How to Grow Asparagus Plants
Asparagus is grown for the immature, tender shoot or spear (or stalk). It
is harvested early in the spring. As a matter of fact, it is the first vegetable
of spring. Asparagus is a perennial plant, which multiplies through it's
root system. It will thrive for many years with little care. It grows well
in areas that do not have a mild winter.
Asparagus spears are a tender and mild tasting vegetable. They can be eaten
raw or cooked. It is most often steamed. It is a real delicacy among the
vegetable world. It is only harvested from early to late spring. A couple
weeks after the last frost in your area, the stalks should be allowed to
grow, to allow the development of the root system for future crops. The leaves
will eventually open to a fern like plant. While most of us plant the roots,
the plant does produce seeds.
Did You Know? Asparagus is one of just two perennial vegetables, that
lives for several years. The other is Rhubarb.
Varieties of Asparagus Plants:
There are few varieties of Asparagus. Martha Washington is the most common.
Jersey Knight is also common. Purple Passion is a unique and sweet variety.
Growing Asparagus Plants:
Asparagus is planted by roots or seed. Starting plants from seed, takes much
longer to develop. The picture of a young, first year asparagus plant
(shown above), was taken in early August. It was started from seed in
May. Patience is a virtue, as this plant will produce very, very lightly
in the first year, with more in year two. It will take this plant three
years to really become productive. Most growers buy and plant the roots.
Tip: When buying roots, read the packaging. It should say "first year
roots" or "second year roots". Second year roots cost more, but produce a
Asparagus plants like loose and slightly sandy soil, that is rich in organic
material. The soil should drain well. While they will grow in clay, it is
harder for them to spread their roots and push the tender stalks out of the
soil. Roots planted this year require one or two years to develop enough
stalks to harvest, without seriously affecting future production.
Grow plants in full sun, and in well drained soil. Ideal soil pH is 6.0 to
8.0. see: pH levels for vegetables
After the harvest, allow the stalks to develop into fern-like plants. They
will grow 4-5 feet tall. Mulch around the plants, to help retain water, and
to keep the weeds down.
Water thoroughly during periods of summer drought.
After frost has killed the plants, they can be cut down to ground level.
In cold climates, add a thick layer of mulch, to protect the roots from deep
ground freezes. In the spring, gently rake the excess mulch away from the
Did you Know? A number of publications recommend sprinkling salt around
the plants to promote their growth. There is no known benefit of adding salt.
Temperatures - Ideal germination temperature by vegetable
Ideal Soil pH -
Insects and Pests:
Asparagus is susceptible to a variety of pests, typical of any tender plant
in your garden. These include Aphids, Asparagus Beetles, and Cutworms. Insect
problems most frequently occur after the spring harvest. Damage by insects
can weaken or kill the plant. The plant needs a strong growing season to
promote healthy root growth for next years' crop.
There are few diseases that affect plants early in the spring. Asparagus
is susceptible to root rot, especially in wet soils. Rust diseases can also
Harvesting Asparagus Spears:
Cut young shoots off with a sharp knife, just below the surface of the soil.
They should be picked when they are several inches long, and the stalk is
still tender. You can cut all stalks that appear for about three to four
weeks. After this time, the plant needs to be allowed to grow.
Did you Know? Asparagus is commonly found along roadsides in rural
areas, especially near old, abandoned farmland. You can harvest them along
the side of the road in the spring, if you know where to look.
Asparagus spears are the first vegetable you harvest in the spring. The tender
young shoots can be damaged by frosts and freezes, causing the tender stalks
to turn black or die off. If a hard frost is expected, cover the stalks to
protect the spears. As a perennial, it will last indefinitely, with a little
care and feeding.
Decorating with Asparagus:
The Asparagus plant is thin and fern-like. Like ferns, they can be included
in floral arrangements. Try using live, green plants mixed among freshly
picked flowers. In the fall, use the dried, brown plants with dried flower
Did you Know? There is a National Festival for Asparagus! Oceana County,
Michigan has laid claim as the Asparagus Capital of the United States.
Recipes: May we suggest: