Imagine crisp green asparagus spears poking up like gremlin fingers through the dewy soil, ready for you to snap off and crunch. Winter is the time to plant asparagus crowns, which are simply the roots of a dormant asparagus plant. At other times of the year you may plant asparagus seedlings, however, the advantage of crowns is that they are already two years old and will produce spears for harvest much earlier than a seedling. Purchase three or four crowns for a family. Crowns are normally male, as the female plants are less vigorous and produce a red berry.
Asparagus is quite easily grown and when established, will continue to produce for 15-20 years, so it is important to allocate it its own bed, where it will not be disturbed by the comings and goings of short lived annual crops. It must also be kept weed free and well mulched with pea straw or Lucerne mulch.
A sunny position, preferably free from strong winds and potential competition from trees should be chosen for the permanent placing of the plants.
Preparation and Planting
Asparagus does best in a rich friable soil that has lots of organic matter added to it. Ideally, the bed should be raised and of an area large enough to allow the asparagus crowns to be planted 40 cm apart. You need to work compost and manure into the soil so you are adding about one third compost and cow manure to two thirds soil.
Create a trench about 30 cm wide by 20cm deep, making a mounded ridge in the bottom of the trench. Place the asparagus crowns on the ridge and spread the roots out down either side. Cover roots with soil until under about 5cm of soil, leaving the crown at the soil surface.
To promote a vigorous, healthy and long-lasting root system it is important that you do not harvest any spears during the first year. Let the asparagus grow without harvest and it will produce a ‘fern’, which may be pruned back to the ground in winter after it has yellowed.
In the second year you may harvest no more than half of the spears, leaving any that are less than 1cm in diameter. As the plant matures you will be able to harvest about 80 per cent of spears over a 10 week period. Expect to harvest spears every 2-3 days during the peak growing season, beginning in early spring.
Once you have finished your harvest, allow the fern to mature until they turn quite yellow and remove them in winter. Cut them back right to the ground. Apply a generous cover of compost or well-rotted cow manure.
Keep asparagus well watered in summer, and weed free year round.
Light requirements: Full sun. Plant asparagus on the west or north side of a garden so the tall plants won’t shade other vegetables in summer.
Planting: Space 12 to 18 inches apart.
Soil requirements: Asparagus needs well-drained, nutrient-rich soil. Prepare soil one season to one year before planting (e.g. prep soil in fall for planting the following spring). Work at least 3 inches of organic matter into soil. Asparagus won’t grow in acid soil. Soil pH should be 6.0 to 6.7. Test soil and add lime as needed.
Water requirements: Water new crowns at planting time and during the first growing season if rainfall is scarce. Established asparagus is drought tolerant and usually grows well with rainfall as the sole water source.
Frost-fighting plan: Temperatures below 33ºF can damage asparagus. Cover shoots with a frost blanket to protect from late spring frosts.
Common issues: Bent spears (which are still edible) occur as a result of insect feeding or damage that can occur when cutting other spears. Keep an eye out for weeds. Pests to watch out for include black and red asparagus beetles, and European asparagus aphid (in the Midwest). Asparagus is susceptible to crown and root rots.
Harvesting: Don’t harvest any spears the first growing season and just a few the second. By the third season, you can harvest at will, although picking only a few spears during this season will lead to a greater annual harvest in years to come. Stop harvesting when spear diameter drops to pencil size. Harvest 6- to 8-inch spears in the morning or evening, when air is cool. Snap spears near ground level. Avoid using a knife if possible, as it can spread disease from one plant to another.
Storage: Refrigerate spears in a loosely closed plastic bag for up to 14 to 21 days.
For more information, visit the Asparagus page in our How to Grow section.
