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Asparagus - Key Growing Information

Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is a perennial vegetable prized for its tender spears and unique flavor. Growing your own asparagus can be a rewarding endeavor, offering fresh and delicious harvests year after year. This guide will cover the best practices for growing asparagus, including planting methods, spacing, watering, and recommended varieties. We’ll also discuss the differences between growing asparagus from seeds versus crowns and provide tips on harvesting and maintaining your asparagus bed.

Understanding Asparagus Growth

Asparagus requires patience and proper care to establish a productive bed. Once established, it can provide bountiful harvests for up to 20 years.

Crop Culture

Asparagus is best started from crowns, which are one-year-old plants. Planting from seed is possible but takes longer to establish.

  • Soil and Sunlight: Asparagus thrives in full sun and well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5-7.5. Prepare the bed well, as asparagus can produce for 20 years or more. Work in plenty of organic matter and a balanced fertilizer before planting.

  • Planting Time: Plant the crowns in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked.

  • Trench Preparation: Dig trenches about 12 inches wide and 6-8 inches deep. Place the crowns in the trench 1.5 to 2 feet apart, spreading the roots out. Gradually fill in the trench with soil as the plants grow, being careful not to bury the emerging spears.

Planting Methods: Crowns vs. Seeds

Crowns: Asparagus crowns are the roots of one-year-old plants. They are the most common and efficient way to start an asparagus bed.


  • Faster establishment and earlier harvests (typically within 2-3 years).
  • Less labor-intensive than starting from seeds.


  • Higher initial cost compared to seeds.
  • Limited variety availability.

Seeds: Growing asparagus from seeds is less common but allows for more variety and can be cost-effective.


  • More variety options.
  • Lower initial cost.


  • Longer time to harvest (3-4 years to establish a productive bed).
  • Requires more care and attention in the early stages.

Planting Guide

  • Setting Crowns: Set the crowns in the prepared trench and cover them with 2-3 inches of soil. As the spears grow, continue to fill in the trench. Once it's at ground level, add a layer of mulch to retain moisture and suppress weeds.
  • Watering: Water the newly planted crowns regularly to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Asparagus plants are drought-tolerant once established but benefit from regular watering, especially during spear production.
  • Spacing: Proper spacing is crucial for healthy asparagus growth. Plant crowns 12-18 inches apart in rows that are 4-5 feet apart. This spacing allows the plants to develop fully without competing for nutrients and space.
  • Depth: Dig trenches about 6-8 inches deep. Place the crowns in the trench with the roots spread out and cover with 2 inches of soil. Gradually fill in the trench with soil as the plants grow.

Soil and Watering

Asparagus thrives in well-drained, fertile soil with a pH of 6.5-7.5. Sandy loam soils are ideal.

  • Watering: Consistent watering is crucial, especially during the first two years of establishment. Keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged. Mulching can help retain moisture and suppress weeds.

Recommended Asparagus Varieties

Choosing the right variety can enhance your asparagus growing experience.

  • Mary Washington: A traditional variety known for its vigor and productivity.
  • Jersey Knight: Resistant to rust and fusarium, producing large, tender spears.
  • Purple Passion: Known for its sweet flavor and purple color, which turns green when cooked.
  • UC 157: Popular in warmer climates, producing uniform, tender spears.

Diseases, Insects, and Weeds

  • Common Diseases: Include Fusarium wilt, rust, and crown rot. Good air circulation, crop rotation, and removing infected plants are essential to prevent these diseases.
  • Pests: Asparagus beetles are the primary pest; handpicking and beneficial insects can help manage these.
  • Weed Control: Keep the area weed-free to reduce competition for nutrients and water. Mulching helps in weed control and moisture retention.

Harvesting Asparagus

Knowing when and how to harvest asparagus is key to enjoying tender spears.

  • Wait Time: Asparagus requires 2-3 years to establish a productive bed. Do not harvest during this period to allow the plants to develop strong root systems.
  • Harvest Season: In the second year after planting, you can harvest asparagus for a short period of 2-3 weeks. From the third year onward, the harvest period can extend up to 6-8 weeks.
  • Harvesting Technique: Harvest asparagus spears when they are about 8-10 inches tall and before the tips start to open. Snap them off at ground level or cut them with a sharp knife. For best flavor, use or process asparagus immediately after harvesting.

Storage and Preservation

  • Short-Term Storage: After harvesting, asparagus can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Wrap the ends of the spears in a wet paper towel and place them in a plastic bag.
  • Long-Term Storage: For longer storage, asparagus can be blanched and frozen. To blanch, boil the spears for 1-2 minutes, then quickly cool them in ice water. Drain and freeze in airtight containers or freezer bags. Asparagus can also be pickled for an extended shelf life.

Maintenance and Longevity

With proper care, an established asparagus bed can produce for up to 20 years.

  • Fertilizing: Apply a balanced fertilizer in early spring before spears emerge and again after the harvest season.
  • Weed Control: Keep the bed weed-free to reduce competition for nutrients.
  • Mulching: Mulch in the fall to protect crowns from winter frost and to add organic matter to the soil.

Comparison of Seeds vs. Crowns

Aspect Seeds Crowns
Cost Lower Higher
Time to Harvest 3-4 years 2-3 years
Labor More intensive early on Less intensive
Variety Greater variety availability Limited variety availability
Establishment Longer, requires more care Faster and easier establishment

By following these guidelines and choosing the right varieties, you can enjoy tender and flavorful asparagus year after year. Happy gardening!