be harvested for less time. Exercise care in cutting the spears to prevent damage to those spears that have not yet emerged. Cut or snap the spears at ground level. This practice
    eliminates the possibility of damaging other spears.

    Preparation For Use - Asparagus loses edible qualities rapidly after harvest. Fiber develops rapidly after harvest. To maintain asparagus quality, wash and cool asparagus soon after
    harvest. If the asparagus wilts, it can be made turgid by soaking in cool water.
    (The information in this article was taken from a North
    Carolina Cooperative Extension leaflet H1L-8002 written by Douglas C. Sanders, Extension Horticultural Specialist,NCSU)