All About Harvesting Asparagus
When I was a little kid I remember stopping on the side of the road with my dad to pick some wild asparagus. At the time I didn’t like asparagus or value the fact that we could pick asparagus for dinner from the side of the road. As I have aged and my taste in food has matured I do enjoy asparagus cooked, roasted, steamed and mixed in with other foods likes eggs and mushrooms. I have also talked to friends about how there used to be wild asparagus growing in certain parts of southeastern Wisconsin, but it is not nearly as common as it was 30 some years ago. Since wild asparagus is not as common my dad now grows his own asparagus. My parents don’t have the largest yard to dedicate to a whole patch of asparagus, so he planted asparagus crowns throughout my mom’s perennial garden (good thing she too likes asparagus). It was almost 7 years ago that he planted the asparagus crowns, and for the last couple of years I usually am gifted at least one meal of asparagus in spring!
Let me tell you – it is definitely worth growing your own asparagus if you enjoy this fresh spring green vegetable! If you don’t know where to start but want to try to grow your own asparagus continue reading…
How to Grow Asparagus 101:
Planting Asparagus Crowns
The first place to start is to know what form of asparagus you will be planting. Asparagus can either be grown from a potted plant or by planting asparagus crowns. Asparagus crowns are the dormant root portion of the asparagus plants. Planting asparagus by crowns is the most common and affordable way to plant asparagus on your property.
Which Variety of Asparagus is Best to Plant
Mary Washington Asparagus is one of the oldest and most popular varieties of asparagus crowns. Mary Washington is a mix of male and female plants. The male plants produce the spears and the female plants produce the seeds. These are reliable varieties but are less vigorous than varieties that are mostly male plants. Varieties like Jersey Giant Asparagus are made of male plants, and therefore will produce more vigorous spears and plants.
When to Plant Asparagus
Planting asparagus by crowns should be done in spring, as early as you can dig into the ground. My dad planted his asparagus in June in Wisconsin, and had great success, so if you aren’t able to plant right away in spring no need to worry; you still have some time. However, you will want to plant before the soil and air temperatures are too warm in your area.
Where to Plant Asparagus
Once your asparagus plants are established they will live a long time, as they are perennial in nature and easy to grow. Therefore choosing the ideal planting location is important for optimal growth. Asparagus plants like a sunny location that receives 8-10 hours of sun per day. Soil that drains well is also important to the growth of your asparagus plants. If your soil does not drain well, you will want to amend with organic matter such as compost or peat humus to increase the drainage and nutrients in the soil.
How many asparagus crowns should I plant?
A good rule of thumb is 10 crowns per every family member in your home that eats asparagus. 1 asparagus crown can produce up to ½ lb of asparagus during the growing season.
Preparing the planting area
Dig a trench 6” deep and 15” wide the entire length of the planting area. Plant each crown about 12” apart with the buds facing up. Spread the root portion of the crown out so they can continue to grow down and out for a healthy root system. Backfill over the roots and planting area with about 2” of fresh soil. Water the planting area after planting to allow the soil to settle and provide moisture for the roots. If you are like my dad and don’t have a whole garden area you can dedicate to the asparagus plants, you can certainly mix them in with other perennials and annuals. You may just have to really enjoy the fern-like foliage that appears late in summer
When to harvest asparagus
Asparagus should not be harvested until after the 3rd year after planting. Harvesting too early will results in spindly plants with poor root systems. When the time comes to harvest the asparagus you will want the plants to be at least 6-8” tall. Asparagus can be harvested from May through June.
Benefits of Growing Your Own Asparagus
A huge benefit to planting and growing your own asparagus is you can’t beat the taste of vegetables grown and picked fresh from your garden. In addition to the fresh taste, all of the asparagus crowns from Holland Bulb Farms are grown from GMO-free asparagus plants. Lastly, asparagus are long-lived perennials and will provide a harvest for you and your family for decades once the asparagus plants are established.
My favorite ways to prepare asparagus for dinner are steamed with butter and salt. Asparagus is also a great vegetable to add to your breakfast menu and compliments bacon and eggs, either scrambled together or as a side for over easy eggs. I also like to roast asparagus in the oven; it is really easy and delicious.
Oven Roasted Asparagus
- Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees
- Cut off the woody ends of the asparagus crowns.
- Place spears on a flat baking sheet. Make sure the spears are not resting on top of each other or too crowded, otherwise the roasting won’t be even.
- Drizzle olive oil over the spears
- Shake sea salt and pepper over the spears
- Mince or grate fresh garlic over the spears
- Place in oven and roast for 20-25 minutes or until spears are tender.