Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that requires patience and care for a successful crop. It's best to start asparagus from crowns, which are one-year-old plants. Planting from seed is possible but takes longer to establish.
Asparagus thrives in full sun and well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5-7.5. It's crucial to 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.
Plant the crowns in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. 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.
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.
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.
For detailed instructions and tips on asparagus cultivation, refer to our comprehensive asparagus grow guide.
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. Asparagus beetles are the primary pest; handpicking and beneficial insects can help manage these. Keep the area weed-free to reduce competition for nutrients and water. Mulching helps in weed control and moisture retention.
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. 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. Asparagus can be stored for a short time in the refrigerator or preserved by freezing or canning.
Storage and Preservation
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. 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.