HOW TO GROW ASPARAGUS


Unlike most vegetables, asparagus plants are perennial, which means the same plants grow in your garden year after year. Because of their slow maturation rate, asparagus starts, called “crowns,” are actually one-year-old plants, which means the grower has shaved off some of the wait time involved. Once mature, asparagus can produce their famous spears for 15, 20, sometimes even 30 years.

Choose a sunny, well-drained site on the edge of your garden where it will not be disturbed by the activity of planting and re-planting of other plants Also keep the area free of weeds. It doesn’t like competition from other plants, or the disruption caused by digging in the soil around it.

Dig a trench about 6-inches deep. Create a mound in the trench and plant the crowns 15 to 18 inches apart, spreading the roots over the ridge. Then cover the roots and crowns with soil 2 inches deep and water thoroughly. As the stems grow, fill in the rest of the trench with soil, leaving 3 to 4 inches of the stem exposed.

Once the trench is filled, mulch plants to a depth of 4 to 8 inches. Water regularly but do not over-water. Plants should be allowed to dry out between waterings.

Do not harvest the spears in the first year, but cut down dead foliage in late fall and side-dress with compost. During the second year, keep the bed thickly mulched, side-dress in spring and early fall, and cut down dead foliage in late fall. Fertilize in spring with an acidic fertilizer such as cottonseed meal.

The third year is usually when you can begin to enjoy your labor. As spears emerge, harvest only those that are thicker than a pencil. Cut them to about 6 inches in length at an angle. Harvest season usually lasts about 3 weeks. After harvest, allow the ferns to grow; this replenishes the nutrients for next year’s spear production.


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