Growing Asparagus:
How to Grow Asparagus Organically

Growing asparagus has been a wonderful spring pastime since it was first grown in Macedonia around 200 BC, making it one of the first vegetables cultivated by humans.

Asparagus is a vegetable that is elegant and simple at the same time, and is rather expensive to buy in a store. This is not an easy vegetable to grow for the inexperienced gardener, yet learning how to grow asparagus can supply you with these tempting and tender stalks of goodness for many years to come. Full sun and acidic, well-drained soil are necessary for its success.

Growing Asparagus: Plant Snapshot (Asparagus officinalis)

growing asparagus
  • Family: Asparagus (Lily)
  • Annual or Perennial? Perennial
  • Recommended varieties: Jersey Giant, Jersey Knight, Purple Passion, Martha Washington, Jersey King
  • Cold tolerance: Hardy - Will survive hard frosts and can be planted 2 to 3 weeks before the average date of the last 32 degree F (0 degree C) temperature in spring.
  • Required Sun: Full sun (at least 6 hours each day)
  • When planning vegetable crop rotation, group with crops from this family: n/a (perennial)
  • Companion plants (see Companion Planting Charts for more info):
    • Companions: Basil, Carrots, Parsley, Tomato
    • Avoid: Chive, Garlic, Leek, Onion
    • NOTE: Asparagus needs a lot of ongoing nutrients in order to maximize their yield and 15+ year lifetime. As such, many gardeners choose to give asparagus its own separated garden spot or bed.
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Growing Asparagus: Planting the Seed

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Asparagus is a perennial plant that takes at least one year to reach harvest time. But once it starts producing, it'll keep on going for as long as 15 years or more. This means that you must carefully prepare the soil to encourage maximum healthy growth and carefully choose its garden spot.

Garden weeds are often an issue with asparagus plants, so many choose to plant (or transplant) them in the middle of their garden rather than on the outskirts in order to keep them as far away as possible from potential intruders.

This plant likes a sandy, well-drained soil and full sun. Asparagus is extremely hard to grow from seed, though it is possible for a dedicated gardener to succeed.

Most gardeners choose to purchase year-old asparagus crowns from a nursery or garden center (although starting them from seed is much cheaper). This saves a year of time, and allows you to harvest asparagus more quickly. Male plants are preferred, as they are more prolific and do not waste growth time on making seeds.

If you decide to sow the seeds yourself, start them indoors a few months before the last frost. Keep the temperature between 75 and 85 degrees F (24 to 29.4 C) during the day, and don't turn down the thermostat below 65 degrees F (18 C) at night. These hardy plants only need an average amount of organic garen fertilizer, so there's no need to over-do it.

Snapshot: Planting Asparagus

  • Planting depth: about 4-6 inches for crows, 1 inch for seed (10.16-15.24 cm)
  • Spacing in rows: about 15-18 inches (38 – 45 cm)
  • Germination soil temperature: 75 to 85 degrees F (24 to 29.4 degrees C)
  • Days to germination: 10 to 15 days
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Growing Asparagus: From Germination to Pre-Harvest

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Asparagus crowns take one to two years to become mature enough to harvest. During this time, you must carefully watch over the plants.

Plant in full sun, making a furrow of soil, but do not fill the furrow completely. You will be covering them with more soil when they reach a height of about 3 inches.
When the plants go dormant, most gardeners add a little more soil to the furrow to fill it in completely. Asparagus does not need a lot of water unless its environment is arid or a drought is present.

Snapshot: Growing Asparagus

  • Preferred soil pH (see soil pH tester for more information): 6.0 to 6.5
  • Growing soil temperature: 50 to 70 degrees F (10 to 21 degrees C)
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Growing Asparagus: Harvesting Time

When it’s time to harvest asparagus, your bed will have been in place for 2-3 years. Do not harvest asparagus the first year, as this will harm the future production of the plant.

When the stalks are a height of 6 to 12 inches and their diameters are over 3/8 of an inch (1 cm), you can either snap them off at the base or cut them.

You will want to leave the thinner stalks intact, as they will grow into ferns that will feed future years' crops in two ways: directly via the normal life cycle of the plant and indirectly after you harvest the dried up ferns later in the year and add them to the compost pile.

Since your asparagus plants will produce for up to 15 years, apply a generous layer of compost after harvest then protect the plant with a layer of straw about 6 inches (15 cm) deep.

Snapshot: Harvesting Asparagus

  • Time to harvest: About 2 years for crowns, 3 years for seed
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Storing Asparagus and Freezing Asparagus

Fresh asparagus may be stored in the refrigerator in plastic bags for about a week.

To prepare asparagus for freezing, wash and trim the stalks, taking off the scales with a knife. Trim the length to fit into the freezer bags or containers you plan to use.

Blanch asparagus 2 to 4 minutes depending on size, the cool, drain, place into container or bag, and freeze.

Asparagus seeds have a life of about 3 years.

Snapshot: Storing Asparagus & Freezing Asparagus

  • Storage temperature: 38 degrees F (3.33 degrees C)
  • Humidity: 60 to 80% relative humidity
  • Storage life (in above conditions): 7 days
  • Storage life (frozen) about 6 months
  • Seed longevity: About 3 years
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Growing Asparagus: Pests & Diseases

The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Asparagus. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.

Pests

  • Asparagus beetle
  • Cutworm
  • European asparagus aphid
  • Garden symphylans
  • Snails/slugs
  • Spider Mites
  • Thrips
  • Wireworm

Diseases

  • Fusarium Wilt
  • Phytophthora crown and spear rot
  • Rust
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