Asparagus is an extremely nutritious and delicious gourmet perennial vegetable. You can grow asparagus from seed or cuttings, they are low maintenance and come back year after year. Asparagus patches can live for up to 30 years and some gardeners have even reported 100-year-old asparagus patches!
The biggest drawback to growing your own asparagus is that it takes a couple of years to start putting out the edible shoots. However, you can dramatically cut down on the time to harvest by growing your asparagus from cuttings instead of seeds.
One of my favorite things about gardening is being able to grow fruits and veggies that would be out of my price range at the supermarket. Asparagus is one of those veggies that is easy to grow, is worth the effort, and tastes much better when fresh.
How is asparagus grown normally?
Asparagus is normally started from one-year-old roots because it takes several years to begin getting a good harvest if started from seeds. Asparagus doesn’t transplant well. One-year roots have the advantage of suffering less from transplant shock while also saving an entire year of growing time.
Growing asparagus from seed tends to be much cheaper than cuttings. The drawback, however, is that you won’t have asparagus until the second year and won’t have a decent harvest until the fourth year. This is why asparagus is usually grown from cuttings.
If you are growing a small asparagus patch in your garden for personal use, consider spending the extra dollars to get a year’s head start.
How to grow asparagus from seed
You can grow asparagus from seed by germinating the seeds indoors in the late winter. About three months before the last frost, soak your asparagus seeds for three to four days and plant them into containers.
Take care to sow the asparagus seeds properly since they will remain in their containers for the first three months. You can start them in 4-inch pots or seedling trays, for example, plant two seeds in each one and then thin the weakest one. Once they are about 10 inches tall, transplant them into larger pots, a temporary bed, or into their permanent position if it’s warm enough.
Avoid frost when planting cuttings
When you’re sure the last frost has passed, you can plant them out in their permanent position. Plant your 10 inch high asparagus plants 6 inches deep and space them 18 to 24 inches apart with 5 feet between rows. The spacing might seem far apart. However, over the years the root systems will develop and will send out asparagus shoots in that area.
Growing your asparagus plants from seed might be your only option if you can’t get your hands on cuttings. It can also be an extremely rewarding experience that you will continue to foster and benefit from over the years. On a practical note, growing asparagus from seed will give you a much bigger selection from which to choose the best plants.
For example, one hundred planted seeds become fifty seedlings after you’ve thinned them. From the fifty seedlings, you can select the strongest and healthiest to plant in your asparagus patch.
Starting asparagus from seed definitely takes much longer to start getting a return. Although I love starting my plants from seed, asparagus is one of the few plants I would recommend growing from cuttings if possible.
How to grow asparagus from cuttings
Asparagus can be grown from cuttings by dividing the crown or root of the plant. Each of the plant cuttings is then treated as an individual plant. Growing asparagus from cuttings will save you a lot of time and you’ll be able to select the strongest segments.
To grow asparagus from cuttings, you first need to get your hands on some cuttings. You can either purchase them from a garden center, online supplier or kindly ask a friend with an asparagus patch. If you end up making your own cutting, make sure each piece of the crown has a few buds. For example, these 2-year-old crowns – pack of 20 – variety “Purple Passion”
Plant in spring
Plant the asparagus cuttings in the spring, as soon as all fear of frost has passed and the temperature is about 50 F. Don’t feel pressure to get them out quickly since they won’t give a good harvest for a couple of years.
Some people even recommend planting asparagus in the late spring when the ground is not so wet and the temperatures are warmer. The plants will grow faster in warmer weather and they won’t be so susceptible to rot.
Once you have the cutting, plant it as soon as possible. Delaying planting can hurt the survival rate and will affect the harvest for a couple of years. Asparagus plants don’t love to be transplanted, so fast transitions will reduce transplant shock.
Dig a trench
To plant your cuttings, start by digging a trench that is 18 inches wide and 12 inches deep. Fill the bottom couple of inches with compost along with a phosphorus amendment. Next, plant the asparagus cuttings by spreading the roots on top of the compost in the trench.
Once the roots are in the ground, cover them with 2 inches of soil mix made up of 3 parts soil to 1 part compost. As the plants grow, keep gradually adding more of the same soil mix to the trench. Alternatively, you can just fill the trench with soil mix when you first plant the roots. Plant asparagus in rows – it is much easier to maintain.
