Asparagus is a long term crop. For me it ranks as my number one all time favourite vegetable so I am happy to see it in our garden but, as a permanent crop which completely monopolises its allotted area for a decade or even two, it might not be such a worthwhile option in small gardens. Added to that, you can’t start harvesting it for the first couple of years so it is not ideal if you plan on moving or you are renting. We once moved just as an asparagus patch was coming on stream and remain scarred by the experience.
Asparagus does not fit into the current no dig craze. It is a clumping, deciduous perennial and it needs to go into ground which has been very well prepared and which has excellent drainage. The usual recommendation is to dig very thoroughly, creating a trench and adding plenty of well rotted manure and compost. Make sure that you are not planting on top of fresh manure. Give it time to mature. The aim is to create a bed of fertile and friable soil. Asparagus is generally planted as divisions in winter, reasonably deep at 15cm and about 30cm apart. Don’t refill the trench completely on planting. Just put a few cm of dirt on top and keep filling as the fresh shoots grow, otherwise they may never penetrate the surface. It is not the easiest crop to get established but once away, all that is required is regular hand weeding and annual mulching with compost. The compost feeds the asparagus crowns and discourages competing weeds.
If the asparagus crowns you have purchased look very small (and we have had that experience), you may find it more successful starting them in pots until they look sufficiently vigorous to plant out.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.