All about Asparagus and How to Plant it
It is widely known that asparagus is more expensive than other vegetables. It is because this vegetable is very delicious and rich in nutrients. However, now you don’t need to spend too much money on asparagus. You can grow it at home and enjoy it every spring. Growing this expensive vegetable is not as difficult as you imagine if you know how to grow asparagus.
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What You Need to Know about Asparagus
Asparagus officinalis is a type of vegetable plant that is grown for its spears or young shoots. For you who never grow this vegetable, you may feel a bit unconfident in planting it in your kitchen garden. However, you can increase your chance of success in planting it if you know more about this vegetable. This knowledge will help you perform the right process of how to grow asparagus.
Here are the things you need to know about asparagus.
1. Origin and History
It is widely believed that asparagus is native to southern Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. This vegetable had been used since thousands of years ago by the ancient civilizations in those areas. A frieze that dates back to 3000 BC showed that Egyptians used it as an offering.
Meanwhile, Romans and Greeks ate this vegetable fresh. They also dried it and ate the dried asparagus in winter. In the 1400s, French started to cultivate this vegetable. Then, it was spread to England and Germany in the 1500s. Later on, this vegetable was introduced to North America in the 1800s.
2. Asparagus Plant Description
Asparagus is a perennial plant. It can live more than 20 years and in each year it will give you the delicious young shoots. These shoots grow out of unique root systems. It has long fleshy roots. These roots are attached to a rhizome. Young rhizomes are usually called crowns.
If you are too late in harvesting the shoots, they will taste bitter. When they are not harvested, the buds on the tips of these young shoots will open up. Then they will start to form branches. At this stage, the shoots become woody.
After that, these shoot will develop into a fern. This plant will grow up to 1.5 m tall with leaves that look like needles. When the plant is mature enough, it will bloom. The flowers are small and greenish white or yellow. This vegetable plant is monoceious. Therefore, there are male plants and female plants.
The male plants are more productive than the female plants. It is because the male ones have more energy to develop roots and shoots. As a result, gardeners usually choose male asparagus to grow. Meanwhile, the female plants need to spend some of their energy to form asparagus berries. These berries are small and red.
In the fall, asparagus ferns will become dry and brown. At this stage, it is recommended for you to cut these plants to the ground. It will help the plants to go dormant during the winter. And in the spring, you will be able to harvest the spears.
3. Growing Condition
When you are in the process of how to grow asparagus, you will need to do several things to prepare the planting site. This preparation will help you to give the right growing condition for the plants. And with the right condition, you will likely gain a satisfying harvest. These are what you need to consider when preparing the site.
Asparagus ferns require full sun to grow well. Therefore, you need to find a sunny spot in your garden to plant them. However, these plants can tolerate partial shade. In consequence, if you do not have a sunny spot in your garden, you can plant them in a partially shaded spot. But, you need to make sure that they get 8 hours of light.
Growing asparagus in full sun will give you more advantages than disadvantages. It will allow you to have high yield of the spears in the spring. Moreover, it will also help you to have healthier plants compared to growing in partial sun. But, in hot summer afternoons, your asparagus plants may need more water and protection from the sun.
Temperature and Hardiness
In order to break dormancy, asparagus plants need 90 to 150 days of cold temperature. Without the required cold days, you will not be able to grow asparagus successfully. Moreover, this requirement means that only those who live in area with cool winter can grow the plants. If you live in USDA zones 4 to 9, then you can try to grow the plants.
Another thing you need to consider before starting the process of how to grow asparagus is the temperature of the environment. During the growing season, these plants need hot days with temperature between 24o F and 29o F and cool nights with temperature between 15o F and 21o F.
Moreover, new shoots usually will emerge when the temperature of the soil is more than 10o F. At the right temperature, the spears will grow 3 inches to 6 inches taller in one day.
It is suggested that you plant asparagus in sandy soil. However, this vegetable plant actually will adapt to various types of soil as long as it is loose enough. Loose soil will allow the new shoots to emerge easily. Therefore, you need to loosen your soil properly if it is not sandy soil. Moreover, it is not reccomended to grow asparagus in a container.
Moreover, you need to make sure that the soil drains well. Your asparagus roots will suffer from root rot if the water does not drain well from the soil. In addition, you need to work the soil so that it has the right pH level for the asparagus plants to grow. These plants require slightly acidic to neutral soil with pH level 6.5 to 7.
It is also important to grow asparagus in soil that is rich in organic matter. Therefore, you need to mix the soil with fertilizer before planting it. You also need to fertilize the soil in eaerly spring.
4. How Long Does it Take to Grow Asparagus?
It takes about 3 years for asparagus plant to truly produce the spears. In the first year, you may find your plants producing young shoots. However, at this stage, the spears are usually small and thin. It is not recommended to harvest them. You must let them grow into plants. This will give them a chance to establish themselves and strengthen its root system.
