Growing asparagus

Asparagus shoot ©Janet AllenAsparagus poking up through the ground in spring

Seeing asparagus emerge is a delicious sign of spring.

In 2010, we renewed our asparagus bed that had been producing for about twenty years.

We planted new asparagus crowns in one of the main garden beds, and dug up the old bed to plant Concord grapes. The major reason for the move was to provide a suitable place for the grapes.

Asparagus in the spring ©Janet Allen
A lovely sight for winter-weary stomachs hungry for fresh vegetables!

The new asparagus bed developed slowly. Of the 25 crowns planted 22 actually produced shoots the first year. The second year we harvested less than a pound and a half of asparagus. The second year after planting (2012) we expected a small harvest and, after that, a regular harvest.

But in 2012 we actually picked five pounds of asparagus and in 2013, seven pounds. The old bed in its last year (2009) had produced only eight pounds, so we were pleased with the harvests we've gotten from this new bed.

We're looking forward to many more delicious meals in future years.

Asparagus berries ©Janet Allen Asparagus berries

The variety we planted was supposed to be all males.

However some of the plants turned out to be females, as indicated by these berries. Female plants are less productive than the males, but so far we seem to get a decent harvest.

Asparagus bed ©Janet Allen Asparagus bed

Asparagus is one of those crops that many people know in the grocery store, but not in the garden.

Most people are surprised when we tell them that the ferny bed of plants in our garden is asparagus!

Asparagus in summer(Enlarge) ©Janet Allen
Asparagus in summer

People wonder what is creating the ferny part and what part is picked. It's hard for people to understand that it's all one thing.

This photo shows the stalks, which have continued to grow, becoming the ferny part. At the leftmost part of the photo, there's a new stalk coming up.

Asparagus tip ©Janet Allen
Asparagus tip

Earlier in the year, we would have picked this stalk, but now we'll let it grow. The ferny stuff develops from the little buds at the tip.

We always let some asparagus stalks continue growing at the end of the harvest so they can produce food for the next year's harvest.

The usual advice is to pick asparagus for six to eight weeks and then stop.

Asparagus in the fall ©Janet AllenAsparagus in the fall

After a season of growth, sending food to the roots for next spring's harvest, the asparagus fronds turn a beautiful fall gold.

Before winter we cut them to the ground. We don't compost them because they're quite woody and would take a long time to break down.

Harvest record

YR LB Notes
14 1 The bed isn't doing well and may be taken out
13 7 The bed is now established, and the harvest is now increasing
12 5
11 2
10 0 A transition year between the old and new beds
09 8