Asparagus is easily grown at home in the garden or containers if you follow simply guidelines and provide the best conditions described in this article.
Asparagus Plant Facts
Plant Name: Asparagaceae
Plant Family: Asparagaceae
Scientific Name: Asparagus officinalis
The name, Asparagus is the Latinized form of an old Greek word that evolved into Anglo-saxon use, but colloquialisms in England and America have resulted in sparagrass, sparrowgrass, and, in some cases, just grass.
When was asparagus first discovered?
No one is certain where asparagus originated because it grows wild in so many areas of the world, although it is believe to have originated in the Mid East and Asia Minor. Asparagus appears on ditch banks, streams, and even in salty soils near bodies of salt water where it has escaped cultivation.
What are asparagus health benefits?
The plant received its first recorded recognition as a way to prevent a host of ailments including heart trouble, toothache, and bee stings. The Greeks collected it from the wild, but the Romans gathered the best of the wild seeds and cultivated it in their gardens. They ate it fresh and dried it to boil when it was out of season. Supposedly, the Emperor Augustus was very fond of it.
Asparagus found a niche in North European and British diets for as long as records are available, and is now universally popular throughout the world.
Can asparagus be male or female?
Each plant bears only either male flowers or female flowers. To produce seed, the two types must grow close to one another. Female plants will produce red berries on their ferns. Male plants grow more and larger spears because they do not have to put energy into seed production.
How long will an asparagus plant last?
Evidence is yet inconclusive, but male plants may not live for as long as female plants. Plants take two to three years to come into full production, but will remain productive for up to 30 to 35 years and will live much longer. After plants produce, they grow to tall, feathery graceful forms which can be an added decoration for flower beds. Edible asparagus is closely related to asparagus fern, also known as springeri fern.
Video – How to grow asparagus at home step by step
Different types of asparagus plants
- Wild Asparagus
- Atlas Asparagus
- Green Asparagus – the most common type.
- White Asparagus
- Precoce D’Argenteuil Asparagus
- Mary Washington Asparagus
- Apollo Asparagus
- Purple Asparagus
When, where and how to plant asparagus
Plant asparagus in organic, rich, well-drained, sandy soils. Asparagus grows best in soil rich in organic matter. Dig a bed 12″ deep mixing in 4″ of organic matter.
Asparagus should be cared for with sufficient water in an area that allows for adequate drainage.
Quality 1-year-old crowns with 8 to 10 large roots and a healthy bud cluster will allow you to plant and begin harvesting in the same year – planting from seeds will take at least a year before any significant production will be seen.
Asparagus should be planted in the early spring several weeks before date of last frost. To plant asparagus, soak the roots in warm water for a couple of hours and then place the crowns 6″ to 8″ deep in furrows, spreading the root in all directions.
The crowns should be placed about 12″ apart in rows about 48″ apart. Cover the crowns with 2 inches of soil and gradually add back more soil through the season as the plants develop. As you bury the plant roots, take care not to cover the tips of the spears. Asparagus should not be harvested during the first year.
According to research at Rutgers University in New Jersey, asparagus seeds can be started indoors 12 weeks before planting outdoors, and then planted later in the season after danger of frost. In the study, plant production began in the second year.
Table 1 – Asparagus planting information
|Seeding Rate Per Foot||Not usually planted from seed, but final plants should be 12″ apart.|
|Seeds Per Ounce||1,200|
|Space Between Plants||12″|
All male: Jersey Giant, Jersey Knight, Mary Washington
Traditional: UC 1547 F1 – (large, pale green spears) Purple Passion (Large dark purple spears)
|Seed Viability (Years)||3 years|
|Seed Germination||77° F|
|Germination Time||53 days at 50° F
24 days at 59° F
15 days at 68° F
10 days at 77° F
12 days at 86° F
20 days at 95° F
28 days at 104° F
Asparagus Care and Maintenance – What are the best conditions for growing asparagus?
Asparagus fertilizing tips
The key to good asparagus production is good fertilizer. Apply nitrogen at least twice a year – once in the spring when growth begins and again at the end of harvest season.
Asparagus water requirements
Water frequently during the first two years supplying 1″ to 2″ per week. Mulch heavily around the plant to conserve soil moisture and reduce weed growth. After the fourth year, reduce irrigation to every two to three weeks, watering so that the moisture penetrates the soil at least four feet deep.
