Technically, all asparagus varieties can be blanched to produce white spears, but Voltaire has been bred specifically for the job. It is widely used by European growers to achieve the stark white spears known as spargel. White asparagus is more tender than green, with a milder, almost nutty flavour. Traditional growers pile soil or sand up around the spears as they emerge in spring, but black mulch can also be used. It may be simpler to use some kind of wooden box or inverted trash can to keep the spears in the dark as they grow. Left unblanched, Voltaire will produce tasty green spears.
Voltaire is a clonal hybrid that produces vigorous, tall, all male plants. It is early yielding (once established), and adapted to temperate climates. It boasts a high resistance to Purple Spot, and intermediate resistance to Rust.
Planting asparagus seeds is an exercise in patience, but one of the most rewarding of all garden tasks. Asparagus Seeds germinate slowly, and the crowns take three seasons before they can handle being harvested. However the grower’s patience is generously rewarded by early season harvests of asparagus with a flavour you will not find on store shelves anywhere. You will wish you had planted a bigger asparagus bed!
Moderately difficult. Requires patience!
We Recommend: Jersey Knight (AS107). It takes time to grow asparagus from seeds, but Jersey Knight is lovely! If you are in a hurry try Guelph Millennium Crowns this season.
For Urban Gardeners: Guelph Millennium Crowns (AS108). Planting crowns is simply the faster route to harvesting home grown asparagus. Try growing some in a half barrel or similar, quite large container. For interesting colour, try our Purple Asparagus Crowns (AS104).
Season & Zone
Season: Cool season.
Zone: Hardy from Zone 2 to 8.
Start seeds indoors mid-February to May under bright lights. You won’t start harvesting these long-lived perennials until 3 years after planting so be patient. Soil temperature for germination: 21–30ºC (70–85ºF).
Soak seeds for 2 hours. Plant 1 seed per 5cm (2″) pot, 1cm (½”) deep. Keep in a warm place. Be patient: they can take 2-8 weeks to sprout depending on soil temperature. Transplant when seedlings are 10-12 weeks old and danger of frost has passed. Space 45cm (18″) apart in rows 1-2m (3-6′) apart. Place each plant in a hole 10cm (4:) deep and gradually cover the crown with soil as it grows. For thicker spears, space 30-35cm (12-14″) apart and set buds 15-20cm (6-8″) in the hole. For thinner spears, space 20-25cm (8-10″) with the budes 10cm (4″) deep.
Fertilize after harvest and again in the spring with 1-2 cups of complete organic fertilizer per 3m (10′) of row, worked in lightly. Asparagus needs 2cm (1″) of water per week. In late fall, trim ferns down to 5cm (2″) and dispose of cuttings to avoid future disease and insect problems.
It’s important to not harvest until the third 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.
In optimum conditions at least 75% of seeds should germinate. Usual seed life: 2 years.
Diseases & Pests
Rust, fusarium wilt and fusarium stem and crown rot. Using seed started in sterile soil instead of purchased plants, and planting in soil that has no history of disease will keep your plants healthy.
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 reduces aphids. Aphids are usually found together on growing tips (look for the sooty blotches they leave behind).
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.