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You would like to grow asparagus, but you want to make sure that you have researched everything carefully. Many people, like myself, want to know everything about what they are looking for, in this case, growing asparagus, before they invest time and effort into it.
So here we will first tell you in short how to grow asparagus, and then we will go deeper into planting, growing, harvesting and everything else you need to know about asparagus.
- they require patience and preparation
- keep it clean from weeds
- you have to cut the plant to the ground every year for new to grow
- asparagus love much sun
- improve the soil before planting
- they need regular watering
Asparagus is a seasonal vegetable and its shoots are harvested in the coastal area in April and May, and in the continental area in May and June.
White asparagus is more valued in Europe, although green has a better nutritional value. The specific odor and taste originate from essential oils, tyrosine and methyl mercaptan, glycosides, succinic and aspartic acids, arginine, choline, saponins, and flavonoids. Asparagus is valued as a diet vegetable, especially for diabetics.
Morphological properties of asparagus
Asparagus is a perennial, with a life span of 15 years or more. It has the ability to enter dormancy and reject overhead parts in adverse conditions. Small and delicate roots have an absorptive function, and a large root mass serves to deposit reserves for the growth of new above-ground organs after a dormancy period. The thick roots die off after 3 years, and above it develops a new one on the upper part of the subterranean stem, the rootstock, which is the reason for the gradual rise of the subterranean bush.
On the branched ground near the end of the active vegetation, buds form in the fall, which in the next vegetation will give new plants. There may be 10 – 15 or even 30 buds on a four-year to the five-year course.
In the initial stage of growth, when the stems (shoots) are 6 – 10 inches long, 0.4 – 1.5 inches thick with a closed tip and sticky leafy leaves, they are used as vegetables. Asparagus begins to bloom in the second or third year, and then blooms every next year. Plants that have male flowers have more shoots (stems). The fruit is a juicy bean the size of a grain of peas, in physiological ripeness of red color, with a maximum of 6 seeds irregularly round.
Agro-ecological conditions for growing asparagus
The asparagus seeds germinate slowly and the minimum germination temperature is 59 °F. Soaking the seeds for 4-5 days in warm water (84 – 90 °F) can significantly enhance sprouting. Temperatures of 53- 79 °F are favorable for growth and development.
During active vegetation, the optimum rainfall is 10 inches, of which in July and August 6 inches. Therefore, in some areas asparagus can be grown without irrigation, but where there are frequent long-term summer droughts, irrigation alone can provide a good yield next year.
For cultivation, lighter soils, less physical resistance and better aeration (water-air ratio) are suitable. For the production of white asparagus, sandy soils with abundant fertilization with organic fertilizers are more suitable, and for green asparagus medium but not heavy soils are suitable. Soils should be neutral and slightly alkaline or acidic (pH 5).
Agrotechnical measures of asparagus cultivation
Asparagus is a perennial crop that stays in the same place for 10 – 12 years. Establishing a new plantation on the same surface is not recommended for 4 – 5 years.
For the spring establishment of asparagus, soil preparation should be started as early as the previous fall or winter by deep plowing at 15 – 23 inches, or plowing at 12 – 16 inches with undercutting up to 27 inches, depending on the soil. This operation introduces manure or other organic fertilizer and potassium and phosphorus with a small amount of nitrogen. In soils acidic to 5.5, an appropriate amount of lime may be added. For direct sowing of green asparagus, the soil is repeatedly surface-treated in the spring in order to destroy the sprouted weeds. Due to the restoration of fleshy roots, the whole seed gradually rises towards the soil surface, during the growing season the rows gradually build up.
Organic fertilization is recommended every 3 years with 30 – 100 t/ac of manure, up to 10 t/ac of peat or compost, green fertilization by plowing crops of beans, clovers or cereals with nitrogen. Mineral fertilization is spread over 5 years and ranges about 67 lb/ac of nitrogen, 30 – 60 lb/ac of phosphorus, 147 – 165 lb/ac of potassium.
Nurturing asparagus plantations
In the first year of planting, the main measures are weed control, preservation of surface structure and necessary moisture. The row crop, especially in the early years, must be quite shallow so as not to damage the roots.
Sow pre-soaked seeds in warm water, as mentioned above, in rows of 4 – 6.5 feet apart, or in a double row with a row spacing of 12 – 16 inches. The seed spacing in the row is planned at 4 – 6 inches with a sowing depth of 2 inches. Such sowing requires 1 – 2 lb/ac of seed.
