Asparagus, as a perennial, does not need much care; we need to plant it well. So this asparagus planting guide will be helpful if you wish to grow it. Asparagus is an early spring treat and one of the first spring vegetables. We enjoy the young stems or shoots. Asparagus is grown from seedlings or perennial roots. Each root is its own plant with several stem shoots and does not reproduce (vegetatively) like, for example, rhubarb and horseradish. When the shoots are mulched, we grow (white) whites. When the shoots grow in the light, we grow (green) asparagus. Green and white asparagus grow as the same plant; the only difference is how they are grown. As an interesting fact, there is also a type of purple asparagus that also grows in the light.
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The general instructions for growing asparagus come from large plantations, where the growth takes place with the help of mechanization, so instructions are unsuitable for the garden method of growing at certain points. Above all, we mean the depth of the planting trenches, the cultivation in the ridges, and also the planting distance. We will focus on growing in a smaller garden area, with up to 50 plants that meet the family’s needs.
Asparagus Planting Guide – When and How to Plant and Planting Distance
In recent years, asparagus has been most often grown from rhizomes, which is the fastest way to the crop. It is also the easiest and fastest way of cultivation. For this purpose, we buy rhizomes of 2- to 3-year-old plants, which we plant in a permanent place in March or early April. Before that, we are weeding the entire bed because later, weeding with a tool is impossible because we damage shoots. We need to know that we spend much more time if we weed with our hands.
What is the point of deep planting? The transplanted rhizome will successfully grow and break through a thick layer of soil up to 50 cm thick above it. This achieves (in our opinion) the key function of deep planting. Deeply planted asparagus does not need support! A good part of the above-ground part of the plant grows in the ground and easily holds up a 1.5 to 2 m tall plant.
When the (shallow or deep) transplanted root begins to grow, it branches out profusely and reaches more than 2 meters in depth. Our actions do not help the plants to grow deeper. Even one-year-old asparagus seedlings, which are never transplanted so deeply, grow successfully and are not destroyed even by a severe winter with deep frost.
Although it is recommended (for professional cultivation) to prepare deep planting trenches and then prepare ridges, asparagus also thrives on flat, compost-covered soil. A shallow trench 10 cm into the ground is enough. In a row, the roots follow each other at a distance of 30 cm. If fewer rhizomes are transplanted, each pit can be prepared separately for each rhizome. Water the ditch or pit abundantly.
Pay Attention to Directing the Growth Buds or the Root Crown
When transplanting, we pay attention to directing the growth buds or the root crown upwards as our (above-ground) crop grows from them. In the end, cover with 5 cm thick compost mulch. The thicker the compost mulch, the better it will be for asparagus, as they love loose and fertile soil in which water does not stagnate. You can even place the rhizomes of asparagus on the ground and cover them with 15 cm of compost, and they will still grow successfully. However, it is true that in stronger winds, they need support.
Due to their high growth in the summer and autumn, they are planted in one row in the middle of the bed for shading. Together with the garden paths, we obtain 120 cm of inter-row distance on a 75 cm wide bed and 150 cm on a wider 100 cm wide bed. With such a distance, we ensure that they do not shade each other when we plant them in several rows or other vegetables on the neighboring bed.
We choose a permanent place for them in the garden. Asparagus grows together with other perennials, e.g., strawberries. Make sure there is sufficient planting distance due to shading. Spring vegetables with a shorter growing season – spinach, lettuce, radish, or kohlrabi can be planted along the edge of an asparagus bed to take advantage of the bed before the asparagus branches out.
Asparagus Planting Guide Regarding Care
After planting, regularly remove weeds and take care of moist soil. In the first year, we do not harvest the asparagus but let it grow until all the shoots grow into tall green leaves. In the second year, we tear off two or three. From the third year onwards, we start regular harvesting. We finish picking at the beginning of June at the latest. The more green plants there are, the more nutrients there are for root growth, where “energy” is stored for annual (thick) shoots. Therefore, the green plant must grow on the bed as long as possible. In October, the aerial parts turn yellow and begin to dry. That’s when it’s time to remove the above-ground part altogether and prepare the tree for winter.
In autumn, we apply a 3 to 5-cm thick compost mulch to the asparagus, which adds nutrients and microbiologically revitalizes the soil for the new season. In the spring, they will easily outgrow such mulch. In autumn, we also use a straw for mulching, which is mulched thicker, at least 10 cm thick, as it will settle during the winter. In March, we have to remove the (insulating) straw so that the ground will warm up more easily on sunny days.
Care is the same every year – we remove weeds, possibly tie up above-ground parts, and do autumn cleaning by covering the bed with compost. Watering is not necessary.
During the year, we add compost mulch, especially when we want to grow white asparagus. White asparagus are young shoots of asparagus that grow covered to remain white. White asparagus is easier to grow with compost than soil, as it is easier to maneuver with compost.
Challenges and Inconveniences
The most damage is done by the asparagus fly and two types of asparagus beetle, which attack the young shoots and ultimately destroy them. The larvae of the asparagus fly (Platyparea poeciloptera) make burrows in the shoots that can reach all the way to the roots. The yellowing and deformed shapes of young asparagus can recognize their presence. Asparagus flies overwinter in the soil as a beetle.
Common asparagus beetle (Crioceris asparagi) and spotted asparagus beetle(Crioceris duodecimpunctata) are tiny bugs that overwinter in the soil as adults and feed on young shoots in the spring. Females lay little gray eggs on asparagus, which are quickly spotted and removed by hand. Damage to asparagus is deformed shoots and characteristically bent tops. Later, larvae and adult beetles eat the entire aerial part of the plant. We remove bugs and eggs by hand. Unfortunately, covering it with an insect net does not help because they overwinter in the ground on the same shaft. The larvae of the spotted asparagus beetle also cause damage to the later fruits, in which they burrow and search for seeds. More damage is caused by the spotted asparagus beetle, which appears earlier and has more time to eat the shoots before the plant starts to grow faster.
We start the third year with regular picking of young stems. If March is warm, the first shoots are collected at the end of March; otherwise, the crop increases in mid-April. We collect 20 to 30-cm shoots. We harvest them regularly until the middle of May or the beginning of June at the latest when the plants are allowed to branch out.
Asparagus can be harvested by pulling it off the root crown without damaging it. With this, we get a good part of the (unusable) woody part of the plant. Therefore, cutting it just above the ground with a knife is more common. We enjoy the tender part. Bend the cut stem slightly in both hands, and at the point where the asparagus breaks is a line between the non-woody and woody parts. We don’t use woody parts in cooking.
When we grow white asparagus, and they are covered all the time of growth, we need a special (longer) knife for harvesting, which is used to reach into the ground and cut individual whites.
For many people, the easiest way to eliminate these woody stems is to break them off by bending them until they snap in two.
A trick for an abundant harvest
The more shoots we leave for the seedlings in the first three years, the more harvest we will have in the following years. The plants’ green parts increase the seedlings’ fertility for the next spring.
Asparagus is best consumed as fresh as possible and stored in a cold place for a few days. Then it is best to wrap them in a wet cloth from the bottom side to keep them juicy. They can also be frozen or pickled in vinegar. But considering that it is one of the first types of vegetables, it is a shame not to use them directly from the garden.