Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables, but only when it’s fresh–I try not to deal with the canned stuff if I can help it (although it does come in handy for asparagus risotto in a pinch.)
Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables, but only when it’s fresh–I try not to deal with the canned stuff if I can help it (although it does come in handy for asparagus risotto in a pinch.) Asparagus is a perennial vegetable, so you can cultivate and harvest the same plant for years. One downside to growing it at home is the wait period. The best harvest comes after the plant has been growing for two or three years.
If you’ve only seen asparagus in the supermarket, it will surprise you to see the tall, fern-like growth of these plants. Asparagus is best planted from transplant crowns, which you can plant in early spring in most regions. Try hybrid varieties, such as Jersey Giant or Jersey Knight. These varietals, introduced by Rutgers University, are all male hybrids and said to be more productive.
Prepare the soil with a near-neutral pH level–between 6.7 and 7.0. Add compost and high-phosphate fertilizer. Since you can plan to keep the plant for years, take good stock in finding a practically permanent location. The plants can be 6-feet tall, so put them in a spot where they will not shade other veggies.
Dig trenches 12 inches wide and about 12 inches deep, and space crowns 18 inches apart before covering with 2 or 3 inches of soil. Add more soil to fill in the trench as the crowns grow. Water regularly and be patient. When cold weather arrives, cut the dried plant down and apply overwinter mulch.
After the third season, harvest asparagus shoots when they are finger-width and about 8 inches long. You can cut the shoots or snap them out of the soil by hand. Only harvest for a few weeks during this first harvest season, but feel free to harvest as much asparagus as you’d like next year and every year thereafter. Your patience will pay off!