|We are interested in growing asparagus in our back yard. We have a free plot of soil about 3 ft by 10 ft that gets moderate sun. Should we be getting seeds or plants, and when should we plant?|
|It is possible to grow asparagus from seed, but it is quicker to purchase asparagus crowns. The crowns are usually sold in bundles of a dozen or so and look quite dead at the time of purchase. A crown is a bare root asparagus plant, and consists of stringy roots which radiate outward from a pointed growing tip. (The bundles are tied with the tip up and roots dangling downward; you will plant them with the tip facing up.) They are available at garden centers or by mail order for early spring planting.
Asparagus needs plenty of sun and very rich, well drained soil with an ample amount of organic material worked in prior to planting. This is important because the asparagus bed is a long term planting which will last for many years if done right at the outset. The plants should be spaced about eighteen inches apart in rows about four feet apart. The mature plants are quite large!
Ideally asparagus is planted in very early spring. First prepare the ground as deeply as practical, because the roots can reach five feet deep. Then dig a trench about a foot deep and wide enough to accomodate the crowns without crowding. Work in several inches of organic matter such as compost or well rotted manure at the bottom of the trench, then plant the crowns. Cover them with a few inches of soil mixed with organic matter and water well. As the plants grow, continue adding layers of amended soil until the trench is filled in. Be sure to keep the asparagus bed well weeded and water regularly if needed during the summer.
Generally it is a good idea to let the new plants grow and become established for the first year, thus delaying any harvest until the next year. When you do begin to harvest, cut only those spears larger in diameter than a pencil.