Mark and I planted two long rows of asparagus in the market garden yesterday. Asparagus is a wonderful vegetable for Pflugerville because it actually enjoys the slightly alkaline soil in our area. However asparagus appreciates looser soil than our black clay so be sure to amend your soil with plenty of organic matter and maybe some sand when you prepare asparagus beds.
We planted our asparagus at the edge of our garden. Asparagus goes well at a well-drained edge of your yard or garden because the bed will be there for a long long time. It will probably take two or three years for the asparagus we planted yesterday to be producing at full capacity.
Asparagus is propagated by planting 1 or 2 year old roots, called crowns, into 4-12 inch deep trenches. Gently separate the roots so the center of the crown will lie in the center of your trench like an octopus. (See picture below.) The trenches can be gradually filled as the plant grows, or filled in all at once if your soil is loose enough for the plants to break through easily.
I recommend choosing a male variety of asparagus like the Jersy Knight that we planted. Male varieties are hearty and good producers, plus they do not produce berries and seeds like the female plants. (‘Washington’ varieties are generally female.)
Keep the new asparagus bed well watered and weeded throughout the spring, summer and autumn. In the winter, after the first freeze, cut the ferns off at ground level and remove them from the bed. Ferns left in the garden over winter provide good shelter for asparagus beetles which could wreak havoc on the plants in the spring.
It’s best not to harvest and asparagus for the first two years after planting. The idea is that all the plants energy should go back into the plant’s root system, providing for a better harvest in subsequent years. However, I have picked just a few spears on the second year and didn’t have any long term problems based on my impatience.
Asparagus is usually the first think ready to pick in our home garden in the early spring. When you are finally able to start harvesting your asparagus, snap the spears off with your hand at ground level. The sprouts should be about 4 to 10 inches in height. Don’t let the spears get too big or they will be tough and fibrous. When the weather gets warmer and the spear heads start opening up, stop picking and wait for next year. Asparagus is best when eaten fresh, but will save in the fridge for up to three weeks.