Grow asparagus. it is not an easy vegetable to grow and requires a lot of work, however, the effort is rewarded with great satisfaction when it comes to harvest.
The asparagus plant is cultivated for many years and according to botanists it is called Asparagus Officinalis, it is part of the lily family, and is, therefore, a close relative of garlic, leek, and onion (would you ever have said that?).
To cultivate it in the vegetable garden, you need to create asparagus, a plant that lasts for about ten years and is quite cumbersome in terms of space, so the crop is not very suitable for small urban gardens.
Asparagus takes a few years to go into production, so it is not harvested in the year of planting as is the case with most garden vegetables. Undertaking the cultivation of asparagus is, therefore, a bit laborious but it is undoubtedly worth it: it is a vegetable with extraordinary organoleptic characteristics and excellent nutritional properties and it is a great satisfaction to see the asparagus “shoots” grow robust and luxuriant. Here is a guide with many useful tips for those wishing to grow asparagus in the garden.
Climate and soil: where to grow asparagus
Ideal climate. The asparagus plant prefers a climate without excesses of cold or even heat, but it is quite resistant and versatile. The position of the flower bed should be sunny and not too exposed to the wind.
The space required. As a premise to the cultivation of asparagus, it must be specified that it requires a lot of space. Even for a product intended for family consumption, it is necessary to take into account several square meters of the occupied vegetable garden.
The right terrain. One of the main pedoclimatic needs of asparagus is well-draining soil, if the soil is clayey or not very loose it can be mixed with sand to make it lighter and suitable for asparagus cultivation. Drainage can be helped by studying an adequate system (drains or raised beds of the bed type).
Fertilization. It is important to plant good basic fertilization that can enrich the soil in order to withstand several years of asparagus cultivation. It is advisable to use compost or mature manure, in any case for organic cultivation it is necessary to use organic fertilizers.
The plant: how to create asparagus
Sowing. Asparagus can be grown starting from the so-called “legs” or starting from the seed. Legs can be purchased in gardens but are generally quite expensive, although they make it quicker and easier to set up the crop.
Starting with the asparagus seed. If you start from the seed it is planted in early spring, to then transplant when the seedling is formed. Asparagus plants should be placed in the ground when the weather is already warm (usually in June).
Starting with the paws. The famous legs are the rhizomes of the asparagus plant, which can be found in any nursery or garden center, or from garden friends who already have asparagus cultivation. The legs are buried in the ground in early spring: starting from February (hot areas) and throughout March and April.
Flat system. As a plant that lasts several years, asparagus justifies the work of creating raised flower beds, in order to facilitate the flow of water and avoid dangerous stagnation in the wettest periods. Where the soil is naturally draining it is not necessary to intervene with traps, but where it is not it is advisable to cultivate asparagus by raising the flower beds.
A sixth of the implant. Asparagus is a bulky plant, as a sixth of the plant, it is necessary to give a good distance between the rows. Generally, one meter is kept between one row and another and about 35 cm between one plant and another along the row.
How to plant asparagus. When planting asparagus, it is advisable to dig about 30 cm and deposit a layer about a span thick of mature manure; in the absence of manure, compost can be used, Humus is also excellent. Above the fertilizer is a small layer of earth on which the legs of the asparagus are placed, which are then covered in turn with the earth (surface layer). If we have the seedlings we proceed in the same way with the compost, then instead of burying the legs, we transplant. If you want to make a raised flower bed, instead of digging, it is better to make a mound that has the same elements (manure, earth, legs, earth). After the implantation of the legs or the transplantation of the seedlings, the soil is wet well to stimulate rooting.
The crop cycle of asparagus
First-year of cultivation:
- February-March: if you want to start from the seed, they are planted in trays.
- February-April: if you start from the legs, the implant is carried out.
- June: for those who have made or bought the asparagus seedlings they are transplanted into the vegetable garden.
- From June: normal cultivation operations (weeding to avoid weeds, irrigation if necessary). The shoots are not touched for the whole first year: the plants must develop and go into flower.
- Autumn (October): the yellowed stems are cut and a layer (3-4 cm) of mature manure or compost is spread. This protects plants and their root systems from freezing, as well as providing nourishment.
Second-year of cultivation:
- From March throughout the year: constant weeding from asparagus weeds, weeding and irrigation when necessary.
- Spring: there is a slight increase in the rows.
- June: The first asparagus shoots can be harvested two years after the asparagus plantation, that is, after the second spring. They are cut when their length exceeds 10 cm, the thinnest are left. Better not to overdo the harvest because the asparagus is still young and therefore not in full production.
- Autumn: the aerial part of the asparagus plants must be cut, then covered with a layer of earth and compost (or well-ripe manure) on top, preparing for winter.
