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I am planning to try my hand at asparagus next spring, although I'm told that it isn't the easiest of vegetables to grow. Are there any particular problems associated with it? Any tips that might smooth my path would be much appreciated (I live in the UK).

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Plant seeds or dormant roots (roots are much faster) early in the spring and in the southern United States, try fall planting. For roots, spread over mounds in wide trenches and planted 4 to 6 inches deep. Plants should be 2 feet apart and in 4 foot rows. Treat seeds the same way.

As with most other garden veggies asparagus loves a highly organic soil with plenty of food during the growing season. Add manure, compost and other organics to soil at planting time and repeat after the growing season. Sufficient moisture is critical at this early stage.

Do not be too hasty to harvest too much of your first couple of crops. If you cut too many spears they will not have a chance to develop. Growing the size of the bed by the plants spreading is what you are striving for in the beginning. Those uncut spears will mature into stems and foliage. Harvest begins in the second year. Only cut spears for a 3 week period and let the rest grow. Just think of this as adding value and equity to your Asparagus account.

In the 3rd year you can harvest for an 8 week period. A general rule is to stop harvesting this vegetable when the spears become the diameter of a pencil. Spears should be cut at ground level when they reach 6-8 inches.

After the first frost the plants will turn brown and in milder climates you should cut down the stems to ground level. Don't cut the stems in the north. Add a thick layer of mulch for winter protection and too add nutrients to soil.

This plant is one in your garden that will grow tall and bushy. It has an attractive feathery foliage that looks great along fences or borders. Most of the open-pollinated varieties from the past were female such as Martha Washington and Mary Washington, but lately many of the new hybrids are males. They have been found to be more productive because they channel the energy available to them in spear growth rather than into seeding.

Some popular male hybrids are; Jersey Knight, Jersey General and Jersey Giant. Must be something special in the New Jersey soil,"if ya know what I mean."

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+1 but "in the south, try fall planting"? assuming southern united states from your profile, i've edited. –  Tea Drinker Jun 22 '11 at 6:47
    
A property where we lived had an old, established bed (12 years). That pencil was 3/4" and tender all through. By the time the spears started to toughen, you were ready to wait till next year. Impressive, feathery with red berries for the rest of the season. –  Fiasco Labs Jan 26 at 23:08
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I'm growing asparagus this year for the first time, so I wouldn't classify myself as an expert on this...yet. ;) However, I do have a stand of apparently healthy asparagus in progress at this moment!

My asparagus was planted "bare root". I'm not sure if you can get it other ways or not. It took several weeks to start coming up. We're watering it almost every day, but I don't think this is typically needed. I live in North Texas and we're in the middle of one of the longest dry spells we've seen in a while, plus temperatures are hitting above 100 on a regular basis. Asparagus doesn't like it's roots to be kept too wet and can have problems with root rot if kept too wet.

You probably already know this part, but asparagus can take several years to grow enough to actually yield a crop. It's a big plant too, so allow 1 1/2 to 2 feet between each plant.

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Since it is a perennial, you can't fix the soil as easily as annuals once you've planted it.

So now is the time to:

  • Get your pH right by adding lime or sulfur as needed
  • Add organic matter so it has time to break down in the soil
  • Get any perennial weeds in the area to be planted under control
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