If you can patiently nurture your asparagus shoots for the first three years, you’d gain half a lifetime of assured harvests in the spring of every year. The tender asparagus shoots (spears) are the edible, refreshing part rich in natural health boosters and phytonutrients. The young stem shoots sprout when the soil warms up above 50 degrees Fahrenheit in mid-spring. They are best cultivated in USDA hardiness zones 3-8 .
Asparagus can either be grown from seeds or crowns, with the latter taking two years rather than three to yield the first harvest. Either way, you’d have a steady annual supply of the vegetable for about 30 years after the period of dormancy.
Asparagus plants do badly in humid areas where the ground is constantly moist. Ground-freezing winters and dry seasons are the best environmental conditions for growing asparagus. Asparagus plants are drought-resistant and store up a lot of moisture in their deep roots, although in the first couple of years a considerate amount of moisture is steadily required in the soil.
Why is asparagus a must-have for your garden?
Aside from the fact that it gives your garden a touch of class, asparagus has a long list of health benefits that make it a necessity for your daily diet. It’s rich in important nutrients and low in calories. A 100-gram serving of raw asparagus contains 20 calories, 0.1g of fats, 3.9 g of carbs, 2.2g of proteins, and 2.1g of fiber . It’s packed with vitamin K and folate, providing 57% and 34% of the recommended daily absorption of each nutrient.
The asparagus plant is a power-house of nutrients that you really shouldn’t be doing without in your kitchen.
Rich in antioxidants: Asparagus is high in vitamin E, vitamin C, glutathione, lots of flavonoids and polyphenols that protect your body systems form the harmful actions of free radicals, countering the effects of oxidative stress, which include aging, cell damage, inflammation, and metabolic breakdown . Antioxidants help to prevent high blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attacks, generally protecting the immune system and promoting youthfulness and good health.
They are great for the digestive system: Foods rich in fiber are off-the-charts additions to the everyday diet. We are all simply not eating enough fiber. The RDA of fiber in the United States for those under 50 is 25g for women and 38g for men , but the average American eats only about 15 grams daily . A 100-gram serving of asparagus provides you with about 2.1g of fiber which is approximately 8% of the RDA.
Asparagus is particularly high in insoluble fiber which adds to the bulk of waste materials in the large intestine, enabling frequent and easy bowel movement . This helps to prevent obstruction of the rectum and formation of hemorrhoid piles. Fibers can also act as prebiotics, acting as food for beneficial bacteria that produce essential nutrients necessary for fortifying the immune system .
Great for weight loss: Low calories, high insoluble fiber, and nutrient dense. Sounds like a perfect fit. Asparagus is great if you’re looking to lose some weight without starving to death. You can cook lots of asparagus (with lemons for flavor) and add some proteins to the dish to keep you feeling full and light at the same time.
Tips on growing asparagus from crowns 
Asparagus crowns are the one-year-old roots that are available for sale in nurseries. They reduce the amount of time left until full maturity to two years, and they are much easier to cultivate and nurture than seeds. To purchase asparagus crowns, you’ll have to ensure you are getting a good male variety (such as Jersey Knight and Jersey Giant) from a trusted vendor. It’s best to purchase them in early spring and cultivate immediately, which means you’ll have to get your beds ready before they arrive. Two-year-old crowns are more susceptible to transplant shock, so it’s best to stick to the one-year-olds.
To make sure your beds are not over-crowded, it’s best to plant them in a 2 x 8 formation and right at the far ends of your garden if other vegetables would be planted. Asparagus shoots tend to shade other plants and stunt them out.
Before planting, manure the entire area with rich compost. For each raised bed, you’ll have to dig two 12-inch holes spaced out by 12-18 inches to prevent overcrowding. Fertilize each hole with one cup of a rich organic NPK fertilizer (ratio of 10:10:10).
This is where it gets a bit tricky. If you do it right, you’ll be setting your spears in the best germinating conditions, otherwise, they are not going to make you happy. Using dug-out soil, make 6-inch tall, cone-shaped mounds in each hole.
Make a compost tea and dip the roots of each crown for about 20 minutes before hanging it down over the soil mound. Cover the hole with about 2 inches of soil and water moderately. The soil should be kept considerably moist for the first year until the crowns take roots in the soil.
Ensure that the crowns are not covered immediately. Add more soil to the furrow every week until it’s completely filled to ground level.
Manure regularly and remove weed plants, being careful not to pull out the asparagus plants themselves. Hand-pick insects and try to avoid the use of insecticides. Allow the plants to grow into mature ferns for another two years before you begin to harvest – every other year!
Growing asparagus from seeds
Asparagus seeds are difficult to handle and would require a lot of care and attention to detail if they are ever going to sprout . However, they do have the advantage of being much more affordable than crowns, and you don’t have to worry about transplant shock.
The seeds would have to be nursed in pots before being transplanted to the main garden. This will give you more control over the required environmental conditions. They require a lot of bright light to keep the soil heated up to 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit, and they are best planted between late February and early March.
Half-fill 5-inch drained pots with sterile soil and lay the asparagus seeds on the surface. It’s helpful to soak the seeds in water for about 2 hours before planting. Cover with sandy soil and water down sufficiently, being careful not to saturate the soil.
Place them at the windows or in any locations where they’d get direct sunlight. Use bottom heat to keep the soil temperatures averaging around 75-80 at all times. When the seeds begin to sprout its first flowers, lower temperatures to about 60 or 70.
After three months when the frost has completely cleared out, transplant the seeds to the main garden after manuring the area. Dig about 4-inch deep holes and place the sprouts about 10-18 inches apart, depending on the thickness of the spears. Gently weed out all the female flowers with matured three-lobed pistils (you can view this with a magnifying glass).
Water moderately once a week, covering the sprouts with a layer of soil every time. Keep watch for weeds, insects, and pests.
Do not harvest until the three-year period is completed, and you might want to reduce the plant shoots about two inches every fall until they reach maturity.
Maximizing your harvest
Weeds are going to try to reduce your harvest yields and years of vitality, but you can apply mulch to suppress their growth .
To keep insects out, plant your asparagus alongside tomatoes. Tomatoes keep weevils and beetles out, while asparagus keeps nematodes away.
Fertilize twice yearly in the spring and fall using rich compost or an organic NPK fertilizer. Do not harvest again until the plants have replenished to full maturity.
During the third year after dormancy, harvest for four weeks and in subsequent years, harvest for about 6 to 8 weeks.
Enjoy your asparagus every year for the next thirty years. Here are some amazing recipe ideas for incorporating them into your meals.
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