Asparagus crowns are live goods that have been freshly harvested from the soil. Like seed potatoes and hops rhizomes, they have only recently been dug from the soil, and are in a state of dormancy. This dormancy is broken in response to temperature, day length, and available moisture.

Latin
Asparagus officinalis
Liliaceae family.

Difficulty
Easy - requires patience!

Season & Zone
Exposure: Full sun
Zone: Hardy to Zone 2

Starting
Asparagus crowns are the root systems of asparagus plants that are two years old. They are grown for the purposes of selling at the crown stage, which is much faster than starting from seed. They are very cold hardy, but they need to be planted soon after they are delivered. If they are delivered to a place where planting is impossible due to snow or frozen soil, plant them in a large container, in soil, and keep them in a cold but protected place like a garage or garden shed.

Asparagus is a perennial plant that will produce for ten years or more from the initial planting. Soil preparation is vital to long term productivity. Dig the planting area deeply and work in a large amount of organic matter in the form of compost or well rotted manure. Add a generous amount of Glacial Rock Dust to supply mineral content. In a raised bed, think in terms of dedicating five or more years of nutrients to the plants that will develop.

Growing
The strategy with asparagus is to allow the plants to become well established before harvesting. When starting from seed, this means waiting two years until the first harvest. With asparagus crowns, harvesting begins one year after planting. For the first year, allow the plants to simply grow and photosynthesize, and become strong. Do not be tempted to harvest the stalks in the first year. Your patience will be rewarded in year two.

Harvest
It’s important to not harvest until the second year so that plants can become established and strong. Then harvest over a 2-3 week period. Cut the fattest spears off at ground level when they are 15-20cm (6-10″) long. When thinner spears begin to emerge let them to grow into big fronds to nourish the roots. With each successive year the harvest lengthens to a maximum of 6-8 weeks. Store in the refrigerator wrapped in a damp paper towel.

Diseases & Pests
Asparagus beetles can defoliate the ferns of the asparagus plant. They overwinter in the top growth, so thorough removal of the fronds in the fall (after they have died) is vital. In a small garden handpick the voracious insects.

Encouraging beneficials like ladybugs helps control aphids. Aphids are usually found together on growing tips (look for the sooty blotches they leave behind).

Companion Planting

Companion planting is a cornerstone of organic gardening. Carefully choose companions to reduce your need for pesticides. Plant asparagus seeds or crowns with asters, basil, cilantro, dill, cilantro, marigolds, nasturtiums, oregano, parsley, peppers, sage, and thyme. Asparagus repels nematodes that attack tomatoes, and tomatoes repel asparagus beetles.We have a full list of companions to consider.