How to Grow Asparagus

Establish an asparagus bed and reap rewards for years.


| September/October 2010


In some parts of the country it grows wild, and in others it is a significant cash crop. Word of its first appearance, whether in the garden, grocery store or fencerow, creates a wave of whispers among friends eager to experience that sumptuous springtime flavor. I’m talking about asparagus, not some elusive springtime mushroom. A harbinger of longer days and delicious dinners, asparagus is a wonderful spring sight, and it has been for centuries; following is all you need to know about how to grow asparagus.

Records indicate asparagus is one of the earliest vegetables humans ever cultivated. It is thought to have been first grown by the Macedonians in approximately 200 B.C., and appears in Egyptian tomb drawings as early as 4000 B.C. The ancient Greeks and Romans used it for medicinal purposes; the Greeks believed it was a cure-all for nearly every ailment. It spread throughout Europe when the conquering Romans brought it with them to foreign lands. In France in the 1600s, King Louis XIV ordered greenhouses built for it to suit his lover’s belief that it improved his prowess behind closed doors. From Europe, asparagus was brought to the newly formed American colonies, and entrenched itself both in the wild and in our gardens.

Packed with minerals and vitamins, asparagus is a powerhouse among vegetables, delivering a more complete balance of nutrients than any other. It’s teeming with good things such as vitamins A, B6 and C, with iron, potassium, riboflavin, niacin and thiamin. High in fiber and low in carbohydrates, asparagus contains no fat, no cholesterol and has only 20 calories per ½-cup serving.

A serving also provides more folic acid and glutathione than any other vegetable. A single serving of asparagus has more than half the recommended daily allowance of the folic acid needed for blood cell formation, prevention of liver disease and decreased risk of neural tube birth defects. Studies conducted by the National Cancer Institute found glutathione, a potent cancer-fighting agent, to be higher in asparagus than any other food tested.

Cultivate an interest

The place of asparagus as a nutrient-rich vegetable can’t be disputed, but for a vegetable that has been cultivated for millennia, there are plenty of differing opinions about how to grow it – ranging from what type of soil to what the optimum pH level of that soil should be; how much water it requires, when to harvest, how to harvest and what size spears are the best. Even the proper way to eat asparagus is the subject of heated discussion. All of this conflicting information might make growing asparagus seem daunting to the home gardener, but all it takes is some preparation and patience. Considering the health benefits it provides, and also the price of fresh asparagus in markets, it is well worth the effort to grow your own. 

Asparagus, a member of the Lily family, is one of only a few perennial vegetables. Its name, from the Greek word asparogos, means shoot or sprout. When most vegetable seedlings are too tender to plant outside, or still but a seed containing a dream, asparagus is already thrusting its delectable spears through the spring soil. A bed of asparagus is sometimes called a “lifetime planting.” The plants can yield spears for an average of 15 to 20 years, and sometimes for as long as 50 years, although the spears tend to get smaller as the plants age.

LucyS
7/6/2014 9:05:55 AM

We will be moving and I'm so sad to leave my newly planted asparagus. It it now summer. I just planted the crowns in the spring and already have small spears and ferns growing. We are only in the beginning stages of moving so we do not know how much longer we have in this house. My question is, can I dig up the crowns and store them somewhere? And if so, when is the best time for this? I was thinking that I could dig them up in the fall and store them in a bucket (??) or black garbage bag (??) in a cool dry place until we get to the new house and plant them either in the spring or fall, depending on when we move. Is this feasible? Can you dig the crowns up and have them wait patiently for you to replant? I hope so. I know it's only been a couple of months but I've grown attached to them. They feel like my babies :( Please help.


Jeff
11/25/2013 3:20:15 PM

I just received some asparagus crowns in the mail. Is it too late to plant these now or should I wait until spring. I live in Central indiana and we have experienced some cold temps and the crown is somewhat frozen at the surface.


Judy Williams
9/16/2012 5:13:47 PM

Is it normal to have a 2nd crop in one season? After the severe drought we had this yr we now are getting as much if not more than we had earlier.






mother earth news fair 2018 schedule

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Sit in on dozens of practical workshops from the leading authorities on modern homesteading, animal husbandry, gardening, real food and more!

LEARN MORE