Do you have an asparagus bed? I love growing asparagus – not only is it super easy and comes up reliably every year with very little maintenance, it’s also one of the first things we can eat from the garden in the spring. Here’s the one thing I had to get used to in regards to our asparagus harvest, though.
One of the most surprising things I discovered when I was finally able to fully harvest the asparagus from our beds (after waiting three years) was the difference in size.
I thought the spears would start out bigger in the first harvests and then gradually grow thinner as the season wore on until they were smaller than a pencil. This is what I had read was how I’d know it was time to stop harvesting, hopefully after a few months.
However, this is my asparagus at the very first harvest of the season:
Some are as thick as tree branches and some are really too thin to harvest.
But I do harvest all the shoots anyway, even if I just compost them, in order to keep those stems from growing and “ferning out” (this is just my personal term – I have no idea if anyone else uses it…). When you’re all done harvesting for the season, that’s when you let the asparagus bed grow it’s ferny foliage.
Tip: Visit this Ultimate Asparagus Guide to see all my tips and growing and using asparagus!
So, when do you stop harvesting asparagus?
After I figured out that there was no easy-to-follow “stop harvesting when the stalks are smaller than a pencil” guideline with home-grown asparagus – in my garden at least – I now use a six-week harvest guide to know when to stop, as well as if most of the stalks are getting too small.
I do love that first harvest, though!
It’s usually the first vegetable from our garden in the spring (not counting any overwintered vegetables that may – or may not – have made it through), and I’m SO ready for it.
My favorite way to cook those first spears? Roasted with lots of garlic. Sigh.
In other asparagus news, no one’s ever asked how the great asparagus experiment of 2011 went. Shocking, I know. Could have to do with the fact that I never mentioned it again, because, well…I, um…
Shoot, you might guess where this is going.
Yeah, I never actually cut any of the asparagus down in July or in August! I think I forgot – I can’t even remember now why I didn’t – and I didn’t do it in 2012, either.
But this year I’m going to aim for at least a fall harvest by letting one of my beds grow right now without harvesting and then cutting the ferns/stalks down in August. The stalks should grow again in September and October, if all goes according to plan.
And if I don’t mention it again, well, you don’t need to ask. You can probably guess that I didn’t do it – again. But third time should be the charm, don’t you think?
And if you have any asparagus tips for us, don’t hold back!
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