Growing Asparagus

Growing Asparagus

Planting Asparagus

Growing asparagus is fun and relatively easy. Asparagus crowns can be put in the moment the soil can be worked. Asparagus can be planted from four to six weeks before the last frost. If you have raised beds, it will be the first week in March in the Northeast.  If you don’t have raised beds, then you may have to wait another week or two.

Asparagus roots

Asparagus is a perennial plant that should not be moved once established. When the shoots emerge, asparagus plants develop a visually appealing, fern-like appearance. Its flowers are small, yellowish-green, even on the male plants. They are great in edible landscapes and along the edges, as the plants can reach between five to nine feet tall, depending on variety. Plants can last twenty years or more.

Soil Requirements

Asparagus plants will likely be in the same location for years. Therefore, a rich nutrient soil is needed. Add lots of organic matter. Though it tolerates a wide range of pH, it is best to have it close to 7.0. It requires a well-drained soil; with the extra organic matter. It tolerates dryer soils. If it is a low spot in the garden, then definitely consider a different location or a raised bed.

How to Grow Asparagus

It needs full sun to partial shade. You can start it from seeds, separation from other crows or crowns/plants. If you use seeds it has disadvantages as you have to wait until your third year before harvesting. If you know someone who has healthy and overgrown plants, then you are in luck. With either the transplants or if you buy the crowns or bare root plants, you can start harvesting the following year.

Asparagus plants

Once you plant the crowns, the shoots that the plant gives out, though you may be tempted to eat them, should be left to grow and allow the plant to establish itself storing food for the following year.  The best varieties to grow are the male varieties that are high producers compared to the female varieties. Here in New Jersey we have excellent varieties (Jersey Knight, Jersey King, and Jersey Giant) that can yield about three times as much as the female varieties.

There are other European varieties now being grown here in the states. These are purple in color versus the standard green.  They tend to be sweeter, as they have higher sugar content and can be eaten raw. They are very low in calories. You may also see white asparagus in the stores. These are not a different type of asparagus but rather asparagus that are grown below the ground by mounding the soil and not allowing the shoots to emerge and get sun. Initially, the shoots are white when they come out and, once they emerge, they turn a light purple color, and as the sun hits them, they will turn green.

Planting crowns

They should be planted between fourteen to twenty-four (14 to 24) inches apart, depending on variety. If using a trench plant eight inches deep. Spread the crown evenly and cover with about two inches of soil. Once the plant begins to grow, just add more soil until the bed is leveled. Those that only get to be five-feet tall can be planted closer and the varieties that get to be nine feet will have to be around twenty-four inches apart.

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The second year after planting you can start harvesting the spears that shoot up from the ground. Allow them to get between seven to ten inches tall. You don’t want to harvest all the spears. Always leave a few of the younger spears behind. Once you cut or break the taller spears, there should be at least two more on the way. Eventually, the plant will stop sending spears.  These last spears will develop into full plants and replenish the plant for the following season. If you harvest them all, you will kill the plant.

Growing asparagus inter-planted with strawberries

When breaking the spears, do not go below the ground but rather an inch or so above the base. Asparagus, like other vegetables, should be harvested early in the morning to retain the maximum amount of sugars in the spears. Once harvested, it’s important to cool them off in an ice bath for a few minutes to stop the metabolic process. They will store for eight to twelve days.


Establishment of the plants the first year is very crucial. The plants should be watered once a week during the hot summer months but they should not be over-watered as they do not like wet feet. Mulch the plants during the summer months with straw, dried grass clippings or compost. Applying compost or well-rotted manure on a regular basis will provide the nutrients necessary for the plants to stay healthy.

Grasses can be a problem and, by weeding and mulching early on, you can spare the headache of trying to weed once these grasses get established.

At the end of the season, allow the plants to totally die back before cutting them back to a few inches above the grown. Add a some compost or mulch on top of the crown and they will be ready for next year. Read my blog on Gardening in raised beds

Insects and Diseases

Asparagus beetles are the problems. There is a spotted and a common asparagus beetle. Hand picking the beetle’s’ is really the best solution if you have a small area.

The new hybrid varieties being produced are resistant to fusarium wilt, crown rot and rust. The best prevention is to buy these resistant varieties from a reputable dealer. Those mentioned earlier are resistant varieties versus some of the older open-pollinated varieties.

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