Each month Redawna Kalynchuk draws on her extensive gardening experience to guide you through Growing Your Own Food in Canada. This month, Redawna shows you how to grow asparagus in your own garden!
Growing asparagus is one of the biggest edible investments you can make in your garden. It's a hardy perennial that takes very little work once the bed is established. Plants can be started by seed or you can buy one-year-old crowns from the greenhouse or garden centre. Buying year-old plants means you can start harvesting a year sooner. It does take three to four years from seed to your first harvest; the payoff for your patience is fresh homegrown asparagus for up to 20 years! Now that's an investment worth making.
Where Should You Plant Asparagus?
Asparagus is planted in early spring as soon as the bed can be worked. You want to find a good sized permanent spot that will be used only for the asparagus. It loves full sun so keep that in mind when choosing a location. Because of the permanent nature of asparagus, take the opportunity to create a lush nutrient-rich spot. Dig the bed well, loosening the soil and adding amendments such as compost, manure and peat moss. Take a bit of extra time to weed the spot well.
Asparagus also appreciates good draining soil, so consider adding a bit of grit if your soil is heavy or dense. It's a good idea to put a layer of compost on the bottom of the trench to help feed the plants for many years to come.
How Do You Grow Asparagus from Seeds?
Plants can be started from seeds about four weeks before the last expected frost in your area. Just note that growing from seed will add an extra year to the wait time before you can begin to harvest the shoots.
Growing asparagus is one of the biggest edible investments you can make in your garden.
To grow asparagus from seeds, start them indoors in two-inch pots as early as the month of February. Soak the seeds for two hours before planting. You should plant the seeds at a depth of around a half inch. They need to be set someplace warm — warmer soil temperatures can help speed up germination time. Now you need to be patient as it takes anywhere from two to eight weeks to spout. Seedlings are ready to transplant when they are 10 to 12 weeks old and all danger of frost in your area has passed. Space the seedlings a foot apart in four-inch deep holes. Continue adding soil to the crowns as they grow.
How Do You Plant Asparagus Crowns?
Asparagus crowns are planted in trenches, so you'll want to dig your trench to a depth of at least 8 to 12 inches and 12 to 18 inches wide. Make mounds down the centre of the trench to plant the crowns on. A great idea is to use compost for the mounds, but the garden soil will work as well. Space each mound around a foot apart; it may seem like a lot of space but it'll grow into a nice thick patch.
To plant the crowns you need to drape the roots over the mound. Cover the roots with a few inches of soil and water well. As the plants begin to grow continue to add soil, leaving a few inches of the shoots exposed above the ground. Continue adding soil until the trench is full.
Water regularly in the first year to assure the roots have ample moisture to get established.
You'll see shoots emerging from the soil in the spring. They're still establishing their root systems, so even though you may be tempted, resist the urge to harvest the spears. Allow them to complete their life cycle for the season. Cut the foliage to the ground in the fall or the following spring.
How Do You Harvest Asparagus?
The next season you can begin to harvest your asparagus for a two-week period. Mature spears are six to eight inches tall. If you started your plants from seed, skip harvesting this season and allow the plants to mature for the year.
The next season means you can harvest for around four weeks. Plants started from seed should be harvested for a two-week period. Next season you can harvest freely. When your plants are fully mature you should be able to harvest for up to eight weeks. When the shoots start to come up thinner towards the end of the season it's time to stop harvesting for the year.
To harvest use a sharp knife and trim the shoots at ground level. If the tips have started to open up it's best to leave them in the garden as they'll be tough.
How Do You Maintain Asparagus Plantings?
You can top-feed the soil with compost every spring before the shoots start to show. It's very important to maintain weeding throughout the season.
After the plants are done producing for the season they turn into delicate fern-like plants that turn golden in the fall then die. The plants need to be cut to the ground every year before new growth starts. You can do this in fall after the foliage has died or you can wait until spring after the snow has melted. You'll do this every year for the life of your asparagus patch.
- Grow Your Own Food: A Guide To Crop Rotation For Your Vegetable Garden
- Grow Your Own Food: Canadian Seed Catalogue Guide
- Grow Your Own Food: Know Your Canadian Gardening Zone
Grow Your Own Food is written by Redawna Kalynchuk. Redawna is the writer, photographer and content creator at Nutmeg Disrupted. She has over 20 years of gardening experience and has gardened from indoors under high-powered lights to frosty zone 2b gardens in northern Alberta. She enjoys pushing the boundaries of traditional gardening and loves empowering others to grow their own food. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.