How to Grow Asparagus
Asparagus is quite different from most other vegetable plants in that they are perennial. The exact same asparagus will sprout in a home garden repeatedly with proper care and maintenance. The tiny fresh shoots that first appear eventually grow into tall stalks. Over time the tall stalks grow replacement shoots that replenish the plant supply. When planting asparagus be sure to remember that it will take many years of consistent care to achieve a healthy crop that provides stalks on a consistent basis. The same asparagus plant will often remain in a home garden for 30 years so long as they receive good water and fertile soil. A highly productive asparagus plant is a great reason to reside in your home for the long term rather than leaving to start a new garden elsewhere.
Most asparagus will be quite healthy in the majority of the United States. For gardeners living in the warmest zones of 8 and higher, asparagus may get too much sun and too much heat during the middle of summer. Also when a winter is too warm the asparagus crop will not completely inactivate and thus cannot replenish its strength for the coming growing season.
The secret to growing asparagus is to get healthy, vigorous plants that generate lots of spears. Select a bright, well-drained site near the edge of the garden where it won’t be affected by other planting and replanting areas.
The extent to which you use asparagus in your home cooking with primarily determine the number of asparagus plants to grow. A common rule of thumb is to start an asparagus bed with approximately one dozen plant for each individual in a household. For homes that use asparagus as a popular vegetable or if you plan to give asparagus to friends and family, you can grow as many plants as you can fit comfortably in your garden.
Asparagus must be developed in a fairly permanent bed with reduced weed growth. The best beds are consistent from season to season and year to year. Planting asparagus is similar to getting ready for a visit. Careful planning makes the trip easier. It’s identical with asparagus. You want a proper bed before you purchase the plants. How you ready the soil establishes the energy of the asparagus garden for the foreseeable future.
Space rows 4 to 5 feet apart. Handle with herbicides that are intended for directly edible crops. Be sure to carefully kill off any tenacious weeds or grass. Also protect the asparagus bed and immature stalks with a tarp or other plastic covering to shelter fragile plants from direct elements.
In fall, start working the asparagus bed and underlying soil with at least a few inches of compost. Spread the organic compost or other natural fertilizer evenly across one-to-two feet of the intended location for the crop. For the ideal growing conditions for asparagus, conduct a soil sample and aim for a pH level of approximately six-and-a-half. Adjust the pH as necessary with natural ingredients prior to fully planting new crops. The precise method by which you should fertilize your asparagus plant is based on your location, the needs of your garden, and the health of your soil.
Following the spring crop, asparagus plants grow tall with amazing fern-like leaves through summer. In early fall, they start to die back. Following the spring thaw you can begin the process of spreading the asparagus seeds into the ground. The traditional planting method is to use a side ditch a half-foot deep in a permanent garden location. Take the spare soil and set it aside for future use. Place individual asparagus seeds in evenly-spaced rows. Take care to fully cover each seed with nutritious soil and leave at least a foot between each seedling.
Any organic plant or vegetable fertilizer is fine to use with asparagus. Because your family will eat the stalk that rise from the ground, be especially mindful to avoid chemical fertilizers or any product with harsh ingredients. Having a consistent supply of organic fertilizer is much better than clumping it onto plants periodically throughout the year. Asparagus are dioecious, meaning there are male and female plants and both have to mix in order to produce offspring. Female plants produce seeds from time-to-time, but the energy that the plants use to make seeds is energy that is not going back into growing more stalks. Thus be careful to have the proper balance of new plant growth and existing plant growth.
For the ideal asparagus crop you should wait for at least a few growing seasons before harvesting. Natural inclination is to eat the very first spears that sprout from the ground, but you need to keep mature plants in place until they have had the opportunity to produce new seedlings. As plants grow taller, rake a bit of the soil on the corner of the row to the depression where plants are growing. The mattress will probably be quickly leveled. Mulch to stop weeds.
Asparagus is susceptible to attack from insects. You can usually see plants that are infested because there will be visible bent spears from different areas of the plant. Any resulting growth will be sidewards as the plant tries to heal itself by covering the exposed portion with new growth. Beetles are particularly damaging as they can permanently weaken the root system of the plant. You may have to resort to picking up the individual bugs one at a time and drowning them to prevent them from destroying your asparagus crop.
Cut new shoots in springtime when they have grown to at least eight inches in height. After you have an asparagus plant that is healthy enough to withstand a full harvest, then break off each spear along the line of the soil. Be mindful to avoid cutting into neighboring spears each time you harvest one spear. Shearing scissors or a special plant knife are useful with care.
It is best to eat the cut asparagus plant right away. Any delay before consuming a fresh asparagus stalk will cause moisture and tough, fibrous growth along the base of the cut stalk. High-end chefs always trim away the tough portion of every stalk of asparagus prior to cooking and serving. Freshly prepared asparagus spears can be kept for a short time once they are cooked. But if you cannot eat all of your asparagus crop quickly, then freeze them to prevent decay.
Don’t forget, when the spear has started creating and opening leaf, it’ll be too difficult to eat. To prevent this, reap a minimum of every other day and discard those which have become too big.
The whole period of your own harvest is determined by the energy of your own plants. The fresh asparagus season may continue some months, in the case that your plants are young. However, established plants can create much more, as much as two months. The rule of thumb would be to pick before the width of the spear decreases for the measurement of the pencil. Then it’s time to quit and allow them to grow, gaining power for next spring.
After frost has turned them brown, trim off all of the tall leaves on the plant. The healthiest asparagus plants are given time to rest throughout the winter without having to use energy to grow stalks or fight off pests. Proper maintenance and care of the asparagus soil will ensure that a new crop is ready to sprout again following the spring thaw.