Although organic asparagus can be hard to find, growing your own organic asparagus plants is not difficult at all. Once the bed is established, it doesn't need much maintenance and will supply you with delicious shoots year after year.
Where to Buy Organic Asparagus Plants
Asparagus plants are sold as "crowns". The crown is the root system of a one year old asparagus plant. The asparagus will develop from the crowns and each crown