Growing Asparagus

Asparagus spears 
Growing asparagus is a commitment. It takes at least a couple of years to get it going, but once you do, it will produce for up to 25 years in your garden.

This is a crop that you have to be patient for, but if you love to eat succulent, delicately flavoured asparagus spears, it is well worth the wait to grow your own.

Asparagus are perennials, emerging each spring. They like a decent cold winter to be dormant in, and don't mind if the top layer of soil freezes over.

Plant them in permanent beds in full sun with good drainage. The mature plants can take up a fair bit of space and will need slightly different management than the regular garden.

Here's how to grow asparagus

Growing asparagus from seeds is slow, so buy two-year old root crowns from a nursery and get them in the ground a month before spring.

It is strongly suggested that you purchase all male varieties of asparagus crowns. The female plants produce seeds which will over populate your garden. The seeds are also eaten by birds which disperse them widely creating a problem for native habitats.

You will have to dig your no dig garden, because you need a trench roughly 30cm (1ft) deep and the same width, or two trenches 1½m (5') apart. Half full with gourmet compost. Who loves rich feeding? Asparagus do that's fer sure!

In fact one of the most prolific asparagus beds of mine had a layer of fish heads from a local shop laid at the bottom of the trench, followed by kitchen scraps and compost.

Place the crowns 45cm (18") apart, spreading out the roots, then cover with more compost or compost/soil mix. As the shoots start to appear, cover with more compost and then top with mulch.

These greedy feeders like a good 6cm (2") of compost each spring. They also like plenty of water when their spears are forming and growing, after which you don't need to worry so much.

Patience is a virtue when growing asparagus

The first year of growing asparagus is hard, because no picking is allowed. Don't you dare even try one! Leave your plants to develop a strong crown system for better cropping in later years.

After the first year in the garden (they are now 3 years old if you purchased two-year old crowns) you will be able to harvest for about two weeks before you should stop. That's it for that year. The next year, harvest for four weeks. Don't be tempted to go longer, let your asparagus plants mature further.

Then finally in their fifth year and beyond, you can pick to your heart's content... about 8 weeks or as soon as the spears start growing thin.

Once mature, the plants will produce thick spears 18-25cm (7-10") high. To harvest, cut level or just below soil level, and when you go to eat them, bend them and they will snap off naturally just before the woody end. Any spears that have started to open out into their ferny growth are too late to eat, so leave them in the ground.

Asparagus varieties

Luckily asparagus growing is relatively free of problems and most varieties are resistant to diseases now, such as asparagus rust and fusarium root.

Your local stockists will have the best varieties to grow for your conditions and if you've prepared your ground well, you can soon look forward to healthy, sumptuous asparagus on your dinner table.

Back to List of Vegetables to read about other vegetables.