From the third year of cultivation:
- From March throughout the year: usual cultivation operations (constant weeding, weed control, irrigation only in the case of dry soil).
- Spring: harvesting of asparagus shoots (until June).
- Autumn: as always, it mows and fertilizes.
Duration of cultivation: Asparagus is a multi-year cultivation plant, asparagus takes two years to go into production, but then it can be kept for a dozen years. If there are no problems and the cultivation is kept well, it can be kept for 15-20 years. The length is assessed on the basis of productivity (the asparagus fields drop in production after a dozen years) and the possible spread of fungal diseases.
The cultivation and harvesting of asparagus
Weeding and weed control. It is very important to keep the asparagus beds in the garden clean, avoiding the proliferation of weeds. It is the hardest job to do in asparagus.
Reinforcement. A small hedge is useful in spring, especially if the cultivation is in trays.
Irrigation. The asparagus are wet constantly the first two years, after rooting and the development of the plants it is not necessary to wet a lot, only it is necessary to avoid that the soil dries completely. In any case, it is important to never overdo the doses of water (it is better to do frequent irrigations with a little water).
Mulch. In addition to mulching with compost for the winter, you can also think of a spring mulch that reduces the work of manual weeding.
Green asparagus or white asparagus. White asparagus is obtained by covering the shoots with earth so that they remain softer and do not turn green. In the home garden, the classic green asparagus is easier to grow, since covering the plants with soil to obtain white is a very demanding job.
Collect the asparagus. The asparagus is harvested in a gradual manner, the shoots that exceed 12 cm in height from the ground are chosen, with a small knife, they are cut a few centimeters below the ground level. There is also a special tool for collecting asparagus. The harvest generally lasts from April to June.
Main diseases of asparagus
Badly won. A fungal disease that can attack asparagus. The fungus infects the base of the plant, therefore its underground parts and manifest themselves first on roots and rhizomes, then it is noticed at the base of the shoot. It is recognized by a reddish haze which is responsible for the name of the disease. Like many fungal problems, even the badly vinified in organic farming does not have many remedies that are not removing the infected plants. The risk of fungal diseases increases if asparagus is grown after potatoes, turnips, celery, carrots, or alfalfa (alfalfa). It is also prevented by often pulling weeds, in fact, the fungus attacks many of the weeds and from there it easily spreads to the asparagus.
Fusariosis. Fusarium is a fungus that can attack the root parts and the rhizome of the asparagus. It manifests itself with yellowing and wilting of the plant, or with root rot. It is favored by stagnation of water, in particular in the case of humidity combined with mild temperatures. Consequently, in organic farming, the advice is to prevent by studying draining soil, perhaps with raised flower beds.
Rust. A cryptogamic disease that affects the aerial parts of the plant, manifests itself in yellowish or reddish spots, can cause the affected parts to dry out. Like fusarium, rust also affects asparagus in a hot humid climate. If it is identified immediately it is possible to contain it by promptly removing the diseased parts.
Parasites that affect asparagus
Onion fly. Asparagus is part of the family of lily plants, therefore relatives of onions. This genus of the fly is rejected by carrot plants, but it is not a simple intercropping, since asparagus can keep for years. In this case, Bacillus thuringiensis can be used to eradicate this insect.
Aphids. Aphids can attack asparagus, causing malformations in the plant’s bearing. To defend organic cultivation, I recommend reading our guide to defense against aphids.
Intersociations and rotations
Inbreeding. Asparagus would be fine next to carrots, which repel the onion fly, unfortunately being a multi-year crop that requires a lot of space over time, it is not possible to keep another crop close enough to bring a real benefit of intercropping. therefore keep the crop without paying too much attention to the neighborhood. Associations are possible during the first two years of cultivation, and you can put salads, cucurbits (ie cucumbers, pumpkins, courgettes, …), and carrots next to them.
Rotation. Asparagus should not follow potatoes, to avoid some fungal diseases that the presence of tubers in the soil is propitious, such as Rhizoctonia Violacea or Helicobasidium Purpureum (fungal disease).
Variety of asparagus
Variety and color. As already explained there are green or white asparagus, but the color of this vegetable is not simply a question of variety: white is determined with the cultivation technique, leaving the plant underground and therefore unable to use light to photosynthesize. However, there are varieties of asparagus that tend to be purple and pink. An example is pink asparagus from Mezzago, grown in Brianza.
Recipes with asparagus
You may be interested to read about the Echinacea blogpost/ Marigold cultivation blogpost/ Chervil and its cultivation blogpost/ Grow thistles blogpost/ Borage cultivation blogpost/ Grow dill blogpost/ Wild garlic blogpost/ Tarragon Estragon (garden spices) blogpost/ Grow garden cress blogpost/ Growing turmeric blogpost/ Aloysia citrodora: cultivation/ Junino cake recipe.