If you are looking around for a guide on “how to grow asparagus?”, here we are to help you! In this guide, we are going to talk about everything related to farming of asparagus from planting, caring, harvesting and storage. Let’s move on to find more.
Asparagus is among the first few plants that greet farmers in springtime. It is a perennial plant, which means, once you successfully start asparagus farming, you will earn decent benefits year after year. Also, to be healthy, low-calorie food, asparagus’s ferny foliage is used to make beautiful ornamental as well.
The whole of the USA is almost suitable for growing asparagus, but cooler regions with long winter season are perfect conditions for robust growth. Young stem shoot is the edible portion of the plant and starts emerging once the temperature of the soil increases more than 50°F in springs.
The most important factor you must have to know that, asparagus is “not harvested in the first couple of seasons”. The plants need a lot of time to get matured and you will have to be patient before you can finally harvest them. And you will surely get the rewards of your patience, as the asparagus field remains productive for 15 to 30 years!
In this asparagus planting guide, we will focus on all the important aspects of growing asparagus from choosing a planting site for harvesting and transporting. Let’s start our guide by knowing “when to start planting”.
When to start planting asparagus?
Early spring is the best time for planting. You can grow asparagus from one-year-old plants or “crowns”, both of which are easily available at garden centers and nurseries.
Growing asparagus from seeds is also popular in some parts of the country, but we recommend starting with crowns, as you can eliminate the long-year headache of weeding which is usually associated with seeds.
Also Read: Spinach Plant Spacing And Growing
A few varieties like hybrid “sweet purple”, and open-pollinated “purple passion” are grown from the seeds. But you should try these varieties after gaining some experience of asparagus crops.
Choosing the right site for plantation
Given that asparagus takes at least a couple of years for proper growth, and comes back year after year for so long, you must have to decide, where is the best place to plant asparagus.
- Choosing a site with at least partial sunlight is recommended.
- If you are planning to grow some other crops, choose one side of the garden/field for placing the asparagus bed, so that it won’t be disturbed due to constant activities of planting or re-planting other crops.
- Ensure the proper drainage of the asparagus bed without any pooling of water. Asparagus doesn’t like “wet feet”. If you are unable to find a site with decent enough drainage, you should consider raised beds for growing asparagus instead.
- Neutral to slightly acidic soil with a pH of about 6.5 is suitable for asparagus growth.
- Get rid of all weeds from the planting area by digging it placing a 2 to 4-inch layer of soil mix, aged manure, or compost.
- Ensure that the soil is loosened enough to 12 to 15 inches in depth for proper rooting of asparagus crowns, and the roots are not disturbed by rocks and other obstacles.
How to plant asparagus roots?
- The aim of planting crowns should be to protect them from various external obstacles, so plant them to ensure enough depth.
- Dig a trench of 6 to 8 inches deep and about 12 to 18 inches wide. Keep a distance of at least 3 feet, if you are digging multiple trenches.
- Don’t forget to soak asparagus crowns in water before planting.
- Use soil to make a 2-inch high ridge right at the center of the trench. Place the crowns on top, ensuring roots are evenly spread.
- Place the crowns 12-18 inches apart from each other inside the trench. Do the measurement from the tip of the root of one crown to the second and so on.
What after placing the crowns?
Placement of crowns keeping in mind the proper depth as well as distance is a very important part of asparagus cultivation. Here are the steps to follow once you are done with this important part.
You can either follow the “all-at-once” method or “little-by-little” method
Some farmers fill the trench directly with a mixture of soil and compost. Although other traditional “little-by-little” is considered as the best method, farmers found no problem whatsoever with this “all at once” method either. As long as the soil is free enough, you will get the desired crop even with this fairly easy method.
- Burry the crowns two inches deep with the mixture of compost and soil, ensuring proper watering.
- With the progress of the season, when the spears are 2 to 3 inches tall, add another 2-inch layer of soil, ensuring spears are not buried completely.
- Once you notice further growth of spears again through the soil, add one more layer of soil. Keep doing this until the levels of the trench and the ground are the same. You can also add soil a couple of more times throughout the growing season.
- After filling the trench, ensure molding the soil to avoid pooling around the trenches.
How to care for asparagus?
- Once the trenches are full of soil, add a 5 to 6-inch layer of mulch.
- Fighting with weeds, especially in the first couple of years is the biggest challenge while growing asparagus. You will have to keep the crop free from weeds, and that too, without disturbing their roots! So, pulling the weeds gently with hands is the only option. The problem of weeds will go away slowly with the growth of plants. So, mulch the surrounding of roots with compost or grass clippings to maintain moisture and to control the growth of weeds.
- Asparagus plants require a couple of inches of water, especially in the first two years. So, if there is not enough rain, you will have to water them properly and regularly. And, the drip irrigation method is the best option for asparagus.
- A proper supply of plant food is necessary for healthy and constant growth. So, prefer using the drip irrigation method for adequate and balanced watering of plants.
