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    Grow a Long-Lived Asparagus Bed

    Asparagus is one of the first crops of the spring harvest, and this perennial vegetable can grow in your garden for up to 20 years. Nearly any gardener can grow it - if you live where the ground freezes in winter and there are periods of dry weather, you can add delicious asparagus to your vegetable garden. The only gardeners who may have a problem growing asparagus are those in wet and mild areas, such as the Gulf Coast or some regions of Florida.

    Select and Prepare the Planting Bed

    As a perennial vegetable, asparagus will return for many years, so choose the location carefully and prepare the planting bed thoroughly. While asparagus will grow in some light shade, you will harvest more asparagus and have healthier plants if you choose a site with full sun. Amend your soil so that it is loose and well draining, as standing water will quickly rot asparagus crowns. Prepare a bed that is 4 ft. wide and as long as you like.

    Purchase Your Crowns

    Individual asparagus plants are called "crowns," and it's best to choose crowns that are a year old for faster production. Asparagus grown from seed may take longer than you'd like to reach maturity, and two-year-old crowns often suffer from transplant shock. Crowns are either male or female, and should be marked as such. Male plants yield more harvestable shoots because they don't need to use their energy to produce seeds. If a large crop of asparagus is your goal, choose all male plants. Plant 25 male crowns for a family of four asparagus-loving people, and double that number of plants if you're using male and female plants. If you want a lighter crop, cut the number of plants to about 10.

    Plant Your Crowns

    Always check for proper planting times in your area. Dig trenches, 12 in. wide by 6 in. deep, down the center of your bed. Soak the crowns for 20 minutes in a compost tea (1-2 ratio of compost to water) before planting, and then place them in the trench 1½ to 2 ft. apart. Cover with 2 to 3 in. of soil, and then add another 2 in. layer of soil a couple of weeks after planting. Periodically add an additional 2 in. of soil so that the row mounds up above the surrounding soil. Keep the bed weeded, and water weekly during the first two years after planting. As asparagus matures, it will produces deep, fleshy roots, requiring less water. Fertilize in spring and fall with a compost tea or a balanced fertilizer (a fertilizer of equal percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium).

    Harvest Your Asparagus

    Do not harvest shoots during the first two years after planting, when the asparagus is putting down deep roots. During the third season, when the plants are four years old, harvest the shoots over a four-week period, and in the next year, extend that harvest to eight weeks. During early spring, harvest shoots every three days, and then as weather warms up, begin harvesting daily.

    While you do have to wait a few years to harvest the asparagus, this crop is so long-lived and delicious that it's well worth the time and effort.

    TSC Supplies:

    • Soil
    • Fertilizer