Blackwood's Home of Gardening - Growing Asparagus

Asparagus Spears

WHERE TO PLANTAsparagus demands its own bed in the garden because it lives for years. Once the plants are established, the bed can produce every year for 20 years or more.  Asparagus loves sunshine. It is frost tolerant and generally grows best in cooler areas that have hot, dry summers. Asparagus is also more salt-tolerant than most other vegetables, making it a great plant for coastal gardeners too.

SOIL CONDITIONSA free draining, sandy soil is an absolute necessity for the success of asparagus.  The soil must be deep – roughly knee-deep. It needs to be enriched with a generous serving of rich compost as well as course sand.  Asparagus does not like to have its roots disturbed, so make sure that your planting site is free from weeds.

MAINTENANCEDuring dry weather, the crowns of your asparagus will need to be kept well watered and free from weeds. In the first year, new shoots should appear.  These should be left to grow into ferny foliage.  When these long, thin stems become dry and brittle, tie them together above each plant.  As they die back, they shall return important nutrients to the crown and the roots below.  When the plants have turned yellow and have died back, the stems should be cut away and the area should be treated with a generous layer of compost.

In the second year, the whole process above can be repeated. Ideally, you don’t harvest any of the fresh young stems in this second season.  Allow them to fully develop once more. By doing this, you will assist the plants in developing strong roots before you tax them and harvest the young shoots.

HARVESTINGIn the third year, you should be rewarded with delicious fresh asparagus! However, your plants will still be young.  For this reason, take only a few spears from any one plant.  When the spears are about 12cm to 15cm above ground, carefully cut them about a finger’s length below the ground with a sharp serrated knife. During the first harvest, don’t pick asparagus for longer than a 4 week period.  After 4 weeks, all the remaining shoots should be allowed to mature as before, strengthening the plant.

In all following years, your asparagus can be harvested for about 6 weeks. During your harvest, you can expect about 15 to 20 asparagus shoots per plant. After the 6 week harvest period, any new shoots should be allowed to mature as before, to continue nourishing the crowns below the ground. Keep your beds weed free at all times and feed heavily with compost every autumn.

COMPANION PLANTSTomatoes, parsley, basil, lettuce, kale.