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Yesterday I found a box of two asparagus plants among some bags of bulbs at a local store. I couldn't open it, so I don't know what they look like, but the box was about 6 inches tall and 3 inches front to back. Although I have a lot of experience with flowers, this would be my first vegetable. I've been told they're not easy to grow, but I'd like to try, especially because asparagus is so expensive to buy!

The box said both of the plants were male, as did all of the other boxes on the shelf. I assume that's important to know, or else it wouldn't have been made clear. What's the difference between the male and female? Does it matter when it comes to growing? Would I need some of each in order to produce a crop, perhaps for the purpose of pollination? If so, is there a certain way I should position them in the garden?

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I have some asparagus plants both sexes, and all produce nice asparagus. On late summer some plants also produce many red fruits. As far I know there could be a small differences on yields, but I would not worry about it. – Giacomo Catenazzi Mar 4 at 11:09
up vote 11 down vote accepted

Male asparagus plants don't produce seeds; female plants do.

With asparagus, you need to allow some stalks to grow fully over the growing season in order to provide energy for next year's growth. Since female plants are putting some energy into making seeds, they don't store as much, so they'll produce fewer spears than a male would.

The crop is the growing shoot, so you don't need a mix of male and female plants. In fact, if you have females, they can drop seeds which can grow and crowd your existing plants, reducing the overall yield. This is why you'll usually only find male plants for sale.

There's no special way to plant them, other than to dig a 1 foot deep trench for them, mix the soil with composted manure to enrich it, then put some of the loose soil underneath the crowns as you plant them. Space the crowns a couple of feet apart, and backfill the trench as the plants grow. You also need to wait a couple of years before harvesting any spears because you want the plant to have put all its energy into growth.

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This is really great information, thanks! You taught me a lot. I had no idea I couldn't have spears in the first year. Growing them does seem less difficult than I'd been told, though, and worth it if I have that much patience! – Sue Mar 4 at 3:32

Asparagus beds can last for 50 years so you need to do some planning. The roots can extend down 10 or more feet deep so if solid is not that far down, I'd suggest you use a raised bed.

You also need to have a bit of space around the bed because as the shoots appear, they become tall fern like structures that drape over your beds, and without some space around then you risk damaging them as you walk past.

Allow 3 years before you harvest any spears so that the roots have 3 years of growing first. In my first year, my spears are only less then 5 mm thick. I started with Mary Washington crowns.

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I was at a different store yesterday, and the ones on the shelf were Mary Washington. Since they worked for you, I'll start with those, keeping in mind your advice for both planning and planting! – Sue Mar 18 at 16:17
    
I also double dug my bed rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=133 . Sadly the architect has chosen this site on account of the sun to build the one bedroom house so I have to move my bed :( – Graham Chiu Mar 18 at 18:53

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