Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that can keep producing for up to 20 years, making it a great long-term investment for gardeners.
There are two main methods of planting asparagus: from seeds or from asparagus crowns. I will discuss crowns in this article as that is what I have experience with, as well as provide helpful tips for maintaining and harvesting your asparagus plants, to help you enjoy a bountiful crop from your garden year after year.
Preparing the Soil
When it comes to planting asparagus, preparing the soil properly is crucial for success. A well-prepared soil bed will ensure healthy growth and a bountiful harvest.
Adding organic matter to the soil is an essential step in preparing the asparagus bed. I like to incorporate compost, which helps improve the soil structure, retain moisture and provide essential nutrients.
I follow no-dig gardening methods to layer compost on my beds. Because I have been doing this for a few years now, the beds are really high quality and have excellent drainage – perfect for asparagus.
Ideally, the bed should be at least 4 feet wide, allowing plenty of space for the asparagus plants to grow. Dig a hole in the prepared soil for the asparagus crowns, making it deep and wide enough for the roots to expand easily.
Planting Asparagus Crowns
I nipped off to B&Q to get some crowns and plant them to help show you how to do it. Plus, you can never have too much asparagus right?
Before planting my crowns I gave them a soak in a bucket of water for a couple of hours to help them to rehydrate.
Crowns should be planted at least 15 inches apart to ensure enough room for growth. Many people dig trenches and plant their crowns this way, but as I was only planting a couple it made sense to dig a hole for each crown with a trowel.
While planting the asparagus crowns, it’s essential to make sure that the top of the crown is around 6 inches below the soil line. Cover the crown with soil and water it well.
You can fill the hole up with compost as the crowns appear, much like mounding up potatoes, or just fill the hole up all at once. Gradually filling the hole will be better for your plant’s health, but by how much, I am not so sure.
Keep an eye out for weeds and remove them promptly while the asparagus plants are young. They really don’t need competition at this stage in their life.
Additionally, I apply a layer of organic mulch, compost for me, around the asparagus plants. This mulch helps suppress weeds and retain soil moisture, maintaining a healthier environment for the plants to grow.
Planting asparagus takes time and patience; however, once established, you can harvest it for many years to come. In this section, I will discuss the harvesting process and provide guidance on when and how to harvest asparagus for the best results.
When to Harvest
For asparagus plants to grow strong and healthy, it is crucial not to harvest them too soon. After planting crowns, it generally takes two years before they are ready for harvesting. If you started from seeds, you need to wait an additional year.
When the asparagus spears emerge in spring, monitor their height and thickness. The ideal time to harvest is when the spears have reached 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 cm) tall and are about the diameter of your index finger. Harvest season typically lasts around six to eight weeks, depending on the age and health of your asparagus plants.
How to Harvest
When the ideal time for harvest has come, it’s essential to use the proper technique. To ensure that your plant remains unharmed and able to produce more spears, follow these steps:
- Equip yourself with a clean, sharp knife or gardening shears. This will reduce the risk of damaging the plant or introducing diseases.
- For each spear ready to be harvested, position your knife or shears horizontally at ground level.
- Carefully and cleanly cut the spear, ensuring not to disturb the surrounding soil or other spears.
- Proceed to harvest the other ready spears, always keeping an eye on their height and thickness.
- Remember to harvest your asparagus regularly during the season, as this can encourage new growth and stronger plants.
By following these guidelines, you can successfully harvest your asparagus, allowing you to enjoy the fruits of your labour and keep your plants in prime condition for future harvests.