5. Asparagus Varieties
There are several asparagus varieties that you can grow. Since they have different qualities, it is important for you to choose the right one for you. Therefore, you will not find too many difficulties in how to grow asparagus.
Based on the color, the varieties of this vegetable is classified into three groups, i.e. green, purple, and white. Green is the most common asparagus found in the grocers. Meanwhile, the purple ones are commonly found in Italy and England. In addition, the white asparagus is lack of chlorophyll. These shoots are deprived of light because farmer cover them with soil or mulch.
Moreover, asparagus is also categorized into heirlooms and all-male hybrids. Those considered as heirlooms are old hybrids and available in male and female plant. Meanwhile, the all-male hybrids only produce male plants. They are perfect for you who want to have higher yield of asparagus.
These are some varieties that you can consider.
This particular variety produces large and green spears. It is an all-male hybrid. Therefore, you can have a big harvest of asparagus each year. It adapts well in warmer climate. Moreover, this plant is also resistant crown rut, rust, and fusarium. This hybrid of asparagus grows well in USDA zones 3 to 8.
It is an heirloom variety. This plant produces nutty and sweet asparagus. These green spears can be harvested in three years. This variety thrives in USDA zones 3 to 9. Mary Washington asparagus can grow up to 2 m tall and 60 cm wide. Therefore, you need to provide enough space to grow it.
This particular asparagus variety produces purple spears. However, they turn to green when cooked. These spears are nutty and sweeter than other asparagus varieties. This heirloom variety will give you both male and female plants. In addition it tolerates hot and cold weather. You can grow it in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 10.
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How to Grow Asparagus
There are two ways of how to grow asparagus. You can grow it from seeds or from crowns. Growing from seeds takes more time. You need to wait for three years to harvest your asparagus. Moreover, it is also takes more energy because you must germinate the seeds on your own.
Meanwhile, growing asparagus from crowns is easier. In addition, you only need to wait for about two years to harvest the young shots of this plant. In purchasing crowns, you must choose ones that are 1 year old. This will improve the chance of success in how to grow asparagus. You must not be tempted to buy two year old crowns because they will likely to suffer from transplanting problems.
These are the steps of how to grow asparagus from seeds and from crowns.
1. Growing from Seeds
If you decide to grow asparagus from seeds, you can follow these steps.
You need to start to germinate the seeds indoors in the late winter. To perform this step, you need seed-starting soil and a seeding tray. Moreover, to increase the germination rate, you must soak the seeds in water for 24 hours.
After that, you can sow the seeds in the seeding tray that has been filled with the soil. Your asparagus seeds will sprout in 2 weeks to 8 weeks. When the danger of last spring frost has gone, you can transplant them to the ground. Before you do it, you must remember to harden the seedlings beforehand.
In this step, you need to prepare a temporary bed to transplant the seedlings. This garden bed must meet the growing condition for asparagus plant. After that, transplant the seedlings and space them 6 inches apart between plants.
When these plants are matured in the fall, you need to get rid of the female plants. If you want to have asparagus seeds, you can keep one or two female plants. After that, transplant them in a permanent planting site in early spring. The steps of doing it are almost similar to planting the crowns.
At the planting time, you need to water the transplants deeply. After that you can water this plant every other day and keep the soil moist. During hot and dry weather, you need to make sure the plants get enough water.
Moreover, you need to add a layer of organic mulch on the ground. You must also fertilize the plant annually, in early spring. The amount of fertilizer needed to fertilize a 100 square feet area is 2 pound.
When your asparagus plants are three years old, you can begin harvesting their spears. You can harvest the spears that are about 15 cm to 22 cm tall. For a first time harvest, you can harvest asparagus for 2 weeks. In the next season, you can harvest it for 3 or 4 weeks.
In older plants, you can harvest the asparagus for about 6 to 8 weeks. But, you must stop harvesting in mid to late June. Let the spears grow into fern like plants so that they will give you good harvest next year.
2. Growing from Crowns
If you choose to grow this vegetable from crowns, you will get all-male asparagus. The steps of how to grow asparagus from crowns are almost similar with growing from seeds. However, you don’t need to germinate the seeds. In order to plant the crown, you can follow these steps.
- Create a trench of about 20 cm deep and 45 cm wide.
- Make a ridge of about 5 cm high along the middle of the trench.
- Soak the crown in lukewarm water for a few minutes.
- Place the crowns on the ridge and arrange the roots in the deeper trench. Space them 30 cm apart. Be sure that you don’t plant the crown upside down.
- Use a mix of topsoil and compost to fill the trench.
- Water the crowns deeply.
- After that, you can follow the steps of caring and harvesting above.
There are various pests and diseases that may affect your asparagus plants. Therefore, you need to choose varieties that are resistant to diseases. Moreover, you also need to check on the plants regularly. If you see any pests, remove them immediately. Having healthy asparagus plants will allow you to gain a big harvest next year.
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