Stages of Growing Asparagus: A Comprehensive Guide


Updated: 27 Feb 2024

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Asparagus is a popular and nutritious vegetable that can be valuable to any home garden. Although it may take a few years to establish, growing asparagus is a rewarding experience that can provide you with a bountiful harvest for many years. In this comprehensive guide, I will explain the stages of growing asparagus, from selecting the suitable variety to harvesting and storing your crop.

Scientific NameAsparagus officinalis
Plant TypePerennial
Native Environment:Western Asia & Mediterranean
Growth RateSlow growth rate
Plant Size:Able to reach 8′ tall
Growing Zones:USDA Zoon 3-8 (receive cold winter temperature)
Asparagus related information
stages of growing asparagus
stages of growing asparagus

Selecting the Right Variety

Choosing a suitable variety of asparagus is crucial for successful growth. There are several factors to consider, such as climate, soil conditions, and personal preferences. Some popular varieties include:

  • Jersey Knight: This variety is known for its high productivity and disease resistance, making it a favorite among home gardeners. It produces thick, tender spears with excellent flavor.
  • Purple Passion: As the name suggests, this variety is known for its vibrant purple color. It has a slightly sweeter flavor than green asparagus and adds color to your dishes.
  • Mary Washington: A traditional and widely grown variety, Mary Washington is known for its hardiness and reliability. It produces medium-sized, flavorful spears.

When selecting a variety, consider your local climate and the length of your growing season. Some varieties are better suited for cooler temperatures, while others thrive in warmer regions. Additionally, consider the soil conditions in your garden, as certain varieties may prefer sandy or loamy soil.

Varieties of asparagus
Varieties of asparagus

Preparing the Soil

Asparagus is preferred to well-drained soil and is rich in organic matter. You must prepare the soil before planting to provide your asparagus plants with the best possible growing environment.

 Follow these steps to prepare the soil:

  • Clear the area: Trash, stones, and weeds must be removed from the planting area. Asparagus plants have a long lifespan, so starting with a clean and weed-free space is crucial.
  • Amend the soil: Asparagus thrives in soil with a pH level between 6.5 and 7. If your soil is too acidic, add lime to raise the pH. Conversely, adding elemental sulfur can lower the pH if your soil is alkaline. Add organic materials to the soil, such as compost or well-rotted manure, to enhance drainage and fertility.
  • Loosen the soil: To loosen the soil, use a tiller or garden fork to get at least 12 inches of depth. Root penetration and aeration will both benefit from this.
Preparation of soil
Preparation of soil

Different Growing stages of Asparagus

For successful cultivation of this delicious and nutritious perennial vegetable, it is essential to understand the growing stages of asparagus. It typically goes through three main stages: establishment, spear production, and fern growth. During the establishment stage, which lasts around two years, newly planted crowns develop a robust root system and establish themselves in the soil. Once established, the spears begin to emerge in the spring, signaling the start of spear production. This stage can last for several weeks, during which the spears are harvested when they reach 6 to 8 inches in height. As the spear production wanes, the fern growth stage begins, allowing the plant to replenish its energy reserves through photosynthesis. During this stage, the spears can grow into tall, feathery ferns, which capture sunlight and produce nutrients for the crown to store for the next growing season. Understanding and managing these growing stages is crucial for maintaining a healthy and productive asparagus patch year after year.

Growing stages of asparagus
Growing stages of asparagus

Planting: Stages of Growing Asparagus

Asparagus can be planted using either seeds or crowns. While growing from seeds allows for a more comprehensive selection of varieties, it requires more time and patience. Planting asparagus crowns, on the other hand, provides a head start and results in an earlier harvest. Here’s how to grow asparagus using crowns:

  • Dig trenches: Dig trenches 8-12 inches deep and 18-24 inches apart. The trenches should be long enough to accommodate the number of crowns you have.
  • Space the crowns: Place the crowns in the trenches, spreading the roots out evenly. Space them about 18-24 inches apart for proper growth and airflow.
  • Cover with soil: Cover the crowns with about 2 inches, ensuring the buds face upward. As the asparagus grows, gradually fill in the trenches with more soil until they are level with the ground. Water thoroughly: After planting, water the crowns thoroughly to ensure good root establishment.
Planting Asparagus
Planting Asparagus

Germination and Shoot Emergence

Germination is the first stage in the life cycle of asparagus. It usually occurs 2-3 weeks after planting the seeds or crowns. During this stage, the seeds or crowns develop roots and shoots that eventually emerge from the soil.

Germination of Asparagus
Germination of Asparagus

If you’re starting from seeds, soak them in water overnight before planting to improve germination rates. Plant the seeds about 1/2 inch deep in well-prepared soil, keeping them moist until germinating.

