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Time to Plant Asparagus

posted Feb 21, 2011, 7:40 AM by Bob Whitney   [ updated Feb 21, 2011, 7:46 AM ]
I will have to start off this article by giving credit to Judge James Morgan of DeLeon, TX for any knowledge of asparagus that I might have.  Several years ago Judge Morgan told me how good fresh asparagus from your own garden could be.  I had  terrible memories from childhood of being forced to eat canned asparagus which is not the same as fresh.  Judge Morgan was kind enough to bring me fresh asparagus, explained how to steam it just right and I have been hooked ever since.

Asparagus grows well in Texas area being suited to almost all of the State.  A well tended asparagus bed can yield 24 to 30 pounds per 100 foot of row and for most of us this is just enough for your family and close friends.  Asparagus is a perennial plant that can last 15 to 20 years without replanting if it is cared for properly and Archie at the Stiles Foundation Farm has a bed that has had so little care it should be dead but I sure enjoy stealing some Asparagus from Archie and that old bed!  

Asparagus is planted from 1 year old plants or “crowns” and the time to plant is now until the weather turns warm.  It takes about 3 years from the time you plant until the bed is in full production.  Once the bed is in production you will see the buds or “spears” emerge from the soil line.  Within a day or maybe two the spear is 4-10 inches long and is ready to be cut just below the soil surface.  You can harvest asparagus for 4-6 weeks before the spears become smaller or you just get tired of eating it.  Once harvest is complete the spears will grow into fern-like stalks six feet tall.  It is a beautiful plant once fully grown and could be part of a flower garden if planted towards the back.

To plant asparagus you need a site that can be left alone for many years and it sure does help if there are no greenbriars or bermudagrass etc. in the bed area because once you plant you have to deal with these problems year after year.  Before digging your bed add lots of organic matter and 2-3 pounds of  10-20-10 for every 20 foot of row.  Till all this in thoroughly before digging your trench.  The planting trench should be 4-6 inches wide and 6-12 inches deep.  Plant the crowns in the bottom of the trench about 12 inches apart and fill in the trench with only 2-3 inches of soil.  As you go through the first season you will continue to fill in the trench until it is full at the end of the year.  We plant crowns this deep so you can come back and lightly till the bed in the winter without damaging the crowns.

Care in the season is really easy.  Asparagus needs deep waterings every few days to promote deep root growth.  Under the right conditions asparagus roots can grow 10-12 feet deep.  Weeding is done by hand throughout the season although a heavy mulch layer will help keep weeds from being a problem.  

Every year after the first killing frost you will remove the top fern growth at the ground level and fertilize with lots of compost and even some nitrogen fertilizer to promote rapid growth.

The last thing to consider is the proper variety.  I planted Jersey Giant and am very happy with the production and taste.  Other varieties include Martha Washington, UC 157, Jersey Gem and Mary Washington.  Jersey Giant and Jersey Gem are all-male hybrids that are considered more productive since they do not waste energy on producing seed.  The cost is higher initially but worth it in the long run.  The crowns are shipped directly to you and should be as soon as they arrive then watch how quickly they grow.

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