Asparagus is native to the Mediterranean region. Records of this vegetable go back thousands of years, and it has even been documented as a favorite of Queen Nefertiti of Ancient Egypt! It was harvested wild and cultivated across the ancient world, from the Mediterranean to the Far East. It is still one of the most common vegetables served in both Europe and the United States. When served by itself, it has a rich, strong flavor, similar to broccoli.
Asparagus is native to the Mediterranean region. Records of this vegetable go back thousands of years, and it has even been documented as a favorite of Queen Nefertiti of Ancient Egypt! It was harvested wild and cultivated across the ancient world, from the Mediterranean to the Far East. It is still one of the most common vegetables served in both Europe and the United States. When served by itself, it has a rich, strong flavor, similar to broccoli. Asparagus easily absorbs the flavors of anything it is cooked with, and an asparagus dish cooked with lemon will be delicious in a completely different way from one cooked with garlic, or basil, for example. Asparagus is rich in vitamins, being high in potassium, and vitamin K, C, A, and B6, folic acid, and thiamine. It is also a great source of fiber.
- Asparagus: Asparagus officinalis
- Full sun
- Soil acidity should be neutral or close to neutral (7.0 ph).
- Sandy, moist soil with good drainage.
- Seeds starting:
- Climate Zones 2-11
Asparagus should be planted in the spring, and allowed to establish itself before trying to harvest. It’s very important to dig deep and remove all of the weeds you can before planting Asparagus. Add organic compost, or worm leavings to freshen the soil. Direct sun and garden beds that drain very well are needed for this hardy vegetable.
Starting asparagus from seeds takes some time. It’s a good idea to start the seeds indoors in late winter or very early spring. Soak the seeds for several hours, then plant them in small seedling pots. Keep them warm and well lighted. Wait to transplant until they are 9-12 weeks old. Asparagus can grow quite large, so it’s best to plant them 18-24 inches apart in a single row, or if you have room, multiple rows 4-6 feet apart. A 10-inch deep trench is good for each row. When planted from seed, it takes about 3 to 4 years to harvest time.
Asparagus is just as often grown from crowns. It’s quicker but they do cost a bit more. Crowns should be planted the same as transplanted seedlings, spaced 18-24 inches apart in a single row, and covered by about 6 inches of soil. Whether grown from seedlings or crowns, add soil the first year, filling in the base of the plants as they grow. Add a few inches of dirt at a time until the trench is completely filled in and level with the ground.
Asparagus does well in cold to warm climates but needs light. Direct sun is best. Seed germination needs temperatures between 70 and 85 degrees, but over its life, asparagus is a resilient plant. Once it has grown for one summer season, it will over-winter easily.
Asparagus needs rich, well-drained soil, that is not heavy or muddy. These plants do best in soil that is not too acidic, with a pH close to 7.0. Keep the plant beds weeded! Weeds can overwhelm asparagus, especially younger plants. The best way to keep the bed weed-free is to keep a layer of organic mulch on the top of the soil and regularly weed by hand.
Harvest asparagus only after the plant is well established. It’s important to allow the spears from the young plant to grow and establish a good root system. In the fall after the second year of growth, completely trim down the browning ferns on the plant. The third year is when to start actively harvesting asparagus. Let the spears grow to about 8 inches, plus or minus, and harvest them before flowering. Snap off the spears at ground level, being careful not to uproot the plants. Harvest through June. It’s important to let the plant grow out in late summer. If the spears get too tall to harvest (over 10 inches), just let them grow. It’s OK to harvest sparingly as well, especially for younger plants. Depending on the variety, asparagus can last and be productive for 10 to 30 years. It is one of the most vital and long-lasting perennial plants.
In addition to being cautious about weeds, there are a few pests and funguses that can impact asparagus. The most common one is the Asparagus Beetle. Spray with Neem oil for an organic solution, or if in dire need, with some pesticides: malathion, permethrin, or pyrethrins, which should be relatively garden-safe. Be sure to avoid any that contain carbaryl, as that will kill bees. In the fall, carefully trim the asparagus at soil level. Don’t compost! These should be disposed of to avoid eggs spreading. Cutworms are also a hazard, it’s good to try and remove them in the evening. They are most risky for young transplants and crowns. Weeding carefully especially helps with these. Asparagus Rust is another thing to watch out for. It’s common in moist or damp asparagus beds, this is one reason why it’s so important to ensure that the garden bed is well-drained. There are varieties of asparagus to look for that are resistant to this fungus. Fusarium Rot is one more risk. This can affect many plants, including tomatoes. For asparagus it causes wilting. Dispose of infected plans carefully.
Growing asparagus is fun and easy! Follow these steps and you will have great success with a productive, long-lived plant!