Growing Asparagus

Asparagus is full of an amazing amount of nutrients. I had no idea.  It is a powerhouse of nutrition. Take a glance at the nutritional highlights found at the end of this article.

Don’t like asparagus? Try it a few different ways in a recipe with other foods instead of on its own. It may grow on you. I grew up thinking it was nasty, but it grew on me. So much in fact, that I now grow it.

Asparagus is a perennial.  It is one of the earliest plant to harvest, usually late April – early, mid-May depending on the age of your plant.

It comes in purple and more commonly green. White asparagus is any variety grown in the absence of light by layering the soil over it.

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Buying plants is obviously faster than starting seed. Seed may take you an additional year before you can harvest stalks.

I grow purple asparagus because it is supposed to be sweeter and more tender than green asparagus. It is also prettier on the plate, although when cooked it does turn green.

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Done right, asparagus plants can last and grow for 15-20 years. Male plants produce more spears than female plants because female plants have to put energy into producing seed. Female plants are the ones that gets red berries on them.

Asparagus grows best in areas with freezing winter temperatures.

Planting:  Did trenches 12 inches apart and about 8-12 inches deep in a sunny location. Raised beds work well. Remove all the weeds and add fertilizer.  Put the plants in the trenches about every 12 inches by making a mound of soil and draping the plant roots down the mound, (similar to planting strawberries) leaving the crown 4-6 inches below the soil line. Cover with soil up to the crown. As shoots appear, gradually add more soil until it is even with the soil line.

Fertilizing: Use an organic all-purpose fertilizer when preparing the bed. Use an organic liquid fertilizer during the growing season.

 

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Growing: Weed carefully. You don’t want to pull up the plants.

Keep asparagus well watered.

Let the fern like foliage grow at the end of the season (mid-May) to store up energy in the roots for next year. Once the cold weather has killed the ferns, cut them off leaving an inch or two of stalk.  You could also in the spring, remove the dead foliage before the new growth begins.

 

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Harvesting: Cut stalks when they are about 7-12 inches tall, before the tips begin to open. Once they start to open they are still edible, but they become tough and woody.

The first year or two, don’t harvest very many spears, leave them to grow foliage so you can build strong plants for subsequent years. Well, most garden guides say don’t harvest any, but really? Whose not gonna harvest one or two stalks to see how it tastes? Just don’t get carried away and leave most of it in the garden. When your plants are established, stop harvesting when the stalks are down to the size of a pencil.

 

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Pests: The asparagus beetles attack spears and foliage. Hand pick them or spray with insecticidal soap.

Asparagus rust and Fusarium wilt are common diseases. Plant resistant varieties, keep your beds clean and use raised beds to encourage good drainage.

Care for your asparagus plants and you should get a decade or more of delicious stalks.

Ways to Cook: Some ways to incorporate them into other foods are

  • stir-fry
  • fritata
  • quiche
  • sauteed with bacon
  • asparagus soup

 

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