How to grow asparagus in your home garden? Here are our top 5 tips on growing this tasty veggie
Asparagus is super easy to grow, high in potassium, great for fibre, low in salt, and totally delicious! They’re also well known “prebiotics” – food for your gut bugs. What’s not to love?
- The spears (the bit you eat) are frost sensitive but the good news is the plant can be grown from cool temperate regions right through to the tropics.
- Asparagus is long lived, producing for 20 or more years. So choose a spot with that in mind. Serial mover arounders be warned!
- Summer sun is a must but because the plant is dormant over winter, winter shade is OK . This is often the case on the south side of a building which is where our patch is planted
- Asparagus prefers open friable soil and good drainage. If your soil is too heavy or badly drained, plant into mounds or a raised bed. Add a barrow load of manure and compost to every couple of square metres and sprinkle a few handfuls of dolomite over the top. Asparagus likes a pH of about 7 and yes, pH does matters and is really easy to measure using a kit from any good gardening centre.
- Grow from seed, seedlings or crowns. There are a few different varieties to choose from. Our fav is “Fat Bastard” – probably because I can remember the name and the spear is both fat and delicious.
- Asparagus plants are dioecious, a fancy name meaning there are male and female plants. You can tell them apart because female plants produce red fruit. Some growers think you should remove female plants, because they are less prolific. In reality the spears from female plants tend to be thicker but less prolific while male spears are thinner, sometimes too thin, but more prolific, so we keep both!
- If your spot is good to go, pop a few crowns in now (late Winter in the southern hemisphere) or plant seeds or seedlings next Autumn.
- Wait at least 12 months to harvest any spears. You need to allow the first year of spears to grow and develop into ferny fronds. These are the plant’s solar panels which make nutrients that go back to the roots and crown, helping the plants to establish.
- The fronds will go yellow in autumn and that’s the time to cut them back to ground level, give the plants a good feed of well-rotted manure and mulch to keep weed growth to a minimum.
- A couple of square metres will grow a fair bit of asparagus.
- Rows need to be about a metre apart
- To plant crowns, dig a trench, about 20cm deep and 30cm wide, into the already prepared bed and plant the crowns in the trench 40cm apart on small mounds. Spread the roots over the mound then back fill with a mixture of soil and compost so there is about 8cm of soil over the crown, but the trench is still about 10cm deep. Water well and mulch lightly.
- To plant seedlings, space them 40 cms apart.
- In the second year after planting you can pick the spears that begin to appear in late winter, right through spring into early summer, hooray! Harvest away but leave enough spears to grow into ferns and replenish the rootstock so that you have strong healthy growth the following year. Some gardeners only harvest the thicker spears, leaving the thinner ones to grow ferns. Others harvest every spear for six weeks to two months and then start leaving some to grow ferns, after about three months letting all grow into ferns.
- For a neat and tidy patch, cut your spears off with a sharp knife about a cm below the ground or go “full stonehenge” a la @scruffymuffet and just snap them off randomly for a quick munch as you garden.