Asparagus is a hearty perennial that has become a gardening favorite around the world. This delicious and nutritious food crop is native to the Eastern Mediterranean region. It can produce for up to twenty years. You can grow asparagus from seeds or crowns, but they will not be ready for harvest until the second or third year of growth.
Asparagus are best grown in beds in an area of your garden that will not be disturbed by annual cultivation, such as along the perimeter or border of the garden. A fence row is a great location.You can also set aside an area for your bed that is apart from your other garden crops.
Asparagus should best be grown from seeds or crowns. Whichever way you choose to start your asparagus, remember that it will be two to three years before they are ready to harvest. Plants can continue to produce for up to twenty years before new stock needs to be planted.
Asparagus come in many varieties that can be green, purple or white in color. Green is the most common type of asparagus, while purple is also very popular. White asparagus is created by blanching the shoots before harvesting. The shoots are covered with soil and become white from the absence of sunlight.
Most gardeners prefer to start asparagus from crowns. Crowns are usually available in spring from your local gardening shop. Choose one year old crowns when you buy. Crowns can also be purchased online. You can start asparagus from seeds but you need to grow the plants for a year before transplanting outdoors.
Asparagus plants prefer full sun, though they can be grown in a partially shaded area of the garden. They also prefer well drained soil. Plant the crowns in spring after the danger of frost has passed. Seeds can be planted indoors or in a greenhouse three months before the last killing frost of spring when they are about five inches tall. Prepare your growing area by adding a three inch layer of aged compost or dried manure. Till the soil to a depth of 12″, mixing well.
Dig a trench six inches deep and place the crowns 18″- 24″ apart. Cover the roots with three inches of soil. As the crowns grow, mound up the soil around the base of each plant. Water your asparagus regularly. The soil should be moist but not wet. Not having enough water during development can cause the plants to become tough and fibrous. As the crowns grow, new shoots will develop from the roots. Harvest the asparagus in spring of the third year.To harvest, simply cut of the asparagus when they are about the thickness of a pencil and about 8″ long. Use a sharp knife or a knife specially designed for cutting asparagus. The cut off shoots are called spears.
Fresh asparagus is low in calories and high in dietary fiber. Asparagus is a good source of Vitamins A, C, E, and K. It also contains good amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.
There are many recipes for asparagus. Asparagus can be boiled, steamed, grilled, sauteed or pickled. Asparagus spears can be added to soups, stews or souffles either whole or chopped. If some of your spears are slightly woody when you harvest them, simply use a sharp knife or asparagus peeler to trim off the fibrous part.
Asparagus is a great gardening choice. Although it takes time to harvest after planting, the wait and the effort are well worth it. This delicious vegetable has become a favorite of many gardeners around the world.