How to Plant Asparagus. Now’s the Time!

Put your cruddy old jeans on because you’re going to be getting down in the dirt this weekend. It’s asparagus planting time! THIS is the year you’re actually going to do it.

Every year you say you wish you grew asparagus and every year you continue to buy bundles wrapped in rubber bands from the store.  Of all the things that I grow, the one thing that tastes infinitely better than what I could buy at the store – is asparagus.

Fresh cut, homegrown asparagus can be eaten raw right out of the ground. It tastes very similar to peas when you eat it like this, which I often do as I survey my asparagus plants.  BUT it wasn’t always this way because I, like you, kept putting off planting asparagus.

Asparagus is one of those things that everyone (me) seems to put off planting because they (me) hate the fact that they have to wait 15 (actually 2) years to harvest it.

I’m going to convince you by the end of this post to plant some this weekend, because now is the time and the window for this year is closing.

To reiterate, THIS IS THE YEAR YOU’RE GOING TO FINALLY PLANT ASPARAGUS!  GOOYA! (The phrase is similar to Booya, but more like what a baby would say if they scored a touchdown)  

asparagus-crowns

Asparagus is a bigger miracle than a toothless baby quarterbacking in the NFL let me assure you.  It’s a perennial vegetable that will stay strong and grow bigger and bigger for decades, feeding your family for generations.

Unless you come from a family of asparagus haters in which case it’ll be more of a decorative statement.

Asparagus you see, turns into 4-6′ tall ferny plants once it’s done producing asparagus in the spring. So you get to eat it all spring and then you just let it do its thing and it’ll become a bushy, ferny bed that looks nice and can act like a privacy screen.

asparagus-crowns-2

 

Basically asparagus is fantastic all around.  But you can’t harvest it for the first 2 years.  Which is where asparagus loses a lot of people.

The actual job of planting asparagus is easy. It’s the waiting that’s hard.

How Does it Grow?

Asparagus can be planted from a seed or from a crown. What is a crown?  The crown is the top knobby part of the asparagus where the shoots will come out of. It has roots coming from the bottom.

The actual asparagus grows above ground from the top knobby bits of the crown. These shoots push up in the spring exactly like you see them in the grocery store as perfect solid spears.

As the season progresses, the stem portion of the asparagus continues to grow and gets taller, and the tip of the asparagus opens up and flowers with long thin branching. By the beginning of summer any asparagus that has been left to grow will develop the long stems and ferny top, often growing as tall as 7′

How to Plant

  1. Dig a 10″ deep trench.
  2. Add 2″ of compost to the trench.
  3. Make a little mound of soil for each asparagus crown to sit on.
  4. Spread the roots out.
  5. Fill the trench in making sure the crowns are covered by 2″ of soil.
  6. Once the asparagus starts to emerge in the spring, add another 2″ of soil or compost.

** Unlike strawberries, you want the crown of the asparagus to be under the soil by about 2″ **

 

planting-asparagus

 

 

You buy the asparagus crowns (they look like big spiders) either at a local nursery or through mail order and then you put them in the ground.  Easy.

You just have to get over the idea that you won’t be able to eat any of it until you’re frail and elderly.  It’s 2 years.  You will not be frail and elderly.  You probably won’t even have cleaned behind your couch by then.  You will have asparagus before your next behind-the-couch cleaning.  That’s not too long to wait is it?  No it is not. 2 years isn’t a big deal.

Now.  Don’t you wish when you first thought of planting asparagus that you’d actually done it because you could be picking and eating that asparagus this spring?

Yes. Of course you do, because you’re not an idiot.  You’re just weird about planting asparagus.

asparagus-on-crown

Great crowns like this will cost you anywhere from $0.75 – $1.50 per crown.   I ordered my crowns from a wholesaler that grows the asparagus crowns themselves and got 50 of them for $37.50.  Which is cheap. If you’re buying them from someone other than a wholesaler expect to pay twice as much.

Most garden centres have asparagus crowns for sale in the spring so grab yourself some of those and start planting.

The first thing you should do is figure out how much you need to buy.

How Much to Grow

Expect to plant around 10 crowns per family member that loves asparagus.

