Beginning asparagus plant
By Debbie Roland, Master Gardener
Asparagus tastes better when grown in your own yard rather than eating it shipped from elsewhere. Did you know that 20 crowns will give you ten pounds of asparagus? Asparagus is made up of three parts, the top which is the fern, the crown which is the bud, and the roots of the plant.
Growing asparagus requires a commitment. With the correct care and location in your garden they can last 15 to 25 years. It is important to pick a sunny spot that has well drained soil. This plant can tolerate some shade if necessary. The soil should be free of any kind of grass and weeds. Lay 3” of compost and till or spade down to about 10” until the compost is worked into your bed and soil can be easily worked.
It should be planted in January or February so now is the time. Be sure to plant healthy one- to two-year-old crowns which can be found at nurseries or in seed catalogs. The rows should be 5’ apart. Separate your crowns by size and group for planting that way as well. This will give you uniformity of spear size at harvest. Add a 0-46-0 fertilizer and plant your crowns about 14” apart. Cover the row with 1” of compost and 2 to 3” of soil. Then tamp down.
Weeding is a must because these fern-like stalks don’t compete well with weeds. Be careful not to pull or damage your new plants when weeding. You should not try to harvest from your asparagus bed for three years which is when it will be in full production. Your asparagus will grow fern like stalks and from them the plant will manufacture and store its food in the underground crown. The underground storage is the reserve necessary to produce next year’s spears.
Once your bed is established add 10-20-10 fertilizer in early spring before they begin to grow. After the last harvest apply a 21-0-0 fertilizer. Always be sure to water in fertilizer when you use it. Take heart though because after the second year they require little care.
These plants will need frequent watering allowing the first inch to dry before watering again to avoid root rot. In West Texas it shouldn’t take long to dry out so be sure to keep an eye on it. If your soil is sandy the roots can reach up to 10’ deep.
At the end of the gardening season add a 3” lay of mulch material. Water thoroughly since this will ensure a good harvest the next year. After the first hard freeze cut off the tops at ground level.
When the third year arrives harvest your asparagus spears when they are 4 to 10” long. You will need to harvest every other day, or the spears tend to get tough or fibrous. Simply snap off each spear at ground level. N ever leave a stub above the ground.
You will want to watch out for the asparagus beetle which, if left unchecked, can damage your plants. This beetle can overwinter if the tops are not cut off and disposed of. There are organic insecticides available to help.
Serve your asparagus quickly after harvest since the sugar content declines. It can be stored in plastic bags and refrigerated.
If you have questions, call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700. Additional information, and Ur blog for access to past articles, is available at westtexasgardening.org. Click on “Resources”.
Mature asparagus bed