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Like all vegetables, homegrown asparagus is rich in nutrients and abounds in flavor. Asparagus takes a couple of years to get established before producing crops of the bright green stems. Once started, the perennial crop thrives for 10 years or more in many locations.
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Male vs. Female
There are male and female asparagus plants. Since male plants can be three to five times more productive than female plants, choose a male plant whenever possible. Popular male hybrids include 'Jersey Giant', 'Jersey Supreme', 'Jersey Knight', and 'Jersey King'.
Asparagus Care Must-Knows
Asparagus grows best in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. Select the location carefully as your asparagus patch will last for many years. Look beyond the traditional vegetable garden when selecting a location for asparagus. A perennial garden might be a great spot for asparagus as would a shrub border.
Plant asparagus as soon as the soil can be worked in spring. Most commonly started from established crowns purchased at your local garden center or through a mail order source, asparagus can also be started from seed. If starting from seed, plan to harvest your first crop about 4 years after planting. When started from crowns, asparagus is ready for harvest 2 to 3 years after planting.
To plant asparagus, place crowns in a trench 12 to 18 inches wide and 6 inches deep. Space the crowns 9 to 12 inches apart in the trench. Cover the crowns with 2 inches of soil, and water well.
Regular fertilization encourages a prolific crop of asparagus. For three years after planting, fertilize asparagus plantings in early spring. After three years, transition to fertilizing plants right after the last harvest in June or July. Apply a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10 at the rate of 1 to 1.5 pounds per 100 square feet.
It's important to control weeds in asparagus beds. Over time, perennial grasses can reduce an asparagus crop. In spring and during the harvest season, pull and hoe weeds to remove them. Right after harvesting the last crop of the season, cut all asparagus stems down to ground level. Spot-treat any invading perennial grasses with glyphosate. Some gardeners apply large amounts of table salt to asparagus beds to control weeds. This is generally ineffective and not recommended. Control weeds by pulling or hoeing instead.
After asparagus stems are cut to ground level at the end of the harvest, the plants will send up new shoots. All the shoots expand to form big, ferny seed heads through the growing season. Cut them back in late fall or winter after they turn brown.
Allow asparagus to grow without harvesting the year it is planted. In the second year, harvest spears that are ½ inch in diameter, but only for two weeks. Cut or break off 7- to 9-inch-long spears with tightly closed tips. In subsequent years, harvest for five to eight weeks, then allow the shoots to develop into ferny growth to build up the roots for the following year's crop.