Harvesting and storage
When the temperature reaches 53 °F at 8 inches deep, new shoots sprout from the underground shoot. Then the harvest begins. Maximum asparagus yield capacity is achieved by hand-picking 2 – 3 times a day, with some producers harvesting daily, allowing for higher representation of the upper classes. Green asparagus is harvested when the shoot is 7 – 9 inches long and its tip is still completely closed. It is cut with a special knife, slightly above the surface of the ground, but there are also mechanized harvesting. White asparagus can be planted underneath the foil to which one side is fully attached so that pickers on one side detect the foil, pick the shoots and cover the row with foil.
The harvested asparagus is washed under a stream of water, sorted into bundles of 1 pound and packed individually in perforated PE film. They are placed in slats or cardboard boxes and covered with foil. White asparagus can be stored for up to 15 days at 34 °F and 95% relative air humidity. Green asparagus is also delicate, so the path from harvest to finishing should be as short as possible. It is often not to be washed but is immediately graded in length and thickness, stacked and straight cut.
Asparagus harvesting spider reduces harvesting costs
Product quality and maximum efficiency during harvest are an inevitable part of modern asparagus cultivation. High-quality asparagus is in demand on the market, so it is imperative that the manufacturer meets these requirements in order to achieve appropriate sales results. The costs of asparagus production show an upward trend, while prices stagnate. It is the asparagus harvest that largely determines the final production costs of this vegetable crop.
For many growers, a high degree of harvest automation is the right solution to this challenge.
Effective harvest automation
Asparagus is harvested in the field entirely by an asparagus spider machine, the batteries of which are charged by solar energy. The machine works by lifting the foil off the ground, going row by row in the field and cutting the asparagus one at a time. Through so-called kink control, the machine is pulled through the rows in the field. This makes handling faster and easier. In just seconds, the employee decides how to cut the stems.
This high degree of automation allows for a significant reduction in time between harvesting and selling or processing, leading to high product quality and then effective revenue control.
Likewise, the machine provides higher yields per hour of operation, and practice has even shown its doubling.
See how the machine looks in practical use in the video:
Prepare soil for asparagus seedlings in time
Keep the plot facing south
It can be exploited for years in well-groomed perennial crops. In the soil, it is formed a so-called underground vine with fleshy white roots in which the food that forms accumulates and is used for a reserve. These foods serve to form shoots next year. It is interesting that every year a part of the old root becomes extinct and new ones emerge from the top vine, and on its upper part are formed large, covered with flakes, buds from which the shoots sprout in spring, which are used as young vegetables.
Asparagus grows best in areas with moderate temperatures during vegetation and harsh winter. At temperatures below 50 °F, shoots start to develop. In rare cases, winter frosts can damage the asparagus.
It likes moderately moist, deeply drained and loose soil and the plot that faces south.
The first year, seedlings are produced
Infield conditions, asparagus is produced using transplants. This production method requires 1 – 1.3 pounds of seed. In the first year, seedlings are produced, and in the second year in early spring, planting begins on a parcel that has been well prepared earlier and is plowed during basic tillage to a maximum depth of 24 – 40 t/ha of manure. In the spring, after autumn plowing, the surface is shallowly plowed or cultivated. Immediately before planting, up to 440 lb/ac of NPK is introduced into the soil, in a ratio of 1: 2: 4. The same amount of NPK fertilizer is introduced every year. It is best and only proper to carry out an agrochemical soil analysis before planting and apply, as recommended, the correct and timely recommended amounts of organic and mineral fertilizer.
The asparagus is transplanted at a row crop distance of at least 3 feet and a row spacing of 1.5 feet. The depth of the canal is 12 – 16 inches, at the bottom of the canal we introduce compost or a mixture of soil and manure, and the planted plants are covered with 2 – 2.3 inches of fine soil. In the fall, up to 12 inches of soil should be put on plants.
During vegetation, these vegetables are plowed to destroy weeds and encourage tree growth. During the summer, extinct plant parts are removed. Asparagus harvesting begins in its third year, and full harvesting occurs in the fourth year and can last for 15 – 20 years. The soil is first spread to the base of the shoot and the etiolated shoots are then cut. The colored, green shoots cut when they are 5 – 8 inches above the ground.
High yields with plenty of moisture
The harvest lasts from late April to late May, sometimes until the end of June, on a daily basis. Picking is always done in the early morning or late afternoon. The yield can reach from 2 – 4 t/ac if there is a lot of moisture.
Buying tip – as it cannot be stored for a long time even in the refrigerator, buy it only fresh. Fresh asparagus is heavy in hand because it is full of water. It is prepared fresh and only such should be used in the diet. If it cannot be used immediately, it is best to put it in a wet cloth, then in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator.