Asparagus is a hardy vegetable to grow for its lovely tender green spears. The foliage of the asparagus plant is also quite attractive and adds a little ornamental value to your vegetable garden.
Asparagus is a perennial and will come back again in spring every year. It’s a plant that lives for a very long time and has been known to live for up to 30 years. The lovely green spears will appear once the soil temperature reaches at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius).
Here’s everything you need to know about growing asparagus in your own garden.
Is Asparagus Perennial? Does Asparagus Come Back Every Year?
Asparagus is a perennial and can live for up to 30 years in the same spot. It prefers a temperate climate and does really well in areas that have long winters.
According to the experts, you shouldn’t harvest the young spears in the first two years. This allows the plant to become fully established and means that you’ll get a far greater harvest in the years to come.
If you follow these guidelines, you should be able to harvest around half a pound of spears per foot of plants. In fact, well-established plants will send up new spears almost daily for the first few weeks in spring.
These spears, when left to grow, will produce the lovely dark green fronds. These fern-like fronds are soft and attractive, and they help the plant to produce a strong and healthy root system. This strong root system is vital if you want your plant to keep producing the tender spears in spring.
To explain this in more detail, the fronds on asparagus plants use the sun to photosynthesize and produce chlorophyll. This then feeds the fleshy roots at the base of the crown and produces strong growth. Without this process, the roots will only have enough energy to produce maybe one or two spears, and if these are cut, the plant will die because it’s run out of energy and can’t make any more.
In the fall, the green fronds will start to go yellow, and that’s when you should cut them back to ground level. This means that your asparagus bed will be totally bare in winter.
Then, in spring, as the soil warms up, you’ll have all these lovely new spears poking up through the soil again. If you look after your plants well, you’ll find that they’ll keep producing a bumper harvest for up to 30 years.
What this means is that you will have to set aside a dedicated area in your garden if you want to grow asparagus. To enjoy plenty of asparagus on your dinner table, you should have around ten plants per person. So, if you have a family of four who all love asparagus, you’ll need around 40 plants.
What You Need To Do To Grow Asparagus As A Perennial
First, you need to set aside a spot in your garden that will only be used for your asparagus. Remember that growing asparagus is a long-term project, so choose a spot that you won’t need for growing any other types of vegetables. You can find more information on where to plant asparagus in this article.
Asparagus likes nutrient-rich, friable soil and a spot that gets plenty of sunshine. Therefore, you should prepare your asparagus garden bed in the fall by adding lots of organic matter and compost to the soil. If you also cover the bed with mulch, this will help to improve the soil as well.
Once spring comes around, it’s time to plant your asparagus crowns. To do this, create planting rows or trenches that are around 6 inches deep. Place your crowns in the rows and space them about twelve to eighteen inches apart.
As the asparagus starts to grow, you can backfill the rows until the soil in the trenches is level with the soil in your garden bed. You can then place some mulch around your plants to keep the soil nice and moist.
Make sure that you feed your plants regularly during the growing season using either liquid fertilizer or a continuous-release granular fertilizer.
Remember to wait until at least the second or third year before you start harvesting the spears in spring.
Is it Possible to Grow Asparagus As an Annual?
Unfortunately, it’s not really possible to grow asparagus as an annual because you’re not likely to get any worthwhile spears in the plant’s first year of growth. In order to produce its fat, juicy spears, the plant needs to establish a strong and healthy root system first.
In its first year of growth, an asparagus plant will likely only produce some fronds and no spears. If you were lucky, maybe the plant may produce one or two spears, but once these are harvested, the plant’s root system would not have any energy left, and it would die. You can find more information here on how long does it take to grow asparagus.
It’s not really worth the effort to try and grow asparagus as an annual due to the limited harvest you could possibly get. Even if you were able to find three-year-old crowns that you could plant, your harvest would still be very limited.
Therefore, if you want to grow asparagus successfully, you really need to consider it a long-term gardening venture.
Is It Possible To Grow Asparagus In Every Climate Zone?
Asparagus will grow in most climatic zones, but it does prefer an area that receives plenty of cold weather during the winter. It can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 2 to 11.
During the cold weather, the plants go into dormancy which is a necessary part of their cycle of growth and enables them to then produce lots of healthy new shoots in spring.
If you live in a warmer climate without cold winters, there are certain varieties that are specially bred for this type of climate.
Regular Harvesting As A Way To Get Rid Of Pests
One of the major pests that affect asparagus is the asparagus beetles. These beetles and their larvae feed on the foliage and the young spears. A heavy infestation can create a fair bit of damage to your plants and severely affect your harvest.
To break the life cycle of the beetle, it’s important to harvest your spears early and as regularly as you can. Once the spears are harvested, wash them well to remove any of the beetles, larvae, and eggs that may be present.
This is particularly important because the eggs of the asparagus beetle are normally found on the spears. Therefore, if you harvest the spears regularly, you’ll be getting rid of the eggs and breaking the life cycle of the beetle.
How To Prepare Asparagus For Winter
In the fall, your asparagus fronds will start to go yellow and will eventually become brown and brittle. This is the time to cut them back to ground level. Remember not to cut them while they’re still green because they’ll still be photosynthesizing to provide nutrients to the roots for next year’s crop.
Once you’ve done this, lay a thick layer of mulch over the beds to protect the crowns from frost damage. You can use either well-aged compost or manure or a thick layer of straw.
That’s all you have to do for your asparagus during the winter.