Grow the top-end asparagus without paying the price
Asparagus is one of the most luxurious vegetables for the dinner plate; many a Masterchef meal features this lovely ingredient. Luxurious yes, the prices at the supermarket don’t half reflect this.
So why not grow it yourself for these beautiful, succulent spears but without the price tag attached.
It’s a simple crop to grow, requiring a permanent spot, good soil preparation and space. Once established one asparagus crown can produce a crop for up to 20 years. Pick your first spears after a couple of years (enjoy the look of the ferny foliage in the first two years) and you can expect 20 to 25 spears per plant per season from the third year.
Varieties and their uses – choose these to suit your needs and taste
Millenium – for big numbers of slim, tender spears
Ariane – for thicker meatier spears
Pacific Purple – perfect raw in salads
Mondeo – extra disease resistance to less than ideal growing conditions
How to Plant Asparagus – Answers to your Frequently Asked Questions
What’s an asparagus crown?
This is the name given to the base of the stem with all its roots attached. The perfect way to plant them in your own plot, to establish well and get you healthy crops.
Where do I grow asparagus?
Somewhere sunny, sheltered from strong winds and in soil with lots of compost incorporated. Avoid ground that has been previously planted with asparagus or potatoes as this can encourage pests and diseases. Asparagus grows in any soil as long as it’s free-draining. They thrive particularly on light sandy soils which are slightly alkaline.
How do I know if my soil is alkaline?
When do I plant my asparagus crowns?
From March and into April.
How do I plant them?
In small trenches. Dig trenches 30cm (12in) wide, 20cm (8in) deep with an 8cm (3in) mound running along the bottom of the trench for the roots to spread over. Space crowns 30cm (12in) apart and cover the crowns with about 5cm (2in) of soil only.
Fill the trench in fully in autumn after the first season has finished. This method keeps your asparagus disease-free.
Can I grow them in containers?
Yes you can! Be sure to plant in large pots or patio bags (at least 50 litres) for up to five years after planting. Our Greenhouse Gro-Beds are perfect for the job.
Ideal when you want to grow asparagus but just have a patio or balcony, or if you can’t warrant a permanent space in the vegetable plot.
Anything else I need to do over the first season?
Hand weed regularly to avoid damage from hoes, water in dry weather and remove berries to prevent self-seeding after the first season. Once the ferny foliage has turned yellow in autumn cut it down to 3cm (1in) above ground level. In the second and subsequent spring apply a general fertiliser at 100g/m2 (3oz/yd2).
When can I start harvesting? Anything I should know?
We recommend you harvest only two years after planting to allow your plants to give you more succulent spears in the long run.
Enjoy the lovely foliage in the first two years. Feathery ferny leaves shoot up giving your vegetable plot attractive leaves and architectural impact.
In year 3 harvest your well-deserved spears from late mid April to mid May- well done on your patience and reap your rewards.
Once the spears are 10 to 15cm (4 to 6in) high they can be cut using an asparagus knife by severing the plants 8cm (3in) below the surface of the soil. Stop harvesting the spears in min June and allow them to develop into foliage to provide the plant with energy for the next growing season.
After I’ve made my first harvest, what next?
Allow the fern emerging from the remaining spears to grow unchecked until the autumn. Strong, healthy fern growth is essential to the long term health of the plants. A light dressing of a high nitrogen fertiliser is beneficial in June or July.
In early autumn, as the fern yellows and dies back you can clean up the bed ready for the onset of winter. Cut the dead fern back to within 7cm (3in) of soil level, and destroy it. Remove any weeds by hand to avoid damage to the roots or crowns.
The following spring before growth restarts, mulch the bed if possible with well-rotted organic matter and a further dressing of a well-balanced compound fertiliser.
Any suggestions for the kitchen- what can I make with these spears?
Asparagus has so many uses, but many people eat it in its simplest form – lightly steamed or boiled and served dripping in butter. Hollandaise sauce is a classic accompaniment, and asparagus also make superb soup which can be served hot or cold.
Why not serve the spears warm and wrapped in slices of smoked salmon. They are also wonderful chopped in an egg-white omelette or in a soufflé.