Everything you need to know about growing and harvesting asparagus for spring

Asparagus is one of few perennial vegetables, which means that year after year you’ll be able to enjoy a beautiful harvest in the springtime. That also means, though, that the spot where you initially plant it is where it could reside permanently — so choose wisely. Different varieties have different benefits, as well. The most popular is the “Mary Washington,” which is bred for its rust resistance; however, other varieties like “Princeville” do better in warmer climates while “Brock Imperial” is prized for a higher yield. No matter which you choose, patience is key with asparagus growing. But if you love this vegetable, it can be quite rewarding to grow in your garden.

Why grow asparagus at home?

Growing asparagus at home can be one of the most feel-good crops for a gardener due to the amount of patience and care required. As with any crop, it enables you to have fresher produce in your home and is a more cost-effective way to get it as opposed to purchasing from a store. And it comes with health benefits! Asparagus is high in nutrients and a good source of antioxidants, so adding this vegetable to your diet can help you get the vitamin E and vitamin C you need in your diet. It can also improve digestive health and is shown to help lower blood pressure — so there’s a lot more to it than “just another crop in the garden.”

Dishes where asparagus shines

Perhaps the most popular thing to do with asparagus is grill it or roast it in the oven. You can find a wide array of dishes and recipes on how to season asparagus and what ingredients it pairs well with. This grilled asparagus and poached egg recipe not only has all the nutrients from the asparagus but can even get you some protein from the eggs. It works as a healthy breakfast, a nice side dish, or even a light dinner!

Other recipes, like this grilled asparagus and fried egg salad, also utilize the protein in eggs but the ingredients are put together to dress up a salad. If you’re looking for a refreshing salad that isn’t just the standard tossed lettuce and dressing, this is a go-to for nutrients.

How to grow asparagus so it thrives

Proper asparagus care isn’t just key to keeping the plants alive, it also helps ensure that in three years, your established plants will be as healthy and as full as possible. As we said, it’s a long game, and if you want plants that are prone to few problems and give you a good harvest, you have to be diligent and mindful.

This is why the initial planting location is so important. Healthy asparagus plants rely a lot on the sun, so you want to plant them in an area that receives full sun during daylight hours year after year. This allows your plants to establish themselves and grow strong root systems without the worry of how transplanting will affect them.

Asparagus grows best in USDA zones 4 through 9 where temperatures stay between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the active growing season. Slower growth occurs under 55 degrees and over 85 degrees Fahrenheit, so this isn’t a crop for particularly warm or cold climates. Asparagus plants start growing their shoots in the spring when the soil reaches 50 degrees.

Light needs: Grows best in full sun; lack of sunlight can result in weak plants
Water needs: Regular watering (about one to two inches per week)
Soil needs: Neutral, well-draining soil with plenty of organic matter

How long does asparagus take to grow?

Unfortunately, asparagus growing is a long game. It takes three to five years for the plants to mature. When you plant asparagus, it’s recommended that you don’t harvest until at least the third year following planting so that they have time to establish themselves and develop solid roots. If you love asparagus, though, it’s well worth the wait.

Do asparagus plants spread?

Yes! Similar to their growth rate, asparagus plants fill in slowly. You won’t notice much spreading the first couple of years, but don’t go planting more. When they hit the third year and a more established size, your asparagus bed will start to fill in (possibly quicker than you can handle!). If you get impatient and plant more, you’ll find yourself needing to thin them out more than you would have liked.

A gardener harvesting asparagus

Knowing when your asparagus is ready to be harvested

Something beneficial you can do with asparagus is keep track of what year you planted so that you know what year you can start looking for signs that it’s ready to be harvested. A lot of home gardeners will have a notebook to track things, so make sure that whatever you choose is in a safe place you can reference season after season.

In the third year, you’ll be able to harvest a handful of spears. It won’t be as big a yield as a fully mature crop, since you should only harvest for two weeks and then let the rest of the crop go undisturbed. In the fourth year, you’ll be able to use measurement a bit more and harvest asparagus spears that are around five to seven inches. In the fifth year, you can increase your harvest length to about four to six weeks.

If all goes well, you’ll see new spears growing throughout the season the following year that you can harvest when they’re ready; however, you should cease harvesting when it starts to warm up outside and the shoots start getting spindly. This is when they’ll grow into their ferny foliage and feed the roots for next year’s crop.

Asparagus plants that have been established and well cared for have the potential to produce good harvests for around 20 or 30 years.

Is it okay to transplant asparagus?

The answer changes based on what stage of growth the plants are in. If you’ve just planted your asparagus and they’re working to establish themselves and grow strong roots, then it’s best to leave them in the location so long as it has everything they need. As long as they’re surviving, give them the needed time to get to maturity.

Once they’ve reached their mature size and start filling out, though, you can of course transplant them as needed or even gift plants to family and friends that want to try growing asparagus! A healthy plant with strong roots is more likely to survive transplanting than newly-planted seedlings.

Troubleshooting problems with asparagus

One of the most common things that can happen with asparagus is discoloration. This isn’t usually something to worry about; it can occur simply because there was a frost after the shoots started growing in the spring. Unfortunately, that’s largely out of your control; however, having proper winter protection on your plants can help minimize the risk.

Because of the varieties available that have resistance to rust and fusarium wilt, you can easily avoid excess of such problems by researching which variety to buy. The main pest you should watch out for, though, is the asparagus beetle, which comes around when spears start to emerge. Make sure to inspect your asparagus plants at least a few times a week so you catch them early! If you notice them on your plants, you can either handpick them off and drop them in soapy water (if there are only a few) or use some diluted Neem oil to get them under control.

Overall, growing asparagus isn’t all that complex. You just have to be patient, diligent, and give the plants time to grow and thrive.

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