Another delectable vegetable to consider adding to your backyard garden is asparagus. Once established, it will return year over year.
As this is a vegetable that will reoccur time and again, planting the best variety for your climate and tastes is essential.
Additionally, there are some tips on growing asparagus that should be considered ahead of making this commitment.
How Long Does it Take for Asparagus to Grow?
One of the first things to know about this veggie is that it is not advisable to harvest in the first year after planting, and only in small quantities within the second year .
This may seem like a long commitment, but after this period, it will be one of your first springtime crops for ten or more years.
Asparagus is also commonly grown from crowns, otherwise known as one-year-old plants. These can be cultivated or from a local garden shop to begin the asparagus crop in your garden.
Growing from Seed
Asparagus is normally grown from crowns because the maturity rate is faster than growing from seeds. But if you’re not familiar with this vegetable, or have never grown it before, planting from seed is your best bet.
To get started, soak the seeds for 4-5 hours. Next, plant each seed at a depth of half an inch in fertile soil. You should start to see new babies in 3-8 weeks.
Transplant when the seedlings are about 10 to 12 weeks old. Plant them 12 to 18 inches apart in rows of approximately 5 inches in fertile soil.
Growing from Cuttings
Cuttings or crowns are used to grow asparagus in most cases.
The first thing to remember is that these are perennials and will come back year over year. This critical fact should be considered when selecting the planting site for your crowns.
- Utilizing either well-drained raised beds or ground, dig trenches approximately 12 to 18 inches wide and six to eight inches apart.
- If you wish to cultivate more than one ditch or row, ensure you separate them by a minimum of six inches.
- Using warm water, soak your asparagus crowns, and then place 12 to 18 inches apart root to root tip.
- Bury the crowns with compost and topsoil, remember that asparagus needs a neutral, slightly acidic soil base to grow.
As the plants grow, ensure that once they are about two to three inches, more soil is administered on top of the original.
Growing in a Pot
Growing in a container is relatively straight forward.
- First, obtain a pot at least 20 inches deep, that has suitable drainage holes in the bottom. Add some gravel to the bottom of the pot. This will help with fungus when married with adequate drainage holes.
- Fill the pot with soil, dig a hole about 8 inches deep, and put a large scoop of compost at the bottom of the hole to prep space.
- Place a crown on top, fill with soil and water well. Over the coming weeks, as shoots appear, water well, and cover with soil.
- Fertilizing the plant with compost over the coming weeks, picking any red berries that appear off as these will be weeds that can impede other plants.
- In year three, the vegetable should be ready to harvest and eat.
- Cut below soil level, leaving the crown behind. In years one through three of these new plants, the results will be dismal or not consumable.
Year three should see your first beautiful asparagus to start enjoying. Along with maintaining the containers and plants, exposure to sunlight should be considered.
How Much Sun Does Asparagus Need?
It is a reasonably hearty plan that enjoys full sunlight but also can benefit from periods of shade.
Food stored in the roots feeds these plants during even dormant winter months, allowing for early spring growth. This means that if suddenly kept in the shade for extended periods, the sizes of the spears can diminish over time.
Soil erosion also will be a factor. On the other hand, nutrient replenishment, plenty of sun, and these plants have what is needed to store food for periods of shade and cold.
This allows spring and fall plant harvests of this vegetable. Another consideration is possible to transplant them to grow in better light and soil.
How to Transplant
The crop should be transplanted during stages of dormancy.
The best time, by far, is early spring just before they begin to wake from the dormant winter months.
Utilizing garden tools like hoes and spades, you will need to be careful to disengage the transplanted vegetable plant’s tentacle-like roots from surrounding plants.
This extremely complex system of roots that becomes entangled and expands the longer a plant is in the ground adds to the complexity of moving these plants.
Additionally, too much damage during this process and a healthy plant may not thrive in its new locale.
Once in place, place it in its new growing location, pack the soil around it, water well, and maintain until it has taken root in its new home.
If no extensive damage is done, you should continue to see shoots from the transplantation right on schedule.
Here’s a simple transplanting guide from the eHow gardening channel.
One of the critical factors to consider when planting asparagus is the best companion plants to put around it.
Companion plants such as basil, coriander, parsley, dill, and calendula help repel spider mites and other pests from your asparagus.
The considerations for these companions to your asparagus should be those that attract beneficial insects, deter pests, and, of course, add nutrients to the soil.
Tomatoes are another well-known companion plant to asparagus, as they emit solanine that repels asparagus beetle.
Additionally, on its own, asparagus deters nematodes through their chemical emissions.
Pest and Diseases
As noted above, the asparagus beetle can destroy your plants, but that is not the only impactful pest or disease.
The fungus can develop if the soil balance is not correct, and impact both your current crop and future asparagus.
Ensure good drainage, and when signs of wilting, discoloration, or even diminished produce of shoots occur, root out the plant or problem quickly to ensure it doesn’t continue.
Discolorations of the crown and shoots could be an indication of diseases such as Fusarium species , rust, crown & spear rot, and/or purple spot.
Additionally, aphids, thrips, Japanese beetle, mites, lygus bugs, whitefly, cutworms, and numerous other bugs love to make a meal of the leaves and spears.
Damage can stunt or even kill the plant for good. Check for damage, cull out areas of bug issues, and remember to use companion plants as a defense.
Do not let even minor damage go for long, or you can lose plants that should be able to produce for years to come.
The good news is your asparagus will be one of the first crops ready to harvest each spring.
Cut or breaking of the spears as close as possible to the root is the best harvest methodology.
Additionally, spears will continue to grow but should stop being harvested after about a month. This allows the plant time to rest and the extensive disturbance of the plant won’t overwhelm it, causing additional detriment to the output.
Also, there may be spears under the soil, so trying to minimize disturbances allow these to sprout efficiently also.
When seeking a healthy, reoccurring vegetable for your garden, look no further than asparagus. This relatively easy perennial plant requires minimal maintenance and can liven up snack time and meals.
With just a bit of planning and a regular maintenance schedule, you can enjoy this vegetable from your garden for years to come from a single original crown.