Asparagus is one of the greatest of plants for the early spring garden and you either love them or hate them. I happen to love the garden varieties but still go collecting the wild spears in early spring.
When to Plant
There are two ways to start asparagus – the fast, expensive way or the slow cheap way. Fast and expensive means purchasing the correct number of roots while asparagus from seed is slow and inexpensive
While it is possible to start seed indoors in January, the easier way is to sow directly into the garden in mid-April. Soak seed for 48 hours before sowing by laying on a damp paper towel.
Plant in full sunshine, in your best soils. No clay soils as the water-logging will rot the roots.
Dig a trench or furrow in the garden approximately 10 cm deep. Sow seed 2-3 cm deep in the bottom of the trench and put the seed several centimetres apart.
Some gardeners use a fast germinating seed like radish to mark the rows because asparagus seed will take 30 days to germinate.
Thin the plants to 12 cm apart. Gradually fill in the trench over the summer while you are cultivating. Mulch over the winter to protect the young roots.
The following April – before they have started to emerge, dig up all the roots.
Here’s where the inexpensive and the expensive but fast come together.
The fast folks have simply purchased their roots while the slow gardeners (but cheap remember?) have spent the year growing their roots.
Dig a trench or furrow in the garden approximately 20-30 cm deep and 30 cm wide. Set the vigorous roots 25-30 cm apart. Space the rows 1.2 m apart.
Cover the roots with a 5-8 cm of soil but do not fill in the trench. Over the course of the summer, gradually fill in the trench (every time you weed with a hoe, pull some of the soil back into the trench) By the time fall arrives, you’ll have the trench filled in without a lot of extra work. You want the spears to grow up and slowly backfill them; doing it all at once will delay their growth.
Care & Maintenance
Do not harvest spears the first year! You harvest a single week the second year. After that first harvest allow all spears to grow into foliage. By the third year, strong spears will provide 6 weeks of picking. Allow all spears after harvest to mature.
Weed control is by an organic mulch. This also evens out the soil temperature,provides protection to the asparagus roots and increases organic matter.
The major pest of this crop is the Asparagus beetle and here’s how to identify and control it.
If you find your spears are less than thumb-thick, you are not feeding enough. Earlier, thicker spears are the tastiest.
Leave the foliage alone in the garden until it turns yellow-golden brown in the fall and then you can cut it down and compost it.
Asparagus beetle is controlled by hand-picking, rotenone or diatomaceous earth.
You’ll find other organic vegetable gardening articles and answers here.