Some important points to remember before harvesting
Yes, it is important to know, when and how to harvest asparagus. But, before that, let’s discuss a few important pre-harvesting points.
- Avoid harvesting the crop in the first season. But, for caring purposes, ensure side-dressing with compost, as well as cutting down the dead foliage, especially in late fall.
- During the second season, start harvesting, but not more than 3 to 4 weeks. Ensure side-dressing with compost, especially in spring cutting down the dead ferns regularly, preferably in late fall. And of course, maintain the thickness of the bed with mulch.
- You will notice the full production of asparagus bed in the third year, and you will then be able to harvest asparagus continuously in every season.
Transplanting is also an important factor in asparagus farming. You should transplant the crowns early in the spring season when they remain dormant, or in the later stage of fall, after cutting down the foliage.
Use a garden fork to dig and lift the crowns, without disturbing the roots! Divide the clump into more than two pieces, and water the transplants properly. Avoid harvesting heavily in the following year to ensure good asparagus crops in the future.
Pests and diseases commonly affecting asparagus
As already mentioned, weeds are the most common problems related to asparagus crops. And regular hand pulling in early summer and spring is the best way to get rid of them. Prefer light cultivation to avoid damages to asparagus crop.
Here are some common diseases you may encounter during asparagus farming, and how you can control/prevent them.
|Asparagus Beetles||Insects||Spears start appearing brown and they convert into hook shape. Beetles can also cause damage and defoliation to the fruits||You can hand-pick the beetles and throw them away from the field. Disposing the plant matter, especially in the fall season.|
|Cutworms||Insect||Witling, younger stems start cutting automatically||Constant inspection and hand-removal is the best way to protect crops from cutworms.|
|Fusarium Crown Rot||Fungus||Wilted, stunted, yellow fruits, brownish or reddish spots on the stems, roots, or crowns, spears start rotting||This is quite a big challenge in asparagus farming. Destroying the infected plants is the only option. In addition, you will have to avoid planting asparagus around the infected areas for at least five years. Otherwise, using resistant varieties, disinfected tools, and avoid overharvesting are a few options.|
|Asparagus Rust||Fungus||Emerging spears are full of pale green spots, that become orange or yellow. If not cured in time, they will convert into reddish-brown blisters. There is defoliation, as well as reduced vigour.||Excessive moisture is responsible for spreading rust. So, avoid excessive watering, especially on the ferns or spears. Choose other resistant varieties, destroy infected plant matter, improve air circulation, and avoid growing plants around the infected area.|
How to grow asparagus from seed?
Growing asparagus from seed is super easy and fun, but again, you will have to be very patient, as you can’t harvest asparagus for a couple of years, even if you are using seeds. Here are the steps on how to grow asparagus from seed:
- Soak seeds for a couple of hours.
- Use sterile soil, and plant each seed 1 cm deep in separate 5 cm pots.
- You will notice sprouts coming out after a couple of weeks.
- Seedlings take 10-12 weeks to grow properly.
- Now, you can place the transplants just like we have discussed placing the asparagus crowns in the field. All the steps afterward are the same.
How to harvest asparagus
We have discussed it repeatedly that you should not harvest the asparagus for a couple of years in the beginning.
- With young plants, the production period is usually 2 to 3 weeks. But established plants take up to 8 weeks for production.
- Check your plants every second or third day to see if there are harvest-ready spears. The growth of spears is too quick, and they can convert into wooden structures in no time. And they’ll be too hard for eating, and hence, for marketing.
- Spears are ready to harvest when they are 8 to 10 inches in height and ½ and ¾ inch thick. (Thinner and younger spears are usually more tender. So, keep in mind for your marketing purposes.
- Cut the spears at ground level using a sharp knife or scissor.
- When the diameter of spears is less than the size of a pencil, stop the harvest.
- Harvesting is also an important part of asparagus farming, so keep all important points in mind.
- Make sure, you don’t cut the asparagus ferns. Otherwise, your asparagus bed will be ruined completely. Give them enough time to get matured. They will replenish important nutrients in the asparagus bed for next season’s spear production.
Storage of asparagus
- You can’t store asparagus for very long after harvesting. So, start marketing right from day one.
- Remove any visible dirt, or wash them gently with cold water before storing. Don’t forget to dry them completely after washing, because any moisture will pave the way for molds.
- Bundle the spears properly, use a moist paper towel to wrap the stem ends, and keep the bundles in a plastic bag. Place the bags in a refrigerator to maximize the freshness.
So, that’s all about our asparagus growing guide. Asparagus is full of nutrition and tastes very delicious too. It is an amazing source of fiber, minerals, vitamins, calories, and sodium, etc. When it comes to economic value, it can be a great source of income too.
You can increase your income by combining it with other crops, especially in a couple of non-harvesting seasons in the beginning. So, if you are thinking about growing asparagus for commercial purposes, you can surely be affirmative about it. All you need to do is to be very active and caring.
You will have to wait for a couple of seasons, but you will be amazed at the returns after that. After all, every good thing worth to wait.