Growing asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) requires patience but boy, is the payoff worth it. Although it takes up to three years to really get going, this perennial plant will produce a bountiful harvest year after year for up to 30 years. In addition, the plant itself is quite attractive with a long feather-like top that turns a warm golden hue in the fall and makes a powerful statement in your garden.
Native to Western Europe, asparagus does best in areas where the ground freezes in winter or there are dry seasons. In wet and warm areas such as Florida and the Gulf Coast, it is difficult to grow this plant because it is just too moist.
If you live in the USDA planting zones 2-8, you can plant asparagus and expect a generous return for your time and energy.
Growing Asparagus From Seed
If you have acquired seeds or perhaps even harvested some seeds from a previous crop, you can grow new plants. It is best to start seeds inside or in the warmth of a greenhouse in mid-February to May. Seeds require bright light and soil temperatures between 70-85 degrees for germination. I find it works best to soak the seeds for a couple of hours before planting as well.
- Fill 3.5-inch pots with sterile soil.
- Place 3 seeds on the surface of the soil in each pot.
- Cover the seeds with a thin layer of sifted sand.
- Bottom water all pots by placing in a pan with sides with water.
- Place on a heated table to be sure that the soil stays warm.
- Do not let pots dry out.
- Allow the seedlings to grow for three months before transplanting as long as all risk of frost has passed.
- Place transplants about 18 inches apart in rows that are 4 inches apart. For thinner spears, place them 8 to 10 inches apart and 4 inches deep. For thicker spears, place them 12-14 inches apart and 6-8 inches deep.
- Cover the seedlings with a light layer of soil as they grow.
- Provide one-inch of water each week.
- Remember, don’t harvest for three years – allow the plant to grow all summer and cut it back to 2 inches in the fall.
Growing Asparagus From Crowns
Just be sure that you choose a reputable supplier and pick a variety best suited for your growing zone. It is important to prepare your bed ahead of time so that you are ready when the crowns arrive. Asparagus likes soil that is pH neutral and somewhat sandy and loose that drains well.
- Work compost into the soil.
- Dig two 12-inch deep furrows in the raised bed.
- Put one cup organic fertilizer in each furrow.
- Mound up loose dirt into cone-shaped piles about 6 inches tall at the bottom of the furrow. Leave 18 inches between each cone.
- Put an asparagus crown on top of each dirt pile in the furrow. The roots should hang down over the dirt pile.
- Cover the crowns with about 1-inch of soil.
- Keep the soil moist but do not saturate.
- Keep weeds out of the bed.
- Add more soil as the asparagus continues to grow.
- Continue this process until the furrow are filled to ground level with the soil.
- Do not harvest for two years, let the spears grow to into ferny plants and develop deep roots.
Tricks Tor A Bigger & Better Asparagus Harvest
- Plant asparagus seedlings near tomatoes. Asparagus repels nematodes that attack tomatoes and tomatoes repel asparagus beetles. Companion planting can really aid your growing efforts.
- Harvest new asparagus crops for four weeks in year three and for six to eight weeks in year four and on.
- Asparagus plants are either male or female. There are some varieties such as Jersey Knightand Jersey Giant that produce all male plants so that they are more productive. Choose an all-male variety if you want a bigger yield.
- Apply mulch to suppress weeds.
- Soak crowns in compost tea before planting to give them a burst of energy.
- After harvest, allow plants to grow to replenish nutrients. Wait until the foliage has turned brown or yellow – usually in the fall. Cut down to 2 inches.
- Fertilize established crowns in spring and fall using a rich organic fertilizer/compost containing things like fish, seaweed, kitchen scraps including bread dairy fruits and other vegetables.
- Add rock phosphate to trenches each year before planting new crowns.
Harvesting & Storing Asparagus
When asparagus plants are robust enough for harvesting, cut off new spring shoots when they reach about 8 inches in height. Use a clean and sharp knife to cut just below the soil line. Do not harvest spears once the plant has begun to develop foliage. To keep this from happening, harvest every other day. Plants will produce anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks depending on their maturity and strength. Keep harvesting until the spear diameter measures the size of a pencil.
Cook harvested spears immediately or store in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to a week or more. For long-term storage, blanch spears in boiling water for five minutes, dry and store in freezer bags.
Health Benefits Of Asparagus:
Asparagus is known to be one of the most nutritionally well-balanced vegetables around. It is loaded with folic acid and also offers a good amount of potassium, fiber, thiamin and vitamins A, B6, E, K, and C.
Asparagus can aid in weight loss: Asparagus is low in fat, low in calories and contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. The body digests fiber very slowly and this helps you feel full between meals – making asparagus a great food if you are trying to drop pounds. Try pairing some asparagus with healthy protein such as a hard-boiled egg to boost that full feeling.
Asparagus can help keep your urinary tract healthy: Asparagus contains the amino acid asparagine which is a natural diuretic. When women don’t urinate enough they can develop a urinary tract infection. Eating this healthy green veggie on a regular basis will help prevent urinary tract infections by flushing excess fluid and salt out of the body
Asparagus can strengthen your immune system: Asparagus contains vitamin E which supports a healthy immune system while protecting cells from free radicals. Because we absorb vitamin E better when it is eaten along with some healthy fat – roasting asparagus in olive oil will boost its effectiveness.
Asparagus is a natural aphrodisiac: If you are looking to rev up your love life, try eating asparagus, a natural aphrodisiac. Vitamins B6 and folate help increase arousal and vitamin E stimulates sex hormones. Planning a dinner for your sweetheart? Don’t forget the asparagus.
Asparagus can improve bone health: Because asparagus is rich in vitamin K it can help your body absorb calcium which is necessary for bone strength.
Asparagus can make you smile: Not only does asparagus contain folate, a B vitamin that has been linked to reducing irritability but it also contains a great deal of the amino acid called tryptophan that has been shown to have a positive impact on mood.
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