Your comments and tips
Post a comment or question Display Newest first | Oldest first, Show comments for Australia | for all countries 30 Dec 19, Katharine Duke (Australia – temperate climate) I live in Gembrook Victoria. I have asparagus ferns about 3 inches tall, can I plant them now? Can I plant them near garlic? Thanks in advance. 31 Dec 19, Anon (Australia – sub-tropical climate) Asparagus needs a bed of their own as the crown will grow 18-24 28 Sep 19, Maryanne house (Australia – sub-tropical climate) I have just noticed that I have spears on my asparagus. They have been in the ground for 2 years. My query is to do with the ferns that are still there from last year. The ferns did not die down and I read somewhere to leave the ferns and that they would die of their own accord.But they did not so I guess this was incorrect. So… do I now cut off all the ferns as the spears are now appearing or do I reduce the number of ferns? In future do I cut off all the ferns when the spears stop appearing or at a specific time frame? ( say Jan Feb? ). Thanks in advance for your assistance. 30 Sep 19, Anon (Australia – sub-tropical climate) Are they two years old from seed or crowns?I believe the ferns die in the colder weather but not in sub-tropics /tropics. I’m sub tropic and they have not died in the last 3 years. I even stopped watering in early May this year and we have had a very dry time since then. I would cut the old ones out. Pick some of the new spears and eat. Depending on how many spears you are getting probably stop picking in about 4 weeks and let grow for next year. You have to let the crown grow in the first 2-3 years. In future from about Nov or so let the spears go to ferns-even while you are picking leave a couple go to ferns. Leave the ferns there until mid August-the ferns are growing the crown and storing nutrient in the crown for spears next year. Then cut them off and put 50-75mm of compost or aged manure on them and start watering them. And by compost I mean fully broken down organic matter or manure. Not mulch. 09 Dec 19, jenny mullins (Australia – temperate climate) I was told never to trim the ferny bits as they harness strength for the crown & help develop bigger & better spears for the following season. Is this incorrect. I bought crowns from K-Mart over 15 years ago. Had them in a small pot. They grew, they ‘died’, they grew again & died again. I decided to transplant them into a large garbage bin, about 75cm deep. They grew & produced lovely tasting, about 3/4 cm thick spears, over the last two years. I’ve fed very randomly (haven’t been well for long while) sometimes Dynamic Lifter, sometimes Seasol, sometimes Complete Fertilizer. I don’t think I’ve even fed them once a year!!! I’m trying to show them some loving respect now, & so shocked at how they tolerated gross neglect & still gave me precious, delicious spears to just pick & eat…never made it to the kitchen!! 03 Sep 19, Kirstee (Australia – cool/mountain climate) Is it possible to grow asparagus in pots? I am currently renting so unable to plant in the ground. 04 Sep 19, Anon (Australia – sub-tropical climate) You probably would need a pot about 700-900mm diameter and 600mm+ deep – maybe deeper. Mighty heavy to move when full of soil. It take 2-3 yrs before picking a decent amount. The supermarket maybe a better option. = 15 Aug 19, Jenni (Australia – sub-tropical climate) I have bought tiny ferns of asparagus,2-3inches high, which i’m about to plant. i’m not sure what the different terms mean or look like? ie roots shoots ferns crowns . in what sequence do they grow and when. 16 Aug 19, (Australia – sub-tropical climate) After 6 months or so your little ferns will have a hard bulb – that is the crown – this will grow bigger. Next time you go to Bunnings look for asparagus bulbs – about 9 mnths old. From the crown you will have roots – just like any plant has. After you have trimmed off your asparagus plants in the winter and it warms up, shoots come out of the ground – these are called spears – these are the things you cut off and eat. If these are left to grow then they become ferns. GO on the internet and type in growing asparagus and read read, 02 Aug 19, SueEllen (Australia – temperate climate) i have cut back my asparagus when it died back, about 3 weeks ago. I covered it with manure and compost and it has begun to grow again. The new stalks are about 15 – 20 cms already but only pencil thin. I really want to harvest white asparagus, should i mound the soil up over the asparagus now? or should i let it just grow? Showing 1 – 10 of 241 comments
vegetable growing techniques asparagus preparing an asparagus bed July (Winter in the Southern hemisphere) is the ideal time to prepare your asparagus bed for spring. Any earlier and the stalks would not have fully browned off (the process where nutrients are drawn back into the asparagus crowns), any later you run the risk of the first of the new season’s asparagus spears emerging before you have prepared the bed. Here’s how I prepare my asparagus bed.
Removing last season’s asparagus stalks.
Giving the bed a light hoe.
Adding sheep manure.
Covering the bed with mulch. Removing the dead stalks The first thing to do is remove the old asparagus stalks. This can be done using hand secateurs but I find it simpler and quicker to remove them with a brush cutter.
I cut the stalks off at the ground. Some gardening books recommend that you cut the stalks off at seven to ten centimetre above the ground but I prefer to cut them off at the ground, it doesn’t seem to effect the yield but it does make it easier to add manure and mulch to the bed. The stalks are quite soft so they can be chopped up and composted.
Hoeing and adding manure Lightly hoe the bed to break up the soil. You should not dig deeper than three or four centimetres, any deeper and you run the risk of disturbing the crowns. Apply manure. The general rule of thumb for a standard vegetable bed is about a shovel full per square metre but when it comes to asparagus I double that amount as asparagus can handle a richer concentrate.
I prefer to use cow or sheep manure as it contains fewer weed seeds than horse manure but go with whatever is the cheapest and easiest to obtain. I also add a small amount of dynamic lifter or well crumbled dry chicken manure, some blood and bone and some rock dust (for essential minerals).
Adding a layer of mulch Mulch can be added now or after you have finished harvesting the asparagus in late spring. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
Mulch is an effective insulator so soil underneath mulch is always cooler than bare soil. Adding mulch in July means that the start of the asparagus season will be slightly later (only a few days) as it is the soil temperature that triggers the asparagus growth. But leaving the mulching until after the harvest means that weeds will find an easy foothold in the bare soil as the days warm up, plus when you finally add the mulch you will have to spread it around the growing asparagus.
Asparagus stalks are notoriously brittle, they can be easily broken as you work amongst them applying the mulch. For this reason I prefer to mulch the bed in July.
It also gets the job of preparing the asparagus bed out of the way in one hit.
PAGE CREATED 20th July, 2016
Planting & Growing Asparagus
Our asparagus plants are 1-year-old, bare-root crowns. Learn how to plant asparagus with confidence and add this perennial vegetable to your home garden.
Asparagus plants are easy to grow when you start them off right. These plants thrive in a sunny, well-drained location, so be sure to select a spot that has at least 6- to 8-hours of full sunlight during the growing season. Asparagus plants can be planted in containers or raised beds as well, as long as the soil is nutrient-rich and does not retain water. The soft and feathery asparagus ferns can get quite large (3- to 4-feet tall on average!), so be sure to leave room overhead when you plant.
Things to Consider Before Planting Asparagus
When Stark Bro’s ships asparagus plants, they arrive as a package of bare-root, 1-year-old crowns. Each crown (top-center of the plant) has a long root system. Remove all weeds and grass from the planting site to give your new asparagus a clean start. Separate the asparagus crowns from the bundle and soak the bare-root asparagus roots in water* for 15-30 minutes prior to planting so that they are well hydrated going into the ground. *for a jump-start, consider soaking your asparagus in nutrient-rich organic compost- or manure-tea!
How to Plant Asparagus Plants
There are a few different approaches to planting asparagus, so choose the best one for you and your planting site. Remember that, when planting bare-root asparagus, the crown always remains toward the top of the planting hole. We’ll cover one method for how to plant asparagus here, but if you have another method that works for you, by all means use it – and share with us in the comments!
- Dig the planting area at least 6- to 12-inches deep and about 12-inches wide. Space individual asparagus plants 12- to 18-inches apart for room to grow.
- If you are digging rows for your asparagus plants, they can be as long as needed for the quantity you’re planting. When planting in rows, space the rows 2- to 5-feet apart or whatever is required for you to have room to maneuver around the planting site.
- After digging, but before planting, combine any soil additives needed (like compost, aged manure, fertilizer, etc.) with some of the top soil. Backfill the planting holes slightly with this topsoil mixture, creating a mound at the bottom of the hole (one that is about 3-inches thick in a 6-inch deep hole, or 8-inches thick in a 12-inch deep hole).
- Take your bare-root asparagus plants and place the crown so that the roots are spread out around all sides of the mound in the hole. If your asparagus plant’s roots are cramped, consider widening the planting hole.
- Keep the crown in hand and backfill the hole until the crown is about 3- to 4-inches below the soil surface.
- Finish covering the asparagus planting and gently tamp around the soil surface to remove any air pockets. Avoid tightly packing down the soil and avoid planting in heavy soils that are prone to compacting, as these things will reduce the ability for new asparagus to emerge.
- Water thoroughly after planting and apply a generous layer of mulch – at least 4-inches thick – to help retain soil moisture and limit the need for frequent watering throughout the growing season.
- As soil settles and plants grow, add more soil, compost, and/or mulch around the planting site.
How Asparagus Grows
Asparagus is a perennial plant — one that sleeps in the winter and comes back in the spring. When it becomes dormant, you should cut exhausted plants (usually brown brittle ferns at this point) back to the soil surface and provide winter protection – like a layer of mulch or straw – to help avoid damage caused by deep-freezes or extreme changes in soil temperature. Mulch also helps keep water needs and weeds down during the growing season. Remove all weeds as soon as they appear, since these and even grass can compete for nutrients in your asparagus patch. Harvest sizable spears in spring, leaving the smaller spears to leaf-out and gather nutrients to support the root system. Read more about growing your own asparagus plants here. Happy planting!
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