Today we’re talking about how to grow asparagus from crowns (living roots) and how long it takes to have your first harvest. I’ll show you how to plant them and what to expect.
While I grow them for the food—this is my favorite recipe for asparagus—they also make lovely perennial ornamental plants.
Getting Started with Asparagus
New to asparagus growing, I ordered my first crowns by mail-order years ago. I had read a lot of information about problems with growing asparagus that set my expectations low, but it was actually really simple.
As a perennial vegetable, you pretty much plant it and give it minimal care like other perennial plants. Planted in early spring, asparagus grows rapidly right away and returns every year.
I had heard you shouldn’t harvest the plants in the first year, so the crowns can get well-established, but my stalks were large and abundant in that first season, so I harvested them anyways. They were delicious! Since then, the crowns have produced large crops year after year.
Each year, I harvest as much as I need, and leave the rest to continue growing.
Besides the food they provide, these are really beautiful plants. Some years mine grow over 6-feet tall, forming a lovely privacy barrier in the back of the garden.
I would grow them just for this purpose, even if they didn’t provide delicious food.
- When to Order Asparagus Crowns
- Asparagus Growing Tips
- How to Plant Asparagus Crowns
- How Asparagus Grows
- Asparagus Care
When to Order Asparagus Crowns
Asparagus crowns (the root system of a young asparagus plant used to start new plants) can be ordered by mail in late winter.
Garden nurseries will ship them when the time is right to plant them in your area. You need to have a full-sun garden bed all ready.
It’s best to do this prep work in the fall (digging and adding mature compost) so you can get the crowns in the ground as soon as they arrive.
I started my asparagus at the same time as cold-loving spring crops like peas.
I ordered ten Jersey Giant crowns by mail and planted them at the end of April into a new raised bed. This is around the time of our last frost each spring.
Asparagus Growing Tips
- Choose a variety of asparagus suited to your growing zone. Most are suited to hardiness zones 3 to 8.
- Plan ahead. You may need to place your order in late fall or early winter to ensure spring delivery of the crowns.
- Prepare your garden bed in fall so it’s all ready for planting in early spring.
- Asparagus likes pH-neutral soil. My soil is quite sandy and the asparagus grows rapidly here (zone 6). Buy soil pH test strips here at Amazon.
How to Plant Asparagus Crowns
These are my notes from the first year I planted asparagus.
I found some contradictory planting instructions (welcome to the world of gardening!), so I opted to follow the plans that came with the plants:
- Plant 18″ apart in trenches
- Dig trenches 15″ deep
- Fill bottom 3″ of trench with compost and then add 3″ of soil
- Plant crowns and cover with another 3″ of soil
- As the crowns send shoots up, add another 3″ of soil
- Keep free of weeds, water when dry
The ‘crowns’ are really roots (to my way of thinking).
You plant them over a little mound of soil with all those little pieces aiming down, like a wig of long hair over a head.
I wish the instructions had said this because I initially tried to plant them upside-down.
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How Asparagus Grows
Here’s the cool part. After planting, I kept checking the crowns every other day, unsure of how long it would take for shoots to appear.
On day seven, there were no shoots.
On day nine, the shoots were suddenly 7-10 inches tall!
It’s like they read the instructions…
Some of these photos were taken in different years so that’s why the garden bed appearance varies.
One Month After Planting
There are many skinny spears from each crown and some are up to 2 feet tall. So far, so good. According to the instructions, “next spring a light harvest of shoots can be taken.” The plants are mature after three years.
The squirrels are obsessed with stashing walnuts in this bed.
This bed gets a lot of weeds, so straw (or other) mulch is highly recommended.
Four Months After Planting
The plants are around 4 feet tall, full, bushy, and…tipping over.
They all lean to the south.
I’m not sure if that’s a coincidence or they like bowing to the sun:
This was the first year. After this, I started using straw mulch to keep the weeds down.
It doesn’t take long until the asparagus thickens up top and becomes both an edible and ornamental plant.
This next photo is from a garden tour.
After a few years, mine started growing 6 to 8-feet tall each year.
My sandy soil and the location of the bed seem to make it a magnet for weeds.
QShould I cut back my asparagus plants in the fall?
Most advice says never trim the green foliage. The plants need it to gather fuel for future growth. Instead, just cut back any brown (dead) parts in the spring and leave everything else alone. Sounds like a plan.
During the winter months I apply a thick layer of mulch on the bed to make sure the super cold weather doesn’t damage the crowns.
Yes! After the first year, I started harvesting the spears in mid-spring. Popular advice says to wait a few years but I do not.
Now, a few years later, I have more than I can eat and share the surplus. Absolutely delicious.
And, as I mentioned, asparagus is a very pretty plant. I’d grow it even if I couldn’t (eventually) eat it.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