50 plants for a family of 4.

Plant MORE if you want to blanch and freeze asparagus for the winter.

Of course you don’t have to plant this much, it’s just a guideline.

asparagus-bed

What Variety Should You Plant?

Asparagus is a dioecious plant. That means there’s boy asparagus and girl asparagus plants. 

A girl asparagus plant will produce thinner spears because she’s concentrating on reproducing, which in this case means seed pods and therefore lots of asparagus babies. The only thing cuter than an asparagus baby is a cabbage baby.

Male asparagus plants on the other hand don’t care one whit  about making babies they just want to grow up big and strong themselves.  So they only concentrate on making big, thick spears.  Male plants don’t have to produce seeds so none of their energy goes towards producing them. It only goes towards making spears.

Up until 20 or so years ago all asparagus varieties produced both male and the less desirable female plants. Then agricultural scientists made a break though and created a hybrid asparagus plant that was ONLY male.

For generations the most popular variety of asparagus was Martha Washington but the all male varieties have now taken over in popularity.

Guelph Millennium” one of the most popular and productive all male varieties is what I grow.  Other male varieties are the Jersey collection: Jersey Supreme, Jersey Giant or Jersey Knight.

Millennium was developed over the course of 12 years at the University of Guelph in Canada. The other thing about all male hybrid asparagus plants is they don’t self seed which in the case of a hybrid is good. When a hybrid plant self seeds you don’t get an exact reproduction of the original plant, you get a version of the original plant which is always a weaker, worse version.

 With female plants you constantly have self seeding happening which is why your asparagus bed will spread so quickly, but it’s spreading with an inferior product.

White, Purple or Green

WHITE asparagus is the same thing as green asparagus. It’s just been grown in darkness which means it doesn’t develop the green colour because it doesn’t develop chlorophyll.  If you want white asparagus just mound soil over it as it grows so the spears never see the light of day.

PURPLE asparagus is a variety of asparagus that grows purple all on its own without doing anything special to it. The same way some tomato varieties are different colours this asparagus variety is a different colour.

GREEN asparagus is regular old asparagus.

 

When to Plant

You want to plant asparagus crowns while they’re still dormant and not showing any signs of growth.

They can be put in the ground as soon as you can get out into the garden and work the soil in the early spring. As long as your beds aren’t goopy with mud or frozen sold you’ll be fine.

 

Growing Tips

  • Asparagus grows best in zones 4-9
  • Plant 10 crowns per family member.
  • Dig a 10″ deep trench.
  • Add 2″ compost to your trench before planting.
  • Plant crowns 15″ – 18″ apart on mounds of soil with the roots spread out.
  • Cover crowns with 2″ of soil.
  • Add another 2″ of soil when shoots first emerge.
  • Let your asparagus patch grow for 2 years before harvesting.
  • On mature plants only pick shoots that are bigger in diameter than a pencil. 
  • Don’t cut the fronds at the end of the season until they have all died back.
  • Replenish the soil of your patch every year with a 2″ thick layer of compost to the top.

 

How to Plant Asparagus.

How to Plant Asparagus.

Materials

  • 10 asparagus crowns per person in the family
  • Compost

Tools

  • Trowel or shovel

Instructions

  1. Dig a trench that's 10" deep and amend it with 2" of compost.
  2. Create small soil mounds for every crown to sit on all the way down the trench. 1 mound per crown you're planting.
  3. Spread the long roots out down the mound and into the surrounding trench.
  4. Fill the trench making sure to cover the crowns with 2" of soil.
  5. In the spring when the asparagus starts to emerge add another 2" of soil or compost.
  6. Wait 2 years before harvesting.

Notes

Plant asparagus while the crowns are still dormant as soon as you can work the soil whether it's late winter or early spring.

Add 2" of compost to the bed every year to replenish the soil.

Only harvest asparagus that's larger than a pencil in diameter.

I eat from my asparagus patch in the spring until the sight of asparagus triggers my gag reflex. At that point I blanch and freeze it to use in the winter for making soup, quiche or even roasted.

See?  Not so hard. You just need to know a few things.  It’s the same story for another vegetable that confounds people – zucchini. Did you know that it only has 1 stem and you should stake it like a tomato?  If you do that it’ll only take up about 1.5 square feet in your garden instead of becoming a sprawling mess. You can learn how to grow zucchini properly in this post of mine.

Get the roasted asparagus recipe here.

Do those things and you’ll be eating asparagus in no time.

Well … in 2 years actually.  Which will seem like 15.

Gooya.

How to Plant Asparagus. Now\'s the Time!

83 Comments

  1. Lynn Y says:

    I planted big crowns last year and they did great. They popped up in a week! but of course I let them go all ferny. I already have some fatter-than-a-pencil spears this year… can I harvest just a few please? Also, can I topdress with compost in spring after the spears start to burst forth?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lynn. If you aren’t eating them you can carefully top dress with compost (but be careful not to break any spears). Nope. No harvesting. A young plant might only produce, let’s say 10 spears. If you pick even one of them you’re taking 10% of the plants energy away. Well, I mean you can, but picking now means weak, smaller plants next year so an even longer wait for big healthy asparagus plants. So it’s up to you! ~ karen

  2. Heather says:

    Those are good looking crowns! The ones I got at a big box store were McKenzie seeds and they were little scraggly things. I planted them last year, and three quarters of them grew but I didn’t plant them deep like you did. I wonder if they’ll come back this year. Fingers crossed! I’m still awaiting more crowns from Veseys; I hope they’re beauties like yours. Will follow your advice. Thanks!

  3. Andrew DK says:

    I’ve got dozens of asparagus seedlings in my grow cabinet right now wondering if it’s ok to transplant now as well or do I need to wait until after last frost (Z5)?

    I grew from seeds which were pretty cheap! 😇

  4. Kerstin Staudal says:

    Hi Karen, good job. I ONLY grow white asparagus which is the ultimate aspargus for aspargus affeicendos(spelling?). I also have purple ones. I beg to differ: white asparagus is NOT the green one burried under soil! It is a different variaty with a different much better taste. The spears are also much thicker. No male an d female crowns either. White asparagus is not green but white and when it touches the sun the tip turns purple NOT green. I haved been growing white and purple asparagus for years now. I got my whites from German seeds because you cannot import live plants and the one farm I know does not sell crowns from white asp.. It takes a long time to grow the crowns. All crowns need to be left alone for the first 3 years. In the first year you don’t harvest any, in the second year you can harvest about 10%. If you are impatient and harvest more one distroys the crown. Crowns need three years to develop strength and grow into healthy plants. White and purple asparagus grow in sand. So every year I mount sand on top of the rows. The crown is in the dirt but the spears grow in the sand. When harvesting you need to dig down to cut the spear. Sand provides heat for the asparagus to grow. In Europe it is already full Asparagus season. You can harvest until about June 20 and then stop to give the plants a rest and the can re-energize for the following year. Growing white apsaragus is labour intense and you need patience. But the reward is just devine! In Germany it is called the vegetable of the Kings and Queens. I added 3 tons of sand this year to my rows. I would love to upload pics but I don’t know how here.

  5. Kasia says:

    I so wish your post had come earlier. Every single place I’ve looked online is Sold Out right now. I’m not good at remembering to buy early.

    After you posted this a couple years ago, I finally planted some, but never got to eat any of it as I had to move before I could harvest after two years. :( Seems like I have to wait another year. Can you write about asparagus earlier next year so I remember to buy some? :)

    And, as always, thanks for brightening my day. I must say, your blog is so refreshing, funny and well-written! I’ve been reading you for many years and have yet to find another blog with a writing style that comes even close to you!

  6. Anne Hogan says:

    My mother planted her asparagus patch in 1945 at her friend’s farm (which is all now condos in Toronto). I remember driving all the way out to the farm each spring and harvesting the patch then going for a ride on the horses. We ate asparagus until the corn came in. That is until she discovered ‘Fiddleheads’ which supplemented the asparagus crop.

    Thanks Karen!

  7. Nicole says:

    GOOYA
    Thanks for the kick start Karen. Ordered. Meant to do this again years ago.

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