Asparagus has been a favorite garden vegetable for more than 2,000 years. Originating from eastern Mediterranean countries and Africa, it was eaten fresh and dried by ancient civilizations.
A perennial, asparagus can grow and produce for up to 15 years in the garden. Ten crowns per person should be planted.
Only male plants such as Jersey Giant should be planted. Female cultivars such as Martha Washington produce few spears and become weedy nuisances in the garden.
Asparagus plants like deep organic soils with good drainage. Most gardeners plant crowns which are just clumps of asparagus roots. If planting in clay soils, amend with organic matter or plant in raised beds.
Asparagus crowns should be planted in the late fall or early spring. Harvest tender stems in the early spring when they are the size of a pencil, and then allow plants to grow until after frost before cutting the excess foliage away. It takes about three years to start getting a full harvest.
It is also important to keep weeds under control, since this is a perennial that will be grown in the same location for many years.
Asparagus crowns are available during N.C. Cooperative Extension’s annual Small Fruit Plant Sale. Jersey Giant asparagus comes in bundles of 10 crowns for $15.
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Donna Teasley is an Extension agent specializing in consumer horticulture for Burke County. Contact her at 828-764-9480 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The N.C. Cooperative Extension — Burke County Center is at 130 Ammons Drive, Suite 2, in Morganton. For information, visit burke.ces.ncsu.edu.