Name: asparagus, garden asparagus, Asparagus officinalis.
Height: fronds can reach up to 2m.
Foliage: herbaceous perennial (dies back down to the ground in winter).
Climate: adapts to most climates, including cool temperate, warm temperate and sub-tropical areas, but prefers areas with cool winters.
Soil: needs a well-prepared soil enriched with compost and decomposed manure. A long-lived crop, soil must be prepared well prior to planting.
Position: full sun, protected from strong winds.
Flowering and fruiting: produces delicious spears from early spring with around 12–15 spears per plant.
Feeding: apply blood and bone or dynamic lifter in spring, and top-dress (apply over the soil surface) with composted manure in winter.
Watering: water regularly throughout summer.
Asparagus comes in several colours: green, purple and white. Green asparagus is the most popular and the most widely available. Crisp, succulent and almost a little sweet, it can be eaten raw with all the crunch of a Granny Smith apple, or lightly steamed and drizzled in a buttery sauce or vinaigrette.
White asparagus is simply the green variety grown in the absence of light, and is considered a delicacy. It is grown in dark tunnels or covered with soil or mulch to prevent chlorophyll from colouring the spears.
Purple asparagus is a different variety to green asparagus, producing thicker spears that contain antioxidants. Unfortunately, purple asparagus loses its colour when cooked.
Asparagus can be grown from seed, potted plants or dormant crowns (bare roots available in winter).
Potted asparagus should be planted around 40cm apart in full sun, in a soil enriched with compost and manure. After improving the soil, dig a hole the same size as your pot. Tip the pot upside down and squeeze gently to release the asparagus. Plant the asparagus at the same level as it is in the pot, then backfill with soil, pressing down firmly. Water well, and apply sugar cane mulch to prevent weeds.
Asparagus crowns are easy to plant and are a great way to start growing asparagus in your garden. Dig a hole about 30cm deep and 30cm wide. Backfill slightly to create a raised mound in the centre of the hole. Spread the roots of the asparagus out so that they slope down the mound, and try to position the top of the crown at a depth of around 10cm. Backfill and water to help the soil settle around the roots, then mulch and wait for signs of life in early spring. Plant at 40cm spacings.
It’s important to leave the asparagus spears on the plant for the first couple of years, to allow time for the plant or crown to establish in the soil. After this, you can harvest the spears when they are thicker than a pencil. This is best done by cutting the spears below soil level with a sharp knife. Do not harvest thin, spindly spears – leave these on the plant. Harvest can last up to 10 weeks when plants are mature, with each plant bearing a good crop for up to 20 years!
As it is dormant for much of the year, make sure you clearly mark where each asparagus is planted with a stake, and mulch well to prevent competition from weeds.
Fertilise asparagus with blood and bone or dynamic lifter in spring and apply composted manure in winter. Water regularly during the summer (hot, dry season).
Cut the fronds down to ground level in mid to late June. In cool areas they will have turned yellow during autumn, but this may not happen in warmer climates – that’s okay, prune them anyway.
Asparagus has very few pests. Apply snail and slug pellets to prevent these garden nasties from damaging your emerging spears.
Asparagus plants are either male or female. The female plants produce little red berries in autumn, which contain seeds. These can be harvested and used for propagation. Simply cut the ferny tops off, berries and all, and hang the foliage upside down in a warm, dry area. Place a paper bag or bucket over the foliage to capture the seeds when the berries burst open.
Asparagus is easy to grow from seed, but you need to be patient. It takes at least three years for the seed to reach crown size. Soak the seed in room-temperature water for at least two hours prior to planting. Sow one seed per propagation cell or small paper pot in a good-quality seed raising mix. Place in a propagation unit or mini-greenhouse and keep moist, but not wet. Seedlings can be planted out into the garden when all likelihood of frost has passed.
After applying fertiliser, delay harvesting for a few days and rinse well before cooking and eating. If using products to deal with pests, diseases or weeds, always read the label, follow the instructions carefully and wear suitable protective equipment. Store all garden chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.
Broad beans: a cool-season bean that’s a star of the autumn vegie patch.
Peas: grow in the opposite season to beans and provide an abundant feast for the table.
Tomatoes: share a growing season with beans, as well as an abundant harvest.
Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing.
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