A Really Big Guide to Growing Asparagus

growing asparagus

Plant asparagus one season and you'll be able to grow asparagus for decades to come. A long-lived perennial plant, asparagus does best in well-drained, neutral soil. You'll need to wait a few seasons after planting before you can actually harvest and eat the spears, so patience is a must when growing asparagus.

Difficulty

Easy

Type of Plant

Vegetable

Sunlight

Plenty of sunlight

Soil Type & pH

Loamy soil, neutral or mildly acidic pH

Hardiness Zones

4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Buy Supplies

seeds, soil, trellises, pruners, pots.

Quick Tip: Asparagus tend not to do well with overly damp soil, so raised beds with good drainage can be a good option.

This is one plant that pretty much needs to be grown in the ground, outdoors. Some people do have success growing it in containers, but its lifespan is greatly reduced.

HARDINESS ZONES


Asparagus is hardy in zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.

It's a perennial vegetable, which means that it will continue to produce a new crop every year. The plant is very long-lived and will survive for anywhere from 20 to 25 years, under the right conditions.

asparagus plant care

If you live in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 9, you should be able to grow asparagus successfully. Since the plant needs a period of dormancy and freezing temperatures to gather strength and energy for the next growing season, it doesn't grow in zones above 9.

PLANTING & HARVESTING


Asparagus has more rules than other vegetables when it comes to growing it successfully. It not only needs a few months of cold temperatures each year to continue to thrive. You also need to wait for at least two seasons after planting asparagus before you can being to harvest it.

During the first two seasons, let the asparagus simply grow. You'll get the familiar asparagus stalks at the start of its growth cycle. After a few weeks, the fronds on the top of the spear will open and you'll end up with leafy, fluffy looking plants.

Just let the plants be. They'll eventually die back and turn brown. You can cut them down at the end of fall or let them alone over the winter. Repeat the waiting game during the second growing season as well.

Being patient with asparagus is essential because it allows the plant to develop a healthy crown. The healthier your asparagus is, the longer it will continue to grow in your garden. You can begin to harvest the stalks from the plant in the third year of growth.

The video above from Growing Wisdom gives you an idea of what full-grown asparagus will look like. It also gives you tips for cutting back the plants and getting the asparagus bed ready for the winter.

SOIL REQUIREMENTS


Asparagus does best in soil that is fairly neutral, with a pH of 7.0, according to Cornell University. The soil should also be fairly fertile and well-drained. You might want to mix a bit of compost into the soil before planting to increase its fertility.

If your soil is on the acidic side, adding lime can help increase its pH, according to Modern Farmer. Since many people start asparagus from crowns, or small root systems, not seeds, it's important to dig a deep and wide enough trench in the soil to fit the crown. Digging deeply also helps break up the soil, so that the crowns can get established more easily.

DEALING WITH WEEDS


One thing asparagus can be particularly fussy about is the presence of weeds in the soil. Weeds are a problem because they compete with the plant for nutrients and water. Depending on how bad the weed problem is in the area where you want to plant, you might have to remove weeds by hand or use a herbicide to eliminate. If there are lots of established weeds in the area, it might be best to pick a different spot.

To keep weeds from popping up after you've planted the asparagus, add a layer of mulch around the crowns. The mulch will suppress the weeds. You can also pull up any invading weeds when the plants have gone dormant for the winter.

Although an old myth states that putting salt on the soil near your asparagus plants will keep weeds away, it's not a good idea to do that. The salt you sprinkle on the soil might not harm the asparagus, which can tolerate some salinity in the soil. But it could harm healthy vegetable plants growing nearby.

COMPANION PLANTS


While weeds can be a problem for asparagus, the plant does get along well with some plants in the garden. Shallow rooted, part-shade loving plants such as spinach and lettuce grow well near asparagus. The tall fronds of the asparagus plant can help give the greens some shade in the heat of summer.

Tomatoes are another good companion, as their scent helps repel asparagus beetles. If space in the ground is limited, you can plant a tomato or two in containers next to your asparagus bed.

WATER NEEDS


The older your asparagus plan is, the less water it will need. During the first two seasons of its growth, you'll want to make sure the soil around the plant is consistently moist. The plant is just getting established at the time, so giving it ample water will help it develop a healthy root system.

While consistent moisture is good, too much moisture is bad. Don't let the soil become soggy or waterlogged, as the roots will rot. Asparagus prefers soil that drains well and is slightly sandy. If you notice that water forms puddles or pools in the soil, it might be a good idea to mix in some sand to break it up.

SUNLIGHT NEEDS


To get the greatest yields, plant your asparagus in an area that gets full sunlight, between six and eight hours a day. You can also plant asparagus in a partly shaded area. But the reduced amount of sunlight can mean you get fewer stalks each year.

Remember that your asparagus bed is going to be in place for many years, if all works out. Pay attention to the amount of sunlight the planting area gets throughout the year. An area that's fully sunny in the winter, when there are no leaves on the trees, might actually be shady in the summer.

WHERE TO GROW


Asparagus is one plant that needs to be grown outdoors, since it has so many specific needs and since it needs a few seasons to establish itself in your garden. The cost and effort involved in creating an ideal indoor growing area for asparagus, including giving the plant a period of dormancy, would make it not worth the effort.

While indoor growing might be too challenging, you can try to grow asparagus in containers, according to Rodale's Organic Life. Growing asparagus in the confines of a pot can be difficult, but it can be done.

There are a few things you need to know about container grown asparagus. For one thing, it won't live as long as asparagus planted in the ground. If you're lucky, you might get up to five years of growth out of a container. Three years is more likely.

The container also needs to be on the large side, at least 18 inches deep and 12 inches wide, to allow the asparagus enough room. You might be able to fit two crowns into a single container, but you want to make sure that the plants aren't crowded, or else their roots won't have room to develop.

LEARN MORE


If you're ready to jump feet first in the world of growing asparagus, check out the right sidebar to find more articles about the plant. Whether you want to learn more about asparagus' growth cycle, when to plant it or how to harvest it, we've got lots of informative articles for you.

Photo by Stuart Webster licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Asparagus fact source: eurofresh.

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