Once the shoots emerge, providing them with proper care is essential. Asparagus shoots are delicate and need protection from harsh weather conditions and pests. Cover the emerging shoots with soil or straw, exposing only the tips. This helps to prevent the shoots from drying out and protects them from frost.

Germination of Asparagus
seed germination

Crown Formation

After the shoots have emerged, they will continue to grow and form a crown. The crown is the central part of the asparagus plant from which the shoots and roots will emerge. It serves as a storage organ, allowing the plant to store energy for future growth and production.

As the crown develops, it will become larger and more robust. The roots will spread out, anchoring the plant in the soil and absorbing nutrients and water. The shoots will grow taller, reaching their full height of 3-5 feet.

We provide adequate water and nutrients to support the crown formation during this stage. Mulching around the plants can help retain moisture and suppress weeds. Regular fertilization with a balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 NPK ratio, is also recommended to ensure healthy crown development.

crown formation of asparagus
crown formation of asparagus

Foliage Development

Foliage development is a crucial stage in the growth of asparagus plants. During this stage, the shoots grow and mature into fern-like foliage. The foliage serves multiple purposes, including photosynthesis and energy storage for future growth.

The feathery green shoots of asparagus can be attractive and add texture to your garden. However, it’s important to note that asparagus ferns are not true ferns but rather modified leaves. These ferns play a vital role in the overall health and vigor of the asparagus plant.

Ensure your asparagus plants receive adequate sunlight and water to promote healthy foliage development. Asparagus prefers full sun to partly shaded areas; pick a spot that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunshine daily. 

Water the plants deeply, especially during dry spells, to prevent the ferns from wilting.

foliage development of asparagus
foliage development of asparagus

Flowering

Depending on the species and climate, asparagus plants usually blossom in late spring or early summer.

 The flowers are small and inconspicuous, usually yellow-green. While the flowers are not edible, they play a crucial role in seed production.

Asparagus plants are either male or female, with male plants producing more abundant and showier flowers. Female plants, on the other hand, have edible spears. Insects, especially bees, pollinate the flowers by moving pollen from male to female.

flowering asparagus
flowering asparagus

To save seeds, having both male and female plants is essential. However, focusing on male cultivars is recommended if you’re growing asparagus primarily for its edible spears. Male plants do not expend energy on seed production, resulting in more vigorous spear growth.

Berry Formation

After flowering, female asparagus plants will produce small red berries. These berries contain seeds and are attractive to birds, which can help disperse the seeds throughout your garden. If you prefer to avoid having asparagus plants popping up in unexpected places, removing the berries or preventing the plants from producing them is best.

While asparagus berries are not edible and can be toxic to humans and pets, they can be collected for seed propagation. If you wish to order the berries, let them ripen fully on the plant before harvesting. Store the seeds in a cool, dry place and plant them in a different location the following season if desired.

Berry formation of asparagus
Berry formation of asparagus

Dormancy

As the growing season ends, asparagus plants enter a period of dormancy. Dormancy usually occurs in the fall when the weather becomes cool and the foliage starts to die back. During this time, providing the necessary care to prepare the plants for winter is essential.

Before winter arrives, cut back the ferns a few inches above the ground. This helps to remove any diseased or yellow leaves and allows the plants to conserve energy. Apply a layer of mulch, such as shredded leaves or straw, over the soil to protect the roots from frost and maintain moisture.

During dormancy, it’s important to avoid disturbing the delicate asparagus roots. Be careful when working around the plants, and refrain from planting or digging in the asparagus patch until the following spring.

dormancy asparagus
dormancy asparagus

Harvesting Asparagus

Harvesting asparagus is an exciting and rewarding moment for any gardener. However, waiting until the plants mature enough is crucial to ensure continued growth and productivity. Here are some guidelines for harvesting asparagus:

  •    Wait for maturity: Asparagus plants need time to establish a healthy root system before being harvested. Waiting at least 2-3 years after planting is recommended before harvesting spears. This allows the plants to focus on growth and development.
  •    Harvesting technique: To harvest asparagus, snap or cut the spears at ground level when they reach a length of 6-8 inches. Use a sharp knife or fingers to avoid damaging the crown and emerging spears. Harvesting regularly promotes the production of new spears throughout the season.
  •    Harvesting period: The harvesting period for asparagus typically starts in late spring and lasts for 4-6 weeks. The exact timing may vary depending on your climate and growing conditions. It’s essential to stop harvesting by late June or early July to allow the remaining spears to develop into ferns and prepare for winter dormancy.
  •      Storage: Freshly harvested asparagus can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can also blanch and freeze the spears to extend the shelf life. After blanching them for a few minutes in boiling water, put them in an ice bath to finish cooking.

. Once cooled, pack the blanched asparagus in airtight containers or freezer bags and store them in the freezer for future use.

Asparagus plants become more productive as they mature. Waiting until the third year before harvesting an entire crop is recommended for optimal growth and yield. Patience is vital when growing asparagus, but the rewards are worth it.

harvesting asparagus
harvesting asparagus

Tips and Tricks for Successful Growth

Growing asparagus can be a rewarding but somewhat challenging endeavor. Here are some tips and tricks to help you achieve successful growth and a bountiful harvest:

  • ·     Select the suitable variety: Choose a variety of asparagus well-suited to your climate and soil conditions. Consider factors such as cold hardiness, disease resistance, and flavor preferences.
  • ·     Prepare the soil: Rich in organic matter, well-draining soil is ideal for asparagus growth. Treat the soil before planting with compost or well-rotted manure to increase fertility and drainage.
  • ·     Plant correctly: Asparagus should be planted in early spring when the soil has warmed up. Avoid planting in wet or waterlogged soil, which can lead to root rot.
  • · Proper spacing: Give each asparagus plant enough space to grow and spread its roots. Space the plants 18-24 inches apart for proper growth and airflow.
  • ·     Mulch and weed control: Cover the plants with organic mulch, like crushed leaves or straw, to keep moisture and weeds at bay.

. Regularly remove weeds that may compete with the asparagus for nutrients and water.

  • ·     Regular watering: Asparagus plants require consistent moisture, especially during dry spells. Water deeply and regularly, aiming for about 1 inch per week. Avoid overwatering, as this can lead to root rot.
  • ·     Fertilization: Asparagus plants benefit from regular fertilization to maintain their health and productivity. Use a balanced fertilizer with a ratio of 10-10-10 or similar, applying it according to the package instructions.
  • ·     Pest and disease management: Monitor your asparagus plants for common pests such as aphids, beet armyworms, and asparagus beetles. Use organic pest control methods, such as neem oil, to manage infestations. Watch out for diseases like Fusarium wilt and crown rot, and take preventive measures such as proper sanitation and soil management.
  • ·     Proper harvesting: Wait until the asparagus plants are mature enough before harvesting. Snap or cut the spears at ground level when they reach a length of 6-8 inches. Avoid overharvesting to allow the plants to develop and store energy for future growth.

By following these tips and tricks, you can create an optimal growing environment for your asparagus plants and enjoy a successful harvest year after year.

Common Problems and Solutions

Growing asparagus is challenging, as the plants can be susceptible to various pests, diseases, and environmental factors. Here are some common problems you may encounter and their possible solutions:

  • ·     Asparagus aphids: These tiny insects can infest the foliage and cause stunted growth. Control aphids using organic neem oil or introducing natural predators such as ladybugs or parasitic wasps.
  • ·     Beet armyworms: These caterpillars can feed on the foliage of asparagus plants, causing damage. Control them using a neem oil solution or disrupting their lifecycle by drenching the soil with neem oil.
  • ·     Asparagus beetles: These beetles can defoliate the plants if left unchecked. Remove them by handpicking or using an insecticidal soap.
  • ·     Fusarium wilt: This fungal disease can cause wilting and death in asparagus plants. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Fusarium wilt. Remove and destroy affected plants and soil to prevent the spread of the disease.
  • ·     Crown rot: Crown rot is another fungal disease that affects the roots and stems of asparagus plants. Prevent crown rot by maintaining proper soil drainage and avoiding overwatering or saturated conditions.
  • ·     Soil pH imbalances: Asparagus prefers slightly acidic to neutral soil with a pH of 6.5-7. Regularly test your soil’s pH and adjust it using lime or elemental sulfur if necessary.

Regular monitoring, proper sanitation, and cultural practices like crop rotation can help prevent and manage these common problems. By staying vigilant and taking prompt action, you can maintain the health and productivity of your asparagus plants.

common problems and solution
common problems and solution

Conclusion

Growing asparagus is a rewarding and worthwhile endeavor that can provide fresh and delicious spears for years. By understanding the different stages of growing asparagus and providing the necessary care, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest and savor the unique flavor of homegrown asparagus.

Note: The information provided in this article is based on general practices and may vary depending on specific growing conditions and regional factors. Always consult local gardening resources and experts for tailored advice and recommendations.


Sikandar

Sikandar

Hi, I am Sikandar Mehdi, founder of mybestvegetables.com. I have been a professional farmer for 20 years. After graduating in 2002, I started learning about vegetables. After a lot of experience, in 2023, I started sharing my blog on my platform, mybestvegetables.com.

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