Asparagus is an easy to grow, perennial vegetable which, once established, will grow year after year. Asparagus is an early crop providing tasty asparagus from early spring through early summer. You will need 20 – 30 plants to yield enough asparagus throughout the season for a family of 4. Allow about 12 plants for each asparagus lover in the family. Mature plants will produce from a half to one pound of spears in a season.
Large amounts of soil organic material such as humus, peat moss and manure should be worked into the soil to a depth of 14 to 16 inches. Asparagus grows best in fertile soils with a pH of 7.0. Choose a permanent sunny location which is well drained. It is advisable to prepare the site a year in advance by removing all perennial weeds and applying lime if needed to adjust the pH.
In early spring, apply 5 lbs. of 5-10-10 fertilizer (or equivalent) per 100 square feet and plow deep, working the fertilizer in well. Researchers have demonstrated that a high phosphate fertilizer application (such as superphosphate or bonemeal), when worked well into the furrow prior to planting is a positive cultural practice.
Recommended spacing within the row is 24″. Lay crowns up; settle each one on the bottom of the trench. Cover with 2 inches of soil from the bank, and firm gently over the plants. Water well after planting. As the new purplish tips grow through the soil, cover them again, gradually filling in the trench. Use this process to eliminate small weeds. The finished beds should be slightly higher than the adjoining ground, for they will settle further still. Within 6 weeks the furrow should be leveled. Side-dress in early August with 1 lb. of 5-10-10 (or equivalent) per 20 feet of row and lightly work into the soil. Allow the fern to grow all season, irrigating when necessary, especially when the plants are small. If using compost, avoid use at planting. Add as top dress once the plant is a ‘fern’, or fully incorporate into soil at planting. For commercial growers plants needed are 8,700 per acre. Plant rows 5 ft. apart for air circulation and to prevent diseases.
DON’T HARVEST ANY ASPARAGUS THE FIRST YEAR
Take spears 4 – 8 inches long and 3/8 to 3/4 inches thick, for about two weeks; then let the stalks grow. Mulch the bed as before and keep it weeded. In the third year you can pick for four to six weeks and in subsequent years stretch the season to eight. To harvest, slice the spears off just below the soil surface with a sharp knife; take care not to slash new growth, under the ground or above. Or snap the spears off close to the ground by hand.As the summer progresses, the spears will grow into tall, feathery ferns, which should be left to grow. Like those of all herbaceous perennials, the asparagus leaves are producing energies for next year’s growth. (Incidentally, the fronds will bear flowers in summer, and later the female plants will set small red berries). Don’t cut the stalks down until they brown and ripen off naturally in the fall. They don’t need to be removed until spring if the bed is pest-free. In areas where asparagus must be irrigated, withhold water in the fall and let the crowns die back.
50 to 100 roots will supply an average family, to can and freeze, plan on 250 roots. Asparagus is a very easy garden crop to grow and very healthy to enjoy freezer fresh throughout the year.