Growing Organic Asparagus
History and Growing Instructions
Asparagus has been known since ancient times. Roman chefs valued the vegetable so highly that they dehydrated the stalks and kept them on hand throughout the year.
"One of emperor Augustus's favorite sayings was...'Do it quicker than you can cook asparagus'" meaning that the Romans knew how to treat this vegetable. Asparagus was also valued for medicinal applications. It was believed that an asparagus and oil liniment would prevent bee stings.
For centuries, agriculturalists believed that there was only one variety of asparagus and that differences could be attributed to individual growing environments. Eventually this proved to be untrue, but it does point out the importance of local growing conditions on asparagus crops.
Asparagus grows well throughout the US except the Deep South and a few other areas that experience mild winters. The most efficient way to grow asparagus today is to purchase 1-2 year old roots and plant them in an asparagus bed that has been prepared beforehand. The best time to plant is in early spring when the soil can be worked.
To make an asparagus bed, dig trenches 15-18 inches deep and 18 inches wide, allowing 4 feet between trenches. Line the bottom of the trench with approximately 6 inches of soil and compost or aged manure. Mound up this mixture in the center of the trench and drape the asparagus roots over the mound. Space the crowns 18 inches apart. Space the crowns 18 inches apart. The crowns should be about 6 inches from the surface. Fill in the trench with more soil and compost mixture until the crowns are covered with 1 inch of soil. As the shoots emerge continue to cover them until the trench is completely filled and level with the soil surface. Keep the bed weeded and well watered and allow the plants to grow into ferns the first year. In the fall, cover the bed with dried cow manure and cut off the ferny growth. In the second year, harvest only a few shoots, no more than three, and in the fall dress the bed as before. During the third year, regular harvesting can begin. Each root should produce a minimum of 5 spears.