When I posted the above photo of our asparagus patch in desperate need of harvesting (I hadn’t been out there for about 3 days, but that’s all it takes during harvest season!) to Instagram and Facebook, I got a number of comments which made me realize I should show what this bed looks like in summer after the asparagus has been left to grow, as well as answer a few questions and give a few growing tips.
Asparagus Growing Tips & Questions
Here are a few of the questions I always get from visitors to my garden and you who’ve seen photos and the answers and with a few growing tips I’ve learned:
- How long can you pick asparagus? Asparagus is harvested only for about 2-1/2 to 3 months in spring and then you need to let the spears grow, which produces fronds or leaves (or whatever they’re called). Alternately, to get a fall harvest you can let the spears grow in spring, cut them all down in August and then harvest the spears in September and October.
- Why do you have to stop picking? Harvesting for only a season of time is important to the health and longevity of the plant – letting it grow feeds the roots and creates bigger and stronger plants.
- How hard is it to grow? It takes awhile to grow a decent asparagus patch – you don’t really harvest much of anything for the first 3-4 years after planting. But it is a perennial plant that only requires basic maintenance: keep weed-free, water regularly, feed in spring with a top coating of barnyard compost, and cut down the brown fronds in the fall or winter.
- How much should I plant? This patch of 2 20-ft. beds is now 8 years old and provides too much asparagus for our family – I find other people to give some to – I should’ve planted less.
- How come the spears are all different sizes? In my years of growing asparagus I’ve found that the spears are never all the same size – there will be thick spears and super thin ones from the same root. And from the first month of harvest to the last. The adage to stop harvesting when most of the spears are “smaller than a pencil” doesn’t really work for me – I use the 6 weeks rule.
Finally, a reader asked, “Do you grow only asparagus in this bed?” probably because there seems to be a lot of bare ground in the photo above. The answer is yes, it’s all asparagus (besides a few nasturtium I let reseed at the front of the beds) because:
- The roots of asparagus don’t like competition.
They grow to a HUGE 6-ft tall ferny hedge at the height of the summer!
The nasturtium like it and I allow a few to grow at the front of the beds to provide beauty and bee food, but that’s about it. And when people see my garden in July, the #1 question I always get is “what is that?” pointing to the asparagus hedge because we just don’t know what asparagus looks like as it grows. I didn’t before I started growing it – and it is amazing, I think!
In spring, I reap baskets like this shown almost weekly (the asparagus more often, of course)- the prolific asparagus with early rhubarb stalks. Both of these are perennials for the vegetable garden and growing these perennial plants assures that we always have something to harvest in early spring, whether we’ve planted anything or not.
Do you grow asparagus? What growing tips would you add?