Growing Asparagus

Our asparagus crowns are plump and ready for transplanting. we recommend that you plant them immediately upon receipt. If you can't plant them right away, put the crowns in a bucket, planter or wheelbarrow; cover them with moist (not soggy) soil; and set them in a garden shed or basement. If kept cool and moist, the crowns can stay out of the ground for several days. PLEASE NOTE: When you open the box, you may find mold growing on the soil that clings to the crowns. The mold does no harm to the crowns; just wash it off before you plant.

1. Choose a well-drained location in the garden where the plants will receive full sun and where they can grow undisturbed for 10 to 12 years -- remember, asparagus is a long-lived perennial vegetable. Crowns should be spaced 1 ft. apart in rows 2 1/2 to 3ft. apart.
2. Soak the crowns in water for 1 hour prior to planting.
3. Dig planting holes or trenches 1 ft. deep and 18 in. wide. Loosen the soil then work compost, rotted manure, leaf mold or a balanced fertilizer into the soil in the bottom of each hole or trench.
4. Make mounds at the bottom of the holes or trenches and place the crowns over the mounds with the buds pointing up. Spread the roots out evenly, like spokes on a wheel.
5. Cover the crowns with just 3 in. of soil, then water thoroughly. Keep the soil moist but not soggy until the spears emerge. Depending on the soil temperature, spears may take 2-6 weeks to emerge.
6. When the plants are 10-12 in. tall, fill the hole or trench with soil so that the ground is level. Weed your asparagus patch regularly and apply a balanced fertilizer in fall. Continue to water the plants through the summer and into autumn if rainfall is lacking.

Do not harvest at all the first year. The plants need to build a good root system for future production. Allow the spears to grow into a haze of fernlike foliage. The foliage and canes (stems) will turn a golden color at the approach of cool weather and die after a heavy frost. Leave the canes standing until they break away easily from the crown. Then remove them and mulch the entire bed with an organic material for the winter.The second spring, cut a few spears from each plant over a period of two weeks. Harvest by cutting spears at soil level with a sharp knife. Water along with other plants in the garden as needed during the summer.The third spring, you can cut spears over a 3-4 week period.In subsequent years, you can extend the harvesting season to 6-8 weeks. You know it's time to stop harvesting when the tips of the spears become bumpy instead of smooth. The bumps are tiny buds. Take their appearance as a sign that the spears need to be allowed to grow into canes and foliage, which nourish the roots for next year's harvest. If well cared for, your plants will produce more and more shoots every year, forming clumps 18-24in. wide in 5 or 6 years.