Start an Asparagus Bed
B. Rosie Lerner
Extension Consumer Horticulture Specialist
One of the first vegetables you see poking its head through the cool ground each year is asparagus, and what a welcome sight. The climate in the Midwest is perfect for asparagus. In fact, asparagus needs to be planted where the soil is cold enough to freeze at least a few inches deep.
Plants can be started from seed or crowns, but crowns are the preferred method. Seedling plants can be quite variable in quality, and they take several years to establish. Crowns are vegetatively propagated so you know exactly what type of plant you'll have.
Choose a site that is well-drained; asparagus will not tolerate soggy soil. A loose, sandy soil is ideal. Asparagus is one of few vegetables that actually prefers a neutral to slightly alkaline soil pH.
When establishing a new asparagus bed, work 2 to 3 inches of well-rotted manure into the soil before planting. Apply a balanced fertilizer, such as 12-12-12, at the rate of about 2 pounds per 100 square feet of bed area. Asparagus benefits from a good fertilization program.
To plant, dig a trench about 6 inches deep and lay the asparagus crowns so the buds are facing up. Refill the trench with soil, tamp lightly and water thoroughly.
Newly planted asparagus beds may produce a few harvestable spears the first year, depending on the quality of the planting stock. Check the size of the spears as they emerge. Spears the diameter of a pencil or larger are a good catch. Spindly spears should be allowed to mature.
Even for established plantings, stop harvesting about the middle of June to allow the plants to rebuild food reserves. The spears will become feathery, fern-like shrubs; this growth is important for the plant to make a good comeback next year. After the foliage fades in autumn, it can be removed down to soil level. Or, the dead foliage can be left overwinter to collect leaves, snow and other insulation.
The URL for this page is http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/asparagus.html