How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Asparagus
Ahh…Asparagus. I would have to say this is my favorite vegetable. This is one of the many perennial vegetables my parents grew on their property. It is fairly easy to grow and can produce food for your family for fifteen years or more. Plant it at the side of the garden or give it a plot of its own.
How to Plant Asparagus:
Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that becomes fully established in about 3 years.
The perfect location to plant asparagus is in full-sun. Plant crowns in well-drained, fertile soil when soil becomes workable in early spring. Here in Ohio, that’s end of March to early May. When working your soil, be sure to add lots of compost and organic fertilizer, such as manure or compost tea. This will give your asparagus a good foundation for many years of production (over 15 years with good care).
Plant 1-year old crowns with an established root system. Plow or spade the soil 8-10 inches deep. Dig a furrow/trench that is 10-12 inches wide and 8 inches deep. Place two inches of loose compost in the bottom of the trench forming a small mound for each crown to set on. Place crowns 12-18 inches apart on top of the mounds with their roots spread (like spider legs). Cover crowns with two inches of soil and fill the rest of the trench with a compost/soil mix.
As your asparagus spears start to poke through the soil, cover them with more soil and compost, pulling weeds as you go. Keep doing this until the trench is filled. The depth of the soil covering the crowns when finished should be 6 inches.
Caring for Your Asparagus Plants:
Water, fertilize, and cultivate your asparagus plants on a regular basis and give your new plants plenty of compost the first few years.
In the fall, your plants may die back. Remove the dead plant debris and cover with 2-4 inches of mulch, we use leaf mulch, because we have a lot of trees on our property.
How to Harvest Asparagus:
No asparagus should be harvested the first two growing seasons. This allows the crowns to become well established. During the third season, you can harvest a few spears from each crown and only cut spears for a three to four week period during the growing season.
In season four and beyond, harvest spears for about 6-8 weeks, starting in early spring and discontinuing when adult spears become smaller than a lead pencil. Here in Ohio, that’s around July 1st. After well established, spears will need to be harvested every third day early in the spring. Then in late spring, they may need to be harvested up to twice per day. That’s a lot of asparagus!
To harvest, snap off or cut 6-8 inch spears at ground level. Be careful not to break off below the ground so you don’t damage the crown.
After harvest season is over, allow the remaining spears flower. They will have pretty fern-like foliage with tiny yellow flowers.
Asparagus is excellent raw (that’s my opinion). It is also delicious steamed, roasted, and added to soups, salads, and other dishes. It can be blanched and placed in freezer bags to be frozen, canned, or dried for later use. Smaller spears will be more tender and sweeter than larger ones.
Note: A good rule of thumb for growing asparagus for your family is 10 plants per person. If you want to have some extra to put away for winter, plant more.