Long Living Asparagus
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Not many vegetables that we grow are perennial plants. Asparagus or Garden Asparagus Asparagus officinalis is one of those. As a member of the Asparagaceae family, it’s not a fern, although it looks very similar to one in its growth habit. Other members of the Asparagaceae family that you might be familiar with include Hosta, Liriope and Yucca. Once planted, if taken care of properly, asparagus will live and produce well for ten or more years.
It’s best to plant the crowns of this plant during the winter months (January – March). When planting dig a trench about 7 inches deep and 12 to 18 inches wide. Place the crowns in the trench with a spacing of about 8 inches and cover the crowns with about 2 inches of soil. As the plants continue to grow, cover the plants with an additional 2 inches of soil until the crowns are buried about 8 inches deep in the soil. Don’t harvest any spears the first year of growth and irrigate as needed to keep the soil moist for the first year. Begin harvesting the second year of growth, but only harvest for a week or two. Each year after that, increase the duration of the harvest until the harvest is about 6 to 8 weeks long by the fourth year.
The plants will grow best and produce well when planted in full sun. The soil should be amended with a lot of organic matter such as compost and have a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. Our deep sandy soils should be ideal with the addition of compost to increase the water and nutrient holding ability of the soil. Look for male varieties to plant as they often produce more spears for harvest than female varieties.
Asparagus is salt tolerant and has relatively few disease issues. Common pest problems include the asparagus beetle, spotted asparagus beetle and aphids as well as fusarium, rust and needle blight. If you know you have any of these issues, there are varieties available that have resistance to some of these issues. One other thing worth mentioning is that some people have experienced dermatitis when they brush up against the plant. A good way to avoid this is to wear gloves and a long sleeve shirt when working around this plant.
If you love to eat the spears, look for bundles where the spears are similar in diameter so they will cook in the same amount of time. Thicker spears are really good for cooking on the grill or roasting, and there are also some delicious recipes that use the thinner stalks.