Monday, October 7, 2013

How to Grow Asparagus Part 2

I did not like the taste of asparagus until I was in my mid twenties. Not sure what happened to my taste buds that year, but all of a sudden, out of nowhere, asparagus, was not only tolerable, but I absolutely loved the taste and flavor, both raw and cooked..

Fast forward years later, and now asparagus is a staple in my home vegetable garden. Asparagus is fairly easy to grow, and because it is a perennial, asparagus will yield returns for many years to come. Some 15 to 20 years. The drawback, if you start your asparagus from seed, is that it can take up to three years before you get quantifiable production.

So, if you love asparagus like I do, and want to add it to your home vegetable garden, like I have, there are two questions that you need to address before you begin. First, do you have an area in your yard or on your property that you can dedicate the next 15 to 20 years to? Second, are you going to grow from seed or use asparagus crowns from a local garden center?

Keep in mind, that since asparagus is a perennial and that is has a long life span, that you will need to pick an area of your property where it can reside for the next 15 to 20 years. To me the longevity of asparagus is one of the positive factors since I do not have to replant it every year. When choosing your location make sure you pick a site that will receive at least 8 hours of sunlight daily. Many varieties of asparagus will tolerate, and grow well with less than 8, but if it gets less than 4, you won’t get much asparagus production.

You will also want to make sure the soil is slightly acidic to neutral (6.5 to 7.0). You can pick up a low cost pH tester at any garden center for a few bucks. See below in the section titled "Additional Resources on How to Grow Asparagus" on excellent, organic ways, to lower or raise your soil’s pH level.

Now that you have the spot picked out and your soil is all set, are you going to grow asparagus, starting from seed or already established asparagus crowns. The advantage of starting from seeds is that you control the environment from their beginning and the upfront cost is far lower than crowns. For example, in a pack of asparagus seeds we sell in our online store, you’ll get anywhere from 50 to 100 asparagus seeds, depending on which variety you choose.

The advantage of asparagus crowns, depending on where and who you buy them from, is you can get edible asparagus spears in the first year, although year 2 is more the norm. Crowns cost a little more upfront and you really have no way of knowing the methods that were used to get them to that point, so those are some drawbacks. Not really show stopping though.

Regardless of whether you are planting asparagus seeds or asparagus crowns, wait until fear of frost in your area has passed. When planting asparagus seeds, plant them no deeper than a half inch. With asparagus crowns, two to three inches deep. Cover with soil and give your new asparagus plantings a good watering. As a side note, you can also start your asparagus seeds indoors to give them a head start, however you still do not want to move them outdoors until frost has subsided.

When grown from asparagus seeds, let your asparagus simply grow for the first 2 years. Do not harvest any spears (if they form at all). Your asparagus will look like fern plants. Just let that grow. For crowns, let them grow through for year 1 and begin harvesting in year 2.

Keep your asparagus beds weed free. Asparagus will need all of the nutrients it can get and if your asparagus has to compete with weeds, chances are it will lose that competition.

By year 3 your asparagus will be ready for harvest. Asparagus is one of those vegetables that will start to quickly lose it’s flavor once picked, so make sure you harvest only when you know you going to consume them, can them etc.

Additional Resources on How to Grow Asparagus
How to Grow Asparagus Part 1
Asparagus: From Seed to Harvest

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