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I LOVE fresh asparagus! But what I don’t love is the price. That’s why today, I’m going to show you how to grow and harvest asparagus!
Growing your own asparagus takes time and patience, but man, it’s worth it! A well-tended asparagus patch can produce this nutrient-packed vegetable, year after year, for up to 30 years! You might be surprised to know that there was a time that I wouldn’t eat asparagus. But let me tell you this, even if I didn’t like asparagus, I would still grow it. Why? Because it is a great asset to barter with! As a homesteader, your ability to barter goods and services just might be critical at some point. Plus, it’s a good way to build and promote homestead community.
Back to asparagus!
Choosing where to plant your asparagus is paramount to it’s survival. Asparagus needs a sunny, well-drained spot in your garden. Asparagus is a heavy feeder and requires good, fertile soil! If you soil isn’t up to par, amend prior to planting!
Asparagus also likes soil with a pH value of 6.5 to 7.0, which you should test not only before planting, but periodically thereafter. Use aged compost, manure and possibly peat moss to loosen and fertilize your soil. Your local extension office will be able to provide further information about soil in your area. (search “extension office locator” for your state).
Remember, asparagus is a heavy feeder, meaning that it needs a steady supply of nutrients to grow. Fertilize your young asparagus in the Spring with an organic 5-10-10 formula. You will do this for the first 2 years from when you planted the crowns (unless you purchased older crowns). You will be able to harvest your asparagus in the 3rd year (more about that later) but do not fertilize in the third year until after harvesting.
Buying Your Plants
Don’t torment yourself by trying to start asparagus from seed. Purchase male asparagus crowns, which will produce more spears and less foliage. You can buy one year, two year or even three year crowns. I can also recommend Jersey Knight variety.
When you receive your asparagus crowns, they look something like this. Kind of weird, I know. But these are good, healthy crowns!
Take the rubber bands off and separate the crowns. Before planting, you will want to soak the crowns in water for about an hour.
Before planting, you will need to dig your trenches. This is my least favorite part, and it’s a lot of hard work, but the good news is that you only have to do it once!
Dig trenches that are 12 inches deep, and at least 4 feet apart. The crowns need to be planted 12-18″ apart.
Your plants need to be propped up on a 3″ mound of dirt/compost, with the roots spread out. Position the plant with the bud facing upwards.
Then cover your plant with about 4″ of soil, covering it completely. Do not press the soil down, we want the asparagus to grow upwards easily. Water well. Keep well weeded, asparagus doesn’t like to compete with weeds for nutrients.
As the roots begin to grow above the surface of the soil, you will want to bury them again….and again, every time they emerge, until you reach the top of your trench. You will only do this for the first year, as the asparagus roots are getting established. Having most of the growing season ahead of you when you plant asparagus roots will insure that this process is complete before the first frost.
Subsequent years will produce thin and spindly shoots, and I don’t recommend that you eat them. Rather, let them grow and allow the root system to develop. It’ll pay off!
Pruning is a very important part of growing asparagus. During the first and second year of growth, you should let the asparagus grow until after the first frost or so. After the growth turns yellow or brown, go ahead and trim it back to ground level, and mulch heavily for the winter.
After the third year, you will be able to harvest from late April til the end of June, while the spears are 5-9″. However, when the spear begin to get spindly, stop harvesting. This can weaken the root system for future years.
One plant can bear 8-10 spears. To harvest, you can just bend the spear to the ground, but I prefer to cut them.
Once you’ve harvested your asparagus, you can bring it in the kitchen, rinse well, pat dry and store in an air tight container.