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Growing Asparagus

Date: April 1989 (Revised April 1995)

Source: NDSU Extension Service Horticulturist

Asparagus is one of the most wholesome and appetizing products of the garden. Early appearance of asparagus in the spring makes it of special importance. The young, tender shoots of asparagus usually reach cutting size about the second week in May. These shoots may be cut every other day if temperature and moisture conditions are favorable.

"Mary Washington" is the most widely grown and generally available variety. It is tolerant to rust and when properly grown, produces good, high quality yields. Viking and Jersey Giant are also tolerant to rust and are becoming more available.

Asparagus may be started from seed, however, if only a few plants are needed for the home garden, it is usually best to purchase the crowns from a seedsman or nurseryman. Avoid planting asparagus in soils infested with perennial weeds such as Canada Thistle or quackgrass. These weeds should be eliminated before planting.

Plant in mid-May using year old plants in holes or trenches 4 to 5 inches deep and 18 inches apart within the row. As the shoots grow, fill the soil into the trench until the bed is level.

Do not harvest asparagus regularly until the plants are well established in the permanent location. A light harvest may be taken the first season, with full harvests in subsequent years, as long as the plants are vigorous. Cease harvesting shoots in late June. If the shoots become spindly, stop cutting so that good growth may be made for the following year. Remember, the tops have the job of storing the food in the roots, which will produce next year's crop.

For future reference, you may want to obtain a copy of Extension bulletin H-61, "Asparagus and Rhubarb," which is available at your county office of the NDSU Extension Service.

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