So, you’re thinking of growing asparagus? It is an easy venture to start and you will be delighted at the results. To start, you will need asparagus crowns to get asparagus stalks. You can either purchase asparagus seeds or asparagus crowns. Asparagus seed is very hard to come by. Two companies that do carry seed are Territorial Seed and Victory Seeds. Crowns are much easier to come by and they might even be at your local nursery in the springtime.
If you decide to grow from seed, you will need to start the seeds 60-90 days before the last frost in the spring. Our last frost is generally April 15 and so the time to start asparagus seeds would be January 15 to February 15. Another consideration is thinning out the females once they start to put on seed. Females put more energy into seed production than pollen production which results in smaller less flavorful stalks come harvest time. No matter whether you start from seeds or crowns, you will not be harvesting spears until the third growing season.
If you decide to start from crowns, it will be an easier venture to start from and you will not have to thin the crowns if you have chosen an all male hybrid. I made the mistake of choosing a 50/50 blend, and so I must thin the crowns. If you do not thin the crowns to an all male set, then your bed life will be shortened due to overcrowding.
You will want to add a bone meal type fertilizer to the beds after you have planted the seeds/crowns. This will provide much needed phosphorus for the crowns to start with. I have used the Dr. Earth product for many different applications and have found them to be very helpful and they have a wide range of products. Throughout the growing season (and dry season here in the PNW) be sure to give your crowns a thorough watering once a week or so, and make sure their “feet” don’t become dry. This will stunt their growth in this season and subsequent seasons, also cutting down on the life of the asparagus bed.
The first two years you will be tempted to snag a few spears, but don’t. You want your spears to grow and undergo photosynthesis so that the roots grow healthy and deep so that they may store food for overwintering. These first two years you want to allow your asparagus to grow as much as it wants, until it turns brown in the fall. At that point you will want to cut the tall stalks (they may be as tall as 4′) and lay them atop the asparagus beds to decompose. This will allow the accumulated nutrients in the stalks to be composted and reabsorbed into subsequent year’s crops.
So, are you ready to start your asparagus bed?