The Q&A Archives: Starting asparagus from seeds

Question: I am attempting my very first garden and have spent hours of time researching vegetable gardening to determine what would work best for my needs. I have started some plants from seed and seem to be off to a good start. I have read about asparagus and how it is better to buy crowns, but I like a challenge so I baught seed. I have started two varieties, "Mary Washington" and "Purple Passion", back in the begining of March. They both seem to be growing nice and I seem to even have some sprouts that look like tiny asparagus (my kids realy get a kick out of those). Most of the plants look like like leafy sprouts, and they don't stand up strait, which I am hoping is normal. They don't look leggy, they just look like ferns. I have planted these seeds in peat pots, so I may just transplant them as is and not have to interupt the roots at all. Out of all the material I have read on asparagus, no one seems to go into detail on starting asparagus from seed and what to expect. I am hoping you can shed some light on this subject for me. I guess I wanna know when it would be the best time to plant these in the ground and is it o.k. to plant both varietys in the same bed. I have prepared a 4 by 8 foot raised bed just for my aspargus. And then when I do plant them how should I care for these seedlings, do I cut them back this fall? Or ealier? I am prepared to plant these seedlings the proper distance apart, so as to not have to dig them up again next year and replant again. Or do I have to plant them in a way that I'll have to replant again? I sure hope you can help me with this matter at hand, as I am sure you can. Thanks so much for any information that you can send my way.

Answer: Congratulations on your first vegetable garden! I don't know many people, much less beginners, who "go for it" the way you have!

Actually, you'll save yourself some trouble by planting your seedlings into a nursery bed rather than into their permanent location, since you have to "weed out" the female plants. Only male plants produce good crops of spears. The female seedlings aren't productive.

When danger of frost has passed, harden off your seedlings. It's best to tranplant them when they're about 1 foot tall. Plant the peat post 2-3" deep in a nursery bed, and when the ferns flower, cull the females. Female plants have flowers with large, three-lobed pistils; male flowers are larger and longer than females. Next spring, transplant the male plants of both varieties to the 4x8 bed you have ready for them. Just keep them marked so you'll be able to keep track of the performance of the two. Enjoy!

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