How Long Does It Take To Grow Asparagus?
Asparagus is among the plants that greet us first in spring. It is perennial, which means that after its establishment, it returns a year after the other. Furthermore, it makes a perfect ornamental, thanks to its ferny foliage.
However, when a packet of seeds comes with a label that it matures in 730 days, you know it’s a plant that needs patience. If you’re not sure how long it takes to grow asparagus from planting to shoots harvesting, continue reading on.
Planting Asparagus Seeds Vs. Crowns
You can begin planting the asparagus crop by planting a crown or a seed. Although planting crowns is the most popular way to grow asparagus, starting with seeds is still viable. The only downside to starting an asparagus crop from seed is that it will take a year more to grow.
Before planting, you should ensure that the soil is free of perennial weeds like Bermuda grass or Johnson grass, trash, and insects. Avoid places where the yellow nutsedge thrives, as this shows poor drainage, which is not suitable for the production of asparagus.
Apply a 3-inch layer of organic material such as rotting sawdust, manure, or compost to beds in late fall. Spade or till to a depth of 10-12 inches and mix the soil to ensure you cover all the organic matter. Asparagus crowns have a collection of almost a dozen long roots that lead to a tiny nub at the stop.
Once you plant the crowns, the asparagus crop takes three years to be ready for harvesting. You will get asparagus seeds from a tiny colorful red berry. Each berry has 3-4 seeds. After planting these seeds in the garden, you should expect to get the asparagus crop ready in 4 years.
Asparagus is a plant that grows slowly, and that is why many would like to buy crowns from the nursery as this will reduce the growing time for the crop from 4 to 3 years. However, it’s advisable to use the seeds instead of the crowns as they offer a greater return on investment in the long run.
For a few dollars or more, you will get small bunches of asparagus crowns, but with similar cost or even less, you can get a seed packet that contains 12-15 asparagus seeds. Although planting crowns reduce the harvesting time significantly, remember that once you are through with the initial years of growth, every plant will produce asparagus each season for some years.
After the first year
The initial year of growth is uneventful if you choose to plant asparagus with seeds. Asparagus sprouts and also begin to develop the root system. At this juncture, the asparagus plant develops crowns mainly sold in garden stores and nurseries.
After the second year
At this stage in the early spring, the spears of the asparagus start to come out of the ground. Even if your asparagus looks ripe for harvest, and you can surely do it at this point, you should let it rest for some time.
Typically, it allows the plant to develop better leaves and roots and enhance healthy growth in the following year. It’s also the best time to start adding fertilizer. The best asparagus fertilizer is a 10-10-10 fertilizer. You can apply it in early spring or fall.
Late in that season, your asparagus develops into asparagus ferns. It’s advisable to prune these ferns in late fall when they start to turn brown. You can also realize small asparagus red berries that appear on plants.
Even if these berries are toxic, you can harvest the seeds and save them for the next planting season. After the initial two years of establishment, asparagus beds need little maintenance. Uproot the weeds to keep them off the beds. To prevent spear damage, you should control the weeds before they start appearing. After fertilizer application early in the season, till the soil before the spears start to grow.
After the third year
The third year is the same as the second year. In most cases, asparagus sprouts from the ground in spring. You can pick some asparagus at this juncture, but let at least half of it grow into ferns. Continue fertilizing and pruning the ferns again in the fall.
After the fourth year
After the fourth year, you will be getting a reward for all your patience and hard work. By April of the fourth year of growth, your asparagus will grow again, and you can now harvest any amount of asparagus.
However, you can wait till the spears are about 6 inches tall before harvesting. Cut the spears below the soil level to harvest them effectively. Another method is using a knife or sharp blade to cut the spears around 1-2 inches below the soil line.
Do not cut the spears too deeply to avoid damaging the developing crown buds. However, this alternative is not advisable as the knife can transfer disease from one crown to another.
You may stop harvesting when the head of the spear opens up with increasing temperatures or when the spear diameter is less than 3/8 inch. Remember, asparagus spears grow quickly. Therefore, it is crucial to keep looking at your garden for new spears as they will continue to grow throughout the spring.
It is advisable not to harvest the remaining asparagus in early June and let them grow into ferns. A more extended harvesting period can weaken the plant, making it much less productive in the coming years. You should then cut the asparagus ferns in the fall and harvest the berry seeds.
The following years
When spring comes, you can then hope for a bumper harvest of asparagus in your garden. Just be careful not to over-harvest the asparagus as this can cause damages to the plant and make it much less productive for years to come.
With a bit of patience and care, asparagus grows from the soil every spring for many years. When the harvesting season ends, you can control the weeds lightly by using a rake or mulching. To kill the weeds, apply fertilizer and lightly till 1-2 inches deep.
Cover the asparagus bed with around 3 inches of clean compost, straw, or other mulching material. Water it well and let the asparagus grow for the remaining years. Typically, this helps ensure a better harvest for the coming year.
Some people prefer white asparagus to grow by using soil mounds or mulch to keep the spears out of the light. It is preferred in gourmet cuisine and has a milder flavor. When the asparagus heads start coming out of the mulch mold, cut the spears to the height you desire using a knife.
It is grown by covering a row of asparagus with a black plastic that supports a wire hoop. When harvesting, you open the covering on the other side and return it to its place immediately after harvesting. You then remove the plastic tunnel construction at the end of the harvest season. Pest control and culture of white asparagus are the same as that of green asparagus.
In conclusion, the asparagus grows for three years after planting from the crowns or four years after planting the seeds. It may seem like a long wait, but when the first few years of growth are over, the plant produces new asparagus spear each year for more than two decades. Hopefully, you now understand how long asparagus takes to grow.