GENERAL INFORMATION: A relative of Lilies, Asparagus are one of the most enduring and dependable home garden vegetables. While plants may consume a decent portion of the garden and take two to three years to come into full production, they ultimately pay off, providing delicious, succulent spears every spring for 15–20 years. Consider situating them as background plants in perennial beds and borders to conserve space; they do get tall (around six feet), so plan accordingly.
LOCATION: Plant asparagus in full sun in an area that drains well.
SOIL & PLANTING: To plant bare-root asparagus, dig trenches 10 to 12 inches wide and 10 to 12 inches deep. Space trenches four to six feet apart. Create a soil mixture of one-third Master Nursery® Gold Rush and two-thirds native soil and heap about four inches at bottoms of trenches and soak. Space plants one foot apart, spreading out roots evenly and placing them so that the tops are six to eight inches below the surface. Cover plants with two inches of soil mix. Water again.
As young plants grow, gradually fill in trenches with soil mix, taking care not to cover the growing tips.
Alternatively, three to four inches of well-aged horse or steer manure can be placed in the bottom of the trench and covered with an inch or two of the soil mixtures. The asparagus are then planted as described.
WATER: At first planting, irrigate whenever soil begins to dry out at root depth. After the first year, provide regular, deep soakings (See our Care Guide for Irrigating Plants). Spray or drip systems work equally well, provided they deliver an adequate amount of water.
HARVESTING: Spears should not be harvested the first or second year. The goal currently is to build root mass. When plants turn brown in late fall or early winter, cut stems to the ground. The third spring, you can cut your first spears; spears are ready to harvest when they reach eight to 10 inches long. Spears are harvested by grasping at ground level and snapping them off with a quick, smooth motion. Harvest only for two weeks or until the appearance of thin spears, which indicates that roots are nearing exhaustion. Then permit plants to grow. The fourth year, you should be able to harvest spears for four weeks. The following years, you can harvest spears for eight weeks.
FERTILIZING: Feed every other month from March to September with Master Nursery® Formula 49™ or if you prefer organic, use E.B. Stone™ Cottonseed Meal.
Apply fertilizer to moist soils and water in well after application.
Adapted from Sunset Western Garden Book (2001) & 1977 Yearbook of Agriculture
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