Plant Development and Care
At planting, place 2 inches of soil over roots and replace more soil as the plant grows. Do not cover tips of spears with soil. Maintain healthy fern growth during the first 2 years to ensure long asparagus production for future years. Asparagus should not be harvested the first year.
Asparagus does not compete well with weeds. Keep weeds and grasses away from plants and mulch with 2 to 3 inches of compost each year. Also, avoid tilling the soil around asparagus, as tilling disturbs the delicate root system.
Formerly it was grown almost entirely with the soil ridged up high over the roots at harvest time so that the shoots would develop in the dark and be white, as harvested. Now, however, we have learned to prefer green shoots which develop in the light, so that ridging is no longer so common.
White asparagus spears are considered a delicacy. To blanch spears, mound soil 8″ high over asparagus in early spring before spears emerge.
When the tips of the spears emerge through the top of the 8″ mound, push a long-handled knife into the base of the hill and spears well below the surface. Pull cut shoots out by the tips and level the mounds after the harvest season.
Asparagus germination Time (Days)
- 53 days at 50° F
- 24 days at 59° F
- 15 days at 68° F
- 10 days at 77° F
- 12 days at 86° F
- 20 days at 95° F
- 28 days at 104° F
Seed Germination and Temperature Range
Table 2 – Best growing conditions for Asparagus Plant
|Light Requirements||Full sun|
|Temperature Adaptations||Hardy – plant in early spring.|
|Acidity (pH) Tolerance||6.8 to 6.0 pH|
|Salinity (Ec) Tolerance||Very tolerant|
Asparagus Harvest Recommendations
Asparagus should not be harvested in the first year, and generally begins two years after planting.
To harvest asparagus, cut only the spears that are at least 9 inches tall – spears should be cut at the ground level. At the end of the growing season, remove all the remaining emerging spears to encourage more spear development the following year.
By the 5th year of production, asparagus will provide 6 to 8 weeks of harvesting time, although spears will gradually become thinner as harvest continues. Once the spears are only as thin as a pencil, it is time to stop harvesting for the year.
Asparagus Storage and Preservation Methods
Asparagus can be stored fresh in refrigerator for 2 or 3 days. Store upright with cut end standing in a small amount of cold water.
Can also be frozen or canned.
Table 3 – Harvesting your Asparagus tips
|Planting to Harvest||Asparagus should not be harvested the year it is planted, but it will begin to produce in early spring of the following year.|
|Recommended planting for a family of five||50 plants|
|Recommended Uses||Boil, steam, stir-fry/saute, bake, deep fry, pressure cook, microwave, or raw|
Asparagus Diseases, Pests and Problems
Problem: Asparagus Aphids
Affected Area: Entire plant
Description: Green plant sucking insects that stunt fern and reduce plant vigor
Control: Use insecticidal soaps or labeled insecticides
Problem: Asparagus Beetles
Affected Area: Leaf
Description: Adult beetles are 1/4″ long, metallic blue to black or orange colored with 6 to 12 spots on their wings. Eggs laid on spears look like shiny black specks.
Larvae are olive green to dark gray and 1/2″ long. Larvae and grubs feed on foliage reducing leaf area and plant vigor and deforms or defoliates plants. Control: Lady beetles and other predators feed on this pest. Frequent cutting of shoots will afford some control.
In heavy infestations, use insecticides labeled for this pest. Adult beetles are 1/4″ long, metallic blue to black or orange colored with 6 to 12 spots on their wings. Eggs laid on spears look like shiny black specks.
Larvae are olive green to dark gray and 1/2″ long. Larvae and grubs feed on foliage reducing leaf area and plant vigor and deforms or defoliates plants.
Control: Lady beetles and other predators feed on this pest. Frequent cutting of shoots will afford some control.
Problem: Root Rot Diseases
Affected Area: Fern tip
Description: Fungal diseases that reduce plant vigor and stands. Tips of ferns turn yellow and die followed by rest of stems and eventually plants. Spears are small and skinny.
Control: Reduce plant stress which may be caused by insects, over-watering, over cutting, drought and weed pressure.
Problem: Asparagus Viruses
Affected Area: Entire plant
Description: Viruses cause plants to decline. Yields are reduced and the plant eventually dies.
Control: Control aphids which may transmit the disease.