When growing asparagus, it's important to understand the different stages that the plant goes through. This will help you get the most out of your crop. It also helps you know when to harvest it so that you can enjoy a plentiful supply of this tasty vegetable.
Soil Preparation and Fertilization
Asparagus is a very sensitive crop that requires a rich soil with high fertility, so you will need to prepare the planting site before your plants are set into the ground. This means amending the soil with plenty of compost and manure to provide nutrients and good drainage, as well as lime if your soil is too acid.
Once your soil has been prepared, you'll need to plant the asparagus crowns in a trench that is 12 inches wide and 18 inches apart (measured from root tip to root tip), burying them 2 inches deep. Cover them with topsoil and a thin layer of compost, and water in. As the spears grow, you will need to add more soil as they become larger.
During the first year, do not cut any of the spears. This allows the crown to develop properly and to send down strong roots. In the second year, you can start lightly harvesting asparagus. The spears should be at least 6 to 12 inches long and a little thicker than a pencil.
The fern stage is the most critical period of growth for asparagus, as it provides photosynthesis and stores food to nourish the roots. The ferns should be left to mature, as they are not edible but are very important for the plant's growth.
This is where all the energy and nutrients are collected for the next season's production. The ferns then go dormant in winter, and then come back into leaf in spring.
You can prune the ferns during this stage, but only to a thickness of about two inches. This will allow you to control diseases and pests that may affect your plants.
Transplanting a Plant
After 10 weeks, the asparagus seedlings are ready to be transplanted. This is an important step in the growing process and it's advisable to do it in the spring when the soil is warm.
It's best to choose a reputable nursery that sells fresh, disease-free crowns so that you can make sure your new plant is healthy and vigorous. It's also a good idea to buy crowns from a nursery that has grown asparagus for at least a year.
In the spring, transplant each crown into the planting site. Asparagus prefers full sun, so plant it where it can receive at least eight hours of sunlight each day. You can also stake it to prevent it from breaking in windy weather.
Asparagus has a deep, extensive root system, so it does not require frequent irrigation after it's established; however, if the soil becomes dry, it will benefit from a deeper watering. Alternatively, mulch your asparagus bed around the stems to conserve soil moisture and prevent weed growth.