The Q&A Archives: Planting Asparagus

Question: Now that we own our own home, I would like to start an asparagus bed but I have no idea how to start. Is it best to start from seed or with plants? If I start from seed do I need to start them in the house first or can I can the seeds directly in the bed? If I start them inside, how long before setting them out do I start them? When do I plant them (early spring, late spring)? Do they do best in full sun, part sun or shade? What about spacing? Finally, how do I care for the asparagus once I have it planted? If this is too long to answer here, are there any good books that would have this information in an easy to read (and understand) format with lots of pictures?

Answer: There are many Q&A entries dealing with asparagus, but in a nutshell it is not difficult to grow IF you do a thorough job of soil preparation in advance by digging deeply and adding copious amounts of organic matter such as compost and well rotted manure. The reason for this is that the plants will live for many years and have huge root systems. It is also important to keep the area free of weeds, both in the beginning while the plants are becoming established and over the years the patch is in production; an easy way to do this is to keep a heavy mulch over the bed. This also helps feed the soil as it breaks down over time. An annual covering late each fall with a thick layer of compost and or well rotted manure is also helpful in this regard.

Asparagus takes a lot of space. The plants need full sun and a rich soil that is evenly moist and wet well drained. The plants are usually spaced several feet apart to allow for their mature size. In the beginning, most gardeners purchase asparagus crowns or roots and plant those in the spring when they are available. These crowns take two years to become well enough established to withstand a light harvest. Seeds can also be used, but will take an extra year before harvest. It is also quite difficult to keep a bed of seedlings well weeded. On the other hand, the seeds are not difficult to start indoors in early season and are less expensive than buying crowns.

Seeds or crowns should also come with instructions.

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