Growing Asparagus

Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Asparagus

asparagus-plant-grow-harvest

Asparagus is one of the first plants that greets us in springtime! It’s a perennial, which means that once it gets established, asparagus will return year after year. Here’s how to grow asparagus in your garden.

Note: Asparagus plants may take 2 to 3 years to truly get started and produce, so patience is needed! But then again, the plant can be productive for up to 25 years, so we think it’s worth the wait.

Asparagus has male and female plants, with the female plants producing berries. Regions with cool winters are best for this cool-season crop, which is planted in early spring.

Planting

How to Plant Asparagus

  • Asparagus is planted in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. The plant is normally grown from “crowns” (1-year-old plants).
  • Asparagus does not like to have its feet “wet,” so be sure that your garden bed has good drainage. (For that reason, raised beds can be a good place to plant asparagus. Learn how to make a raised garden bed.)
  • Eliminate all weeds from the bed, digging it over and working in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost, manure or soil mix. (Learn more about soil amendments and preparing soil for planting.)
  • Dig shallow trenches of about 12 inches wide and 6 inches deep (or 8 inches if you have sandy soil and 4 inches if you have especially heavy soil).
  • Space the crowns 12 to 18 inches apart in rows that are 4 to 5 feet apart. Spread the roots out in the trench with the buds pointing upward.
  • After planting, completely fill in the trench with soil. (Though commonly done in the past, it’s not necessary to gradually fill in the furrow as the plants grow.) 

Enjoy this Growing Asparagus video to watch how it’s done!

Care

How to Grow Asparagus

  • When the trench is filled, add a 4 to 8 inch layer of mulch and water regularly.
  • Do not harvest the spears in the first year (the plant needs time to grow out its root system), but cut down dead foliage in late fall and side-dress with compost. 
  • During the second year, keep the bed thickly mulched, side-dress in spring and early fall, and cut down dead foliage in late fall.

Pests/Diseases

Harvest/Storage

How to Harvest Asparagus

  • Asparagus can take three growing seasons to harvest, though you may be able to lightly harvest during the second year.
  • In the first year, just let the asparagus go vegetative to give the crown a chance to get well established. Next spring, remove the old fern growth from the previous year, and keep an eye open for the new spears beginning to emerge.
  • Harvest spears at approximately 8 inches tall, cutting the spears off with a knife or scissors at the soil line.
  • Check your plant every other day for harvest-ready spears. Spears grow quickly and may become too woody before you know it!
  • Stop harvesting spears when the diameter of the spears decreases to the size of a pencil. At that point, it’s time to let them grow and gain strength for next spring.
  • Once an asparagus spear starts to open and have foliage, it’s too tough for eating.
  • If you have young plants, the season may last 2 to 3 weeks. However, established plants produce longer—up to 8 weeks.
  • After harvest, allow the ferns to grow; this replenishes the nutrients for next year’s spear production. Always leave at least one spear.
  • Cut back asparagus AFTER the foliage has died back and turned brown or yellow. This is usually in the fall after the first frost. Cut back to about two inches from the ground.

Asparagus in field

How to Store Asparagus

  • Asparagus does not keep for very long after it’s picked, so be sure to eat it within two or three days from harvest.
  • Brush off any visible dirt or give the spears a light washing with cold water before storing. It’s very important to dry washed spears thoroughly; moisture can lead to mold.
  • To store, bundle the spears together, wrap the stem ends of the spears in a moist paper towel, and place the bundle in a plastic bag. Store in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.
  • If you have enough space in your fridge, you can also store asparagus by placing the spears in a cup of water. Keep about an inch of clean water in the cup.

Recommended Varieties

Wit & Wisdom

Recipes

Cooking Notes

A simple and easy favorite when it comes to asparagus is fresh roasted asparagus.

Growing Asparagus

Botanical Name

Asparagus officinalis

Plant Type Vegetable
Sun Exposure Full Sun
Soil Type Sandy
Soil pH Slightly Acidic to Neutral
Bloom Time
Flower Color
Hardiness Zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Special Features