Grow your own asparagus because the freshly picked asparagus is far superior to the store-bought one.
Asparagus is one of the first crops of spring harvest. This perennial vegetable is rich in vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium, and iron and is beloved for its delicious young shoots. And it just happens that freshly picked spears are far more tender, crunchy and tasty than store-bought.
Asparagus thrives in any area having winter ground freezes or dry seasons. In fact, the mild, wet regions of Florida and the Gulf Coast are about the only places where it is difficult to grow it.
You should select and prepare your asparagus bed with care—this crop will occupy the same spot for 20 years or more. It can tolerate some shade, but full sun produces more vigorous plants and helps minimize disease.
Asparagus does best in lighter soils that warm up quickly in spring and drain well. Standing water will quickly rot the roots. Prepare a planting bed about 4 feet wide by removing all perennial weeds and roots and digging in plenty of aged manure or compost.
Asparagus plants are monoecious—meaning each individual plant is either male or female. Some varieties of asparagus, such as Jersey Knight and Jersey Giant, produce all male or primarily male plants, so they’re more productive. Male plants yield more harvestable shoots because they don’t have to “invest” energy in producing seeds.
Choose an all-male variety if high yield is your primary goal. If you like to experiment, you may also want to grow an heirloom variety or a purple-stalked variety like Purple Passion. With an all-male variety, 25 plants are usually adequate for a household of four. You can plant double that amount for standard varieties.
Starting asparagus from 1-year-old crowns gives you a year’s advantage over seed-grown plants. 2-year-old crowns are usually not a bargain. They tend to suffer more from transplant shock and won’t produce any faster than 1-year-old crowns.
Buy crowns from a reputable nursery that sells fresh, firm, disease-free roots. Plant them immediately if possible. Otherwise, wrap them in slightly damp sphagnum moss until you are ready to plant.
To plant asparagus crowns, dig trenches 12 inches wide and 6 inches deep (8 inches in sandy soil) down the center of the prepared bed. Soak the crowns in compost tea for 20 minutes before planting. Place the crowns in the trenches 1½ to 2 feet apart. Top them with 2 to 3 inches of soil. 2 weeks later, add another inch or two of soil. Continue adding soil periodically until the soil is slightly mounded above surface level to allow for settling.
Apply mulch to smother weeds, which compete with the young asparagus spears and reduce yields. Carefully remove any weeds that appear. Water regularly during the first 2 years after planting. As asparagus matures, it crowds out most weeds and sends long, fleshy roots deep into the earth, so watering is less critical. Fertilize in spring and fall by top-dressing with liquid fertilizer (such as compost tea) or side-dressing with a balanced organic fertilizer.