Asparagus is a great food plant to grow. It's a perennial (will grow back year after year), and provides great nutrition:
This food is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Pantothenic Acid, Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc and Selenium, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Iron, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper and Manganese. However, a large portion of the calories in this food come from sugars.
In a square foot raised bed garden, you can grow 2 plants per square foot, with a little room to spare. Space about 6 inches apart. It fits well in a permanent bed laid out against a fence (to avoid it getting mowed down or trampled on throughout the years). Place it where it will get full sun. A raised bed, 2 feet by 8 feet would work well, and will provide room for 32 asparagus plants - more than enough asparagus for a family of 4.
We think it's best to grab some 2-year-old roots to plant from a nursery so you won't have to wait a full three years before your first big harvest.
How to plant:
- Start your seeds approximately 12 weeks before the last Spring frost. Soak seeds through the night before. The next day, start seeds in jiffy pellets or peat pots about 1/2 inch deep.
- About 6 weeks before the last Spring frost, prepare your planting bed. (1) Prepare the soil by tilling soil 1 1/2 feet down and adding compost ... (and take a chance that the lawn mower will not hurt the asparagus in the long run!). OR (2) Buy wood to make a raised bed (preferred). Lay a half-inch-thick layer of black-and-white newspaper along the bottom. Fill with good soil and compost.
- Water the newly prepared soil to moisten. Mark off each square foot (I use a brightly colored yarn and nails).
- Three weeks before the last Spring frost, transplant your seedlings - remember, 2 per square, but be sure to space them out to give each one room to breathe and grow. OR transplant the 2-year-old-roots. For roots: move the soil around so that in the spot where you plan to plant each asparagus root, you'll have a mound. Place the asparagus root on top of the mounded soil in the trench (see the picture). Place the long tentacles part in first and spread them out as much as possible. The pointed part of the asparagus root should be facing upward. Place 6 inches of good soil on top (not fresh compost - it may burn the root).
- Gently tamp down the soil, well enough to get the air pockets out but not so much to crush the roots/plants.
- Water the asparagus patch well. They need a good drink. Be sure to water once a week, and maybe a little more often during the hot days of Summer.
- When the foliage turns yellow in the Fall, cut it all down (before the asparagus berries ripen - which will prevent self-seeding with results that aren't great). They will come back in the early Spring, ready for harvesting in the late Spring.
- In the first year after planting, you may be tempted to snip your asparagus spears but don't. You need to let it go until at least the 2nd year (some places recommend the 3rd).
- In the second year after planting, harvest only a few asparagus spears. Choose the largest, and using a serrated knife or very sharp shears, cut just above the soil.
- Harvest when spears are 4-6 inches long. Any longer than that and they will be woody and a little tough.