Want to know how to grow asparagus? It's a great investment of time and effort! Asparagus is perennial. That means you plant it once and enjoy years and years of the sweet little spears popping up over and over.
Unfortunately, you are in for a long wait before nibbling on the juicy spears. Planting asparagus from seed means abut a four-year wait, and planting from a root (or "crown") can cut that down to about two years.
Either way, you will not be enjoying your home-grown asparagus the same year it is planted.
Before you decide the type of asparagus, or whether to start with seed or crown, you need to decide what type of container you are going to use.
Asparagus plants are quite fussy and particular about where they will grow. They need plenty of space. And your container needs to be quite deep.
A 4ft x 4ft container might be able to accommodate eight plants if you stagger the pattern. Planted in rows, the same space could hold about six plants.
Use soil that is 100 percent free of all weeds. Clean it, sift it, whatever it takes to get every little bit of weed out. The delicate asparagus roots will eventually form an extensive intertwined network throughout the container. Removing any weeds without damaging the roots will be virtually impossible.
Ideally, the soil will have a pH level of 6.5 to 7.5, and be able to retain moisture in full sun. Add plenty of good compost to the soil.
It is best to prepare the asparagus bed long before planting time. A few weeks before planting – which will be around the end of March, early April – add some fertilizer to the soil.
Soak your roots or seeds in water for a few hours before you begin asparagus planting. For roots, the water will rehydrate the roots. For seeds, the water will encourage germination.
Think about the bed you prepare as a permanent home for your asparagus. After the first year, you won't be able to transplant them without killing them.
If you are starting with roots, don't count on transplanting them at all, because they will already be a year old when you get them. They have already been through the trauma of being uprooted and will not likely tolerate another move.
Place the container in a spot that gets plenty of direct sunlight. Bear in mind that such a big container is going to be very difficult to move, so pick your location with care!
Not too many people think of asparagus as a very diverse plant, but there are lots of types. The health benefits of asparagus are broadly similar, no matter which type you choose.
When planting roots, make a heap in the soil and carefully place the plant on top, with the crown facing up.
Gently spread out the delicate roots down the sides of the heap. Cover the entire plant, roots and crown with about 5cm (2") of soil. Keep the soil good and moist.
This video will help you to visualize the process of how to plant asparagus in containers.
After about three weeks the seeds will start showing some signs of life. There shouldn't be any weeds in your bed, but if there are, pull them out by hand.
Thin out the seedlings when they are big enough. Keep thinning and watering. By the time they reach a height of about 6" (15cm), they should be at least one inch apart.
Females will have berries. When you see these, pull out the entire plant, as it will not be as productive.
By the next spring, the crowns will be old enough to transplant. You can either start another container, give them away or toss them. If you leave them in the original container, you will end up overcrowding your plants. Remember, a 4ft x 4ft container can only handle eight plants at the most.
For both root- and seed-started crops, you have to cut the plants down in the fall. You will do this every year so that the new crop can develop properly.
You have just taken the first step towards 15 to 20 years of life with your asparagus. That's right. A properly cared for asparagus plant will keep on producing delicate little spears year after year for up 20 years!
Seeds are much cheaper, but a bit more difficult to find (though there are plenty on Amazon.com). Plus, you have an extra two years to wait before you can enjoy the fruits (or rather, vegetables) of your labor.
On the other hand, when you grow the plant from seed it isn't out of the ground for an extended period of time, and therefore might be stronger in the long run. Weigh the pros and cons and decide what's best for you.
There are also lots of roots/crowns to choose from, if you prefer to go that route, and give yourself a two-year head-start.
Fast forward three to four years and you might be able to harvest your little green gems. Keep in mind when you learn how to harvest asparagus that the plant's maturity doesn't occur during what you normally think of as "harvest time."
The asparagus season typically comes just before strawberries – late spring, May to June.
Since a container crop is going to be extremely small, you might want to hold off an extra year. Harvesting too soon or too much can damage the plants and weaken the asparagus bed.
Common cutting guidelines go like this:
Of course, it is the large crops that can produce for eight weeks, but no matter how large your crop is, you should never harvest for more than eight weeks. A small container crop will probably not be able to handle eight weeks of harvest.
Harvesting asparagus from a small container crop is as easy as snipping flowers from your flower bed. On a commercial level it becomes a huge pain.
The best approach is to use a small paring knife. Make sure it's very sharp or has a serrated edge. A quick, clean cut just a tad below the surface of the soil is ideal – do not cut the roots.
The asparagus should be about 4 to 6" (10 to 15cm) tall. Any smaller is a waste, and any taller will taste bitter.
Typically, you will cut a few spears every other day. The warmer the weather is during the day, the faster the asparagus grows – as much as 15cm (6") a day.
Asparagus grows best when the nights are still a bit cool and the days are very hot.
You cannot dig up your bed without spoiling the plant, but you still have to fertilize it every year.
Around February–March, apply about 100g/sqm (3oz/sq yard) of fertilizer, and in October after you have cut away the ferns, apply a good layer of manure or compost.
After your final cut of the season, the asparagus will continue to grow. This is the fern-like foliage you will cut down to about three inches in the fall.
Do not, under any circumstances, dig the fertilizer, manure or compost into the soil. You will damage the tender asparagus roots.
Just let it lay on top and seep in naturally. If you really want, you can rake very gently on the surface to help it soak in, but do not dig.
Do not leave the foliage/ferns to rot. In most cases, this provides a great natural fertilizer, but with asparagus, it encourages infestations which will kill your plants.
And there you go. Now you know how to grow asparagus
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