GENERAL INFORMATION: A relative of Lilies, Asparagus are one of the most enduring and dependable home garden vegetables. While plants may consume a decent portion of the garden and take 2–3 years to come into full production, they ultimately pay off, providing delicious, succulent spears every spring for 15–20 years. Consider situating them as background plants in perennial beds and borders to conserve space; they do get tall (around 6’), so plan accordingly.
LOCATION: Plant Asparagus in full sun in an area that drains well.
SOIL & PLANTING: To plant bare-root Asparagus, dig trenches 10 to 12 inches wide and 10 to 12 inches deep. Space trenches 4–6’ apart. Create a soil mixture of one-third Master Nursery Gold Rush and two-thirds native soil and heap about 4” at bottoms of trenches and soak. Space plants 1’ apart, spreading out roots evenly and placing them so that the tops are 6–8” below the surface. Cover plants with 2” of soil mix. Water again.
As young plants grow, gradually fill in trenches with soil mix, taking care not to cover the growing tips.
Alternatively, 3-4” of well-aged horse or steer manure can be placed in the bottom of the trench and covered with an inch or two of the soil mix. The Asparagus are then planted as described.
WATER: At first planting, irrigate whenever soil begins to dry out at root depth. After the first year, provide regular, deep soakings (See our Information Sheet on Irrigating Plants). Spray or drip systems work equally well, provided they deliver an adequate amount of water.
HARVESTING: Spears should not be harvested the first or second year. The goal at this time is to build root mass. When plants turn brown in late fall or early winter, cut stems to the ground. The third spring, you can cut your first spears; spears are ready to harvest when they reach 8–10 inches long. Spears are harvested by grasping at ground level and snapping them off with a quick, smooth motion. Harvest only for 2 weeks or until the appearance of thin spears, which indicates that roots are nearing exhaustion. Then permit plants to grow. The fourth year, you should be able to harvest spears for 4 weeks. The following years, you can harvest spears for 8 weeks.
FERTILIZING: Feed every other month from March to September with Master Nursery Formula 49 or if you prefer organic, use Cottonseed Meal.
Apply fertilizer to moist soils and water in well after application.
Adapted from Sunset Western Garden Book (2001) & 1977 Yearbook of Agriculture