Growing Asparagus

Growing asparagus takes a little more effort than many other culinary vegetables, but, with a little care, the rewards will be great. Once the hard work of planting is over, you can enjoy fresh asparagus every Spring for years.

Asparagus was first grown around the Mediterranean Sea and has been used by the Greeks and Romans for both food and medicine for over 2,000 years. Since the 1600's, it has been grown in the United States, and is a popular early Spring treat throughout the world.

Asparagus is rather difficult to grow and requires a little more work to bring to harvest than some of the other vegetables. Most gardeners plant one or two year old root stock, placed into a trench dug 12 to 15 inches deep and 10 to 12 inches wide. The bottom of the trench should be mounded with 8 to 10 inches of mature compost. In order to give the roots the best start, soak them in water overnight and plant them into the trench, spreading out the roots evenly over the mature compost. Cover the roots with two or three inches of soil and water. This allows the roots to be watered thoroughly during their first growing season. As the growing season progresses, GENTLY pile more garden soil over the roots and around the stalks, so that, by the end of the growing season the soil level in the trenches is even with the surrounding garden. Allow the foliage to die back in the Fall and then cut to the ground.

Asparagus does not like to compete with weeds, so a mulch layer should be applied to help keep the weeds at bay.

One year old root stock will produce a crop within two years instead of the three that it will take if you grow the asparagus from seeds. By the third season, you should be harvesting your asparagus crop, and, with any luck the roots will produce asparagus spears for fifteen to twenty years before you will need to replant root stock.

The tender, new spears are usually collected when they are six to eight inches long, way before the bud heads open to reveal the beautiful, feathery foliage. This foliage is a popular "filler" for flower arrangements.

Edible asparagus should not be confused with Asparagus fern (A. plumosus), a delicate house plant that has fine, narrow leaves and looks similar to edible asparagus (A. officinalis).