Planting & Growing Asparagus
Asparagus is a hardy perennial, native to Western Europe, which is usually started from crowns but can also be grown from seed. It grows well inmost areas of the country. Asparagus beds can remain productive for 10–20 years so be sure to plant them in a permanent location that contains rich, fertile, well drained soil. pH should be between 7.0 and 7.2. Gopher wire barriers or wire baskets should be installed prior to planting.
When your nursery stock arrives, it is best to plant them right away. If you cannot plant immediately (within a week of delivery), remove plastic bags that cover and keep the roots moist during shipment, and store them in a cool moist place like a root cellar or basement, making sure the roots stay moist and do not freeze. Or, you can “heel in” the plants to protect them. Cover the roots with soil and tamp it down to avoid air pockets. Heeling in should protect your plants until you are ready to plant. If you are unable to heel them in outside due to extremely cold temperatures, you can place the plants in a box with moist sawdust (do not, however, use cedar sawdust which is combustible) or dirt (by far the best and safest medium) covering the roots to hold them over. If using sawdust, be sure to carefully and regularly monitor the temperature to prevent “cooking” the roots if the sawdust starts to compost. The best preventative measure is to regularly water and aerate the pile without allowing the temperature to rise.
Planting & Growing Instructions
Be sure soil is at least 50°F. Dig a trench, 12”–15” deep with 4 feet between rows. Make a cone in the bottom of soil trench with quality compost and drape the roots of the asparagus over this mound. Space crowns 18” apart in the trench. The top of the crown should be planted 3”–5” below the soil surface. Fill in the trench with soil, covering the crowns 1” deep at first. As the plants grow and shoots emerge, begin covering the crowns with more soil until the trench becomes level with the soil surface. Keep the plants well watered and weeded. Ideally, you do not want to harvest many shoots in the first year, allowing most of the spears to set ferns and direct their energy back into becoming stronger plants. In the second year, you can begin regular harvesting of the Asparagus spears. Harvest season generally lasts about 8–12 weeks. Cut Asparagus 1–2 inches below the ground and at least 2 inches above the crown.
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