Skinny Asparagus

Q: Why do some of my asparagus come in very skinny while others nearby are very fat? Also, why do some of them become woody, no matter what their size is?

Thank you,
Jan from Boston

A: Jan,

You don't mention the age of the plants in your bed, but it takes three solid years of development before beds are ready for a first harvest. They prefer full sun, well-drained soil with a neutral pH, and they don't tolerate competition. The thickness of asparagus depends on the age of the plants. Older plants pop through the ground already thick, while younger, thinner plants pop through with thin stalks that remain thin throughout the season. Most asparagus is harvested in the spring, when it is 6 to 8 inches high and has tender, fleshy spears and tight, compact heads. Once they reach maturity, the asparagus stalks become woody and fernlike foliage grows from the heads, making them inedible. A large portion of a season's spears will emerge during the first half of the season, with production tapering off as the season progresses. You should stop harvesting for the season when spears are less than 3/8-inch diameter. Asparagus takes patience to grow, but the wait is worth it.

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