Asparagus is a perennial vegetable, which means that a well-established bed can produce fresh spears for twenty years or more. Usually considered an early season crop, asparagus isn't just for spring anymore. By following a few simple planting and growing tricks, you can harvest asparagus all summer long.
This first trick will prolong your asparagus harvest by a good three weeks or more. Starting a new asparagus bed can be a bit labor intensive, but the fact that you'll get fresh spears for the next twenty years or more will be well worth the effort.
When establishing a new bed, the fastest way to raise asparagus is to buy and plant roots (crowns) that are one or two years old. Start by digging 3 trenches that are each about 18 inches wide and 12 inches deep. The length is up to you. Asparagus don't like to be waterlogged, so make sure to amend the soil so you have proper drainage. At the bottom of each trench, create small mounds from soil mixed with compost. These mounds should be spaced about 12 inches apart along the trench. The asparagus roots will be draped over the tops of these mounds.
Make the mounds in the first trench tall enough so that when the roots are draped over the top, the crowns (tops of the roots) will be within 6 to 7 inches of the surface when covered with soil. Make the mounds in the second trench tall enough so that crowns are within 4 to 5 inches of the surface and mounds in the third trench tall enough so the crowns are within 2 to 3 inches from the surface.
In the spring, the plants closest to the top will send up shoots first, while those planted deeper will come up later. In the first year, harvest only for 2 weeks. Gradually extend the harvest each year until you are harvesting for about 8 weeks (longer in warmer zones).
You can also create different depths with mulch to stagger the harvest from established asparagus beds. Lay about 4 to 6 inches of heavy mulch over your entire bed. Early in the spring, remove mulch from 1/2 to 1/3 of the bed. The asparagus will naturally poke through in the areas without mulch first. The remaining mulch will keep the rest of the bed cool and delay the growth of the asparagus underneath. As soon as other spears appear in areas of the bed covered with mulch, carefully rake it away for the next phase of your harvest.
If you have an already established bed, this simple trick will give extend your harvest the longest. Mentally or physically mark your asparagus bed into three sections. Harvest the spears from section one for the first eight weeks of the season. During this time, let the other two sections of the bed grow tall and flower. In the seventh week, cut down the ferns in section two of your bed. Slice them off clean to just under the surface of the soil. This will encourage plants in this section to send up new spears, which you can then continue to harvest for another eight weeks. Meanwhile, sections one and three can be left undisturbed. During the seventh week of harvesting spears from section two, repeat the process with section three for an additional eight weeks of harvest.
Once a bed is in full swing, asparagus should be harvested every three days (more often in hot weather). Expect to see your bed's production gradually taper off toward the end of the season. If you live in a zone with harsh winters, protect your crops into winter with tarps or floating row covers.
About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com
I'm making a mixed bed this year with flowers and vegetables. Just trying it out! I love asparagus, does anyone know if it could be grown this way? Maybe I should just give it a shot? When is it ready to harvest in Indiana?
JoAnn in Elkhart
I found some good tips here http://www.asparagusgrowing.net/asp ... how-to-grow-asparagus-in-your-garden
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