If you must delay planting, store the roots in a cool and humid place. I like to wrap them in a damp paper towel and place them in the coolest part of the house. This will only work for a day, so make sure to have your patch ready when you get your cutting.
Don’t overharvest in the first year
The first year after planting the asparagus cuttings, be careful to not overharvest the plant and only collect for 2 to 3 weeks. In the second year, you can harvest for a month. After the third year of being in its permanent position, you can harvest your asparagus plant for up to six weeks. When the shoots begin to grow very thin, it’s usually a sign to stop harvesting.
Growing asparagus from cuttings not only saves you a lot of time but it revitalizes established plants. If you have a friend with an asparagus patch that is starting to get tired, ask to divide their plants. You’ll get a head start on your new patch and your friend will watch their patch be re-energized.
What conditions are needed to grow asparagus from cuttings
Asparagus plants are pretty forgiving plants when it comes to their conditions. However, they do not like being transplanted.
Take care to transplant them as quickly as possible. Then just give the planted cuttings well-draining soil, lots of sun, moist soil, and a large place that is designated just for asparagus. If you’re growing in raised beds, choose the one you walk by the least but still gets plenty of sun.
Asparagus originates from coastal areas and does better in sandy soils. However, it also tolerates heavy soils as long as they drain well. If your soil has a lot of clay, incorporate some compost before planting. Not sure how to do that? Check out our article on mixing compost into your soil.
How to maintain an asparagus patch
Maintaining an asparagus patch is very easy as long as proper care is involved. The most important maintenance tasks include weeding, mulching, watering, and dividing the crowns if necessary.
Weeding your asparagus patch is particularly important in the first year. Pull the weeds out manually to avoid damaging the fragile root system. Keep in mind that volunteer asparagus seedlings can also become weeds. Asparagus does best when spaced far apart, so more plants in a small space can mean less asparagus.
Mulch your asparagus rows in the fall
It is good practice to mulch your asparagus bed every year in the fall with nitrogen-rich material such as compost, aged manure, or seaweed. The mulch serves several roles in an asparagus bed, so you mustn’t skip this task. Mulching keeps the soil moist, acts as a fertilizer, suppresses weeds, and protects the roots from cold temperatures in the winter.
Take care to keep your asparagus bed moist, but not wet. Asparagus has fleshy roots that can rot if the soil is waterlogged. For this reason, drip irrigation is recommended for asparagus beds. On the other hand, keeping a lot of mulch on the bed will protect from periods of drought.
If your asparagus patch has plants in decline you’ll want to dig them up in the winter and divide them. You can do this by separating it into pieces, each with a few buds. Treat these cuttings as individual and plant them out as you would for individual plants.
These four fundamental maintenance tasks will keep your asparagus patch thriving. You’ll be rewarded with a plentiful harvest.
What are the benefits of growing asparagus from cuttings
The biggest benefit of growing asparagus from cuttings is that you will be able to harvest much sooner. In normal asparagus production, where plants are started from seed, you don’t get asparagus shoots until the second year. Even then, your harvest won’t be plentiful until the patch has gotten established.
Growing asparagus from cuttings also means that you can select the very best crowns to plant. If there are any that look weak, plant them in the ornamental garden instead.
Does asparagus have to be sown every year?
One of the best things about growing asparagus is that you don’t have to sow new seeds every year. Asparagus patches regularly last up to 30 years but they can live to be 100 years old.
If you’re wanting to expand your asparagus patch, take cuttings from your first batch of plants in the first and second years. You will have saved a year and won’t have to buy new seeds.
It only makes sense to sow asparagus seeds every year if you intend to give away or sell the one-year plants. This could end up being an interesting way to pay for the rest of your garden, especially when you’re able to use your own seeds.
If you do choose to save and sow your own seeds every year, be aware that they can cross-pollinate. So be sure there are no other asparagus varieties (including wild asparagus) within a mile.
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If you love asparagus, don’t move it around often, and have a garden, then an asparagus patch is for you. Starting your asparagus patch from cuttings is recommended because you get a year or two head start. You’ll want to plant your crowns as soon as you get them, space them far apart, and keep up yearly maintenance.
This easy-to-care-for perennial plant will be an entirely new experience for you. Whether you’re starting from seed or from cutting, asparagus plants grow very differently from most edibles. Growing asparagus from cuttings in your garden will reward you with a fascinating experience and nutrient-packed food.