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Growing Vegetables - Asparagus

Asparagus needs a light, free-draining but moisture retentive soil. A sunny site is best, although asparagus will grow with part sun. A raised bed will improve drainage.

Soil Asparagus is a long-term crop and getting the soil right in the beginning is more important than for an annual crop such as carrots. The beds need thorough preparation in advance with all weeds removed and plenty of well-rotted compost, leaf mould, manure and rock phosphate dug into the soil. Raised beds can help improve drainage on heavy soils and are warmer, encouraging early cropping each spring; they also make it easier to mound the soil over the growing shoots after planting.

Popular Asparagus Varieties
  • Franklin
  • Mary Washington
  • Jersey Giant

Always remember to check the packet to confirm planting/sowing time, depths and spacing.

Snap the spears at ground level or cut below ground with an asparagus knife. Plants that are 'earthed up' will make white spears, it's a matter of personal taste.
When planting in the garden plant in rows 15 to 20cm apart, in raised beds and containers you can plant in blocks.

Site A sunny or partially shaded site is best.

Growing from Seed Sometimes seed is available - sow outside in mid-spring 2.5cm (1in) deep in a good seed bed. Thin to 7.5cm (3in) apart after germination. Plants should be transplanted into their permanent home the flloowing spring.

Plants Plant one or two-year-old crowns in early spring. Soak the crowns in warm water for about an hour before planting. Prepapre a trench about 30cm (12in) long by 20cm (8in) deep with a 10 cm (4in) ridge in the center. Place the new plants on the ridge, spreading the roots evenly in a star shape. Cover the crowns with 5cm (2in) of soil and then gradually fill in as the shoots emerge.

Cultivation Weed regularly to reduce competition and keep the beds clear, water well, especially in the first year, and mulch with compost annually.

After seven or eight years begin a new asparagus bed, digging up the first only when the new bed is in production.

Harvest Do not cut any asparagus the first summer and only a few of the new spears the next. This allows the plant to establish and ensures steady cropping form the third year onwards.

Snap the spears at ground level or cut below ground with an asparagus knife. Always leave a few spears to mature and make the energy to supply the next season's crop.

Plants that are 'earthed up' will make white spears, it's a matter of personal taste.

Pests and Diseases Slugs and rust are the major problems with asparagus. Slugs and snails can be controlled with beer traps or go out in the evening with a torch and remove the little beasties. You can use slug bait but we recommend organic methods of control for all edible plants.
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Last revised 15 Aug '00