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Growing Asparagus

How to grow asparagus in garden beds and allotments

 

Asparagus

Family/Latin Name

Liliaceae - Asparagus officinalis

Type of Plant

Crop Rotation Group = None

DO NOT ROTATE OR MOVE PLANTS

Suitable for

Garden Beds, Allotments and large containers

Pests & Diseases    Companion Plants    In the Kitchen

See also:-  Vegetable Growing Glossary  |    Container Growing  | Buying Seeds & Plants

 

Asparagus is one of the few vegetables which is best to buy as "crowns" i.e. plants which are ready for planting. Although you can sow seeds, it takes a certain degree of skill and a lot of patience, so we recommend buying the ready grown crowns. These are sold as 1 year old, 2 year old and 3 year old plants and are usually delivered "bare rooted".

You can buy 1 year olds if you have the patience to wait 2 years before harvesting. We recommend buying  2 year olds as not only should you be harvesting  the year after planting, but these are more likely to take more easily than 3 year old crowns which can be temperamental.

Well looked after plants will continue to produce asparagus for up to 20 years.

Plant Dimensions

Height - Up to 30cm/ 36"   -  Spread allow +30cm/1ft

Yield per plant Up to 25 spears once established

Time between planting and harvesting

1 year old crowns - 2-3 years

2 year old crowns - 1-2 years

3 year old crowns -  1 year

Planting time

Late March - April - temperature  +18C/64F

Where to Sow

In well prepared ground. Site must have good drainage and be in a relatively sunny position. Dig the ground thoroughly in the autumn, incorporating a good layer of manure or compost then leave until the spring when ready to plant and fork over to break up the clods.

How to Plant

Dig a hole about 20cm/8" deep and 30cm/12" sq. If planting several plants, it will be easier to dig a trench.  Make the centre a little higher than the sides thus creating a mound of earth then spread the roots on the crown out evenly over the mound and immediately cover with about 5cm.2" of soil, leaving the rest of the hole/trench empty. The shoots will start to appear very soon, at which point you should start filling the hole gradually as the shoots grow taller, until the soil is level with the surrounding ground.

 

If growing in containers, only use very large containers -  at least 45cm/18" in diameter and 45cm/18" deep - and only plant 1 crown in each container as above.

Growing on - 1st year

It is very important that you don't harvest any spears in the first year. The spears must be left to develop into bushy  fern-like stems. Pick off any berries and allow the ferns to die back and turn yellow, then cut down to ground level in October. If you have planted 1 year old crowns, then you should repeat this process for another year (2 years in all).

 

This may seem a long time, however bear in mind a properly  prepared and well looked after asparagus plant will provide asparagus for between 10 and 20 years.

Growing on 2nd and subsequent years

Before the spears start appearing, lightly  rake in a little general fertilizer such as Growmore in early spring. Keep the area free from weeds - this is best done by hand to avoid damaging any spears which have be underground. You can also apply a layer of compost to the surface.

Harvesting

Patience! The first year you harvest, only pick a few spears from each plant allowing the rest to mature into feathered ferns to build up the plant's strength.

 

From the 2nd year of harvesting, you can pick as many as you like - and in fact, they grow so quickly, you may have to cut spears every day.

 

Cut the spears once they have reached about 12cm/5" high. Use a sharp kitchen knife and cut the stems about 7.5cm/3" below the soil level. Stop harvesting by mid June  to allow the ferns to develop as above in order to re-build the plant's reserves for next year.

Pests and Diseases

Companion Plants

Asparagus Beetle
Indications Both the adult beetle adult and larvae chew spears during the spring and can also defoliate the plant in the summer.
Treatment Organic
1. Hand pick the adults from plants 
2. Remove the dark brown eggs from the spears..
Chemical
3. Spray with pyrethrum
Prevention 1.After harvesting clear debris and turn the soil over around plants to disturb beetles.
2. Early inspection of  plants for tell tale signs
3. Harvest spears as early as possible.
 
Violet Root Rot
Indications Leaves yellow and die and roots covered with purple mould
Treatment Organic
None. Dig up and destroy affected plants. In severe cases, destroy all the plants in the bed and replant new asparagus elsewhere.
Chemical
None
Prevention None

 Companion Flower Graphic

Tomato, Parsley, Basil

 

 

 

Create a bio-diverse environment by planting flowers nearby to attract bees, ladybirds and other "friendlies". To learn more about companion planting click here.

In the Kitchen

Storage:  Refrigerate for up to 4 days. Excess amounts can be frozen. Prepare as below then blanch in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, drain well and allow to cool before freezing 

Preparing:  Cut off the woody ends of the stalk or pare with a peeler. Rinse well in cold water.

Cooking

Bake/Roast 15 - 20 minutes - Drizzle liberally with oil and seasonings
Boil 7 - 10 minutes
Fry/Sauté 5 - 8 minutes
Microwave 5 - 8 minutes   
Steam 8 - 12 minutes

For more preparation and cooking information about asparagus  plus lots of  recipes visit our sister site www.recipes4us.co.uk.

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