If you haven’t figured it out by now, I love asparagus. Not just to eat, but the romantic notion of it. Every year, I plant a few more crowns of asparagus; it has become almost a rite of spring. Asparagus grows for generations and to me, it feels as though each crown I plant is a gift to my children and future grandchildren. This ferny feathery goddess of the garden is my living legacy. – Enjoy – The Homesteader’s Wife

Asparagus is a perennial. But there are tricks of the trade when it comes to planting my favorite veggie.  It is grown for its tender young shoots, and is full of B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, and iron!  It is also one of the first crops I get to harvest. You will learn freshly cut spears are far more tender and tasty than anything you can buy in the store.

Asparagus is a permaculture crop! So, select and prepare your asparagus bed with care; this crop will occupy the same spot for 20 years or more. It can tolerate some shade, but full sun produces more vigorous plants and helps minimize disease. Asparagus does best in lighter soils that warm up quickly in spring and drain well; standing water will quickly rot the roots. Prepare a planting bed about 4 feet wide by removing all perennial weeds and roots and digging in plenty of aged manure or compost. We till the group twice, spread a thick layer of compost and till it again.

Some varieties of asparagus, such as ‘Jersey Knight’ and ‘Jersey Giant’ produce all male or primarily male plants, so they’re more productive—male plants yield more harvestable shoots because they don’t have to invest energy in producing seeds. Choose an all-male variety if high yield is your primary goal. Personally, I like to grow an heirloom variety or a purple-stalked variety like ‘Purple Passion’ also because they have male and female plants. This equals more plants and ensures my legacy.

Starting asparagus from 1-year-old crowns gives you a year’s head start over seed-grown plants. Look for crowns from that are fresh, firm, disease-free roots. Plant them ASAP!

 

To plant asparagus crowns, dig trenches 12 inches wide and 1 foot deep down the center of the prepared bed. I like to soak the crowns in compost tea for 20 minutes before planting. Place the crowns in the trenches 1½ to 2 feet apart; top them with 2 to 3 inches of soil. Two weeks later, add another inch or two of soil. Continue adding soil periodically until the soil is slightly mounded above surface level to allow for settling.

Apply mulch to smother weeds, which compete with the young spears and reduce yields. Carefully remove any weeds that appear, and be sure to water regularly during the first 2 years after planting. As asparagus matures, it crowds out most weeds and sends long, fleshy roots deep into the earth, so watering is less critical. Fertilize in spring and fall by top-dressing with liquid fertilizer (such as compost tea) or side-dressing with a balanced organic fertilizer. You can leave winter-killed foliage, along with straw or other light mulch, on the bed to provide winter protection.

As hard as it is to resist, DO NOT cut any spears during the first 2 years that plants are in the permanent bed. They need to put all their energy into establishing deep roots. During the third season, pick the spears over a 4-week period, and by the fourth year, extend your harvest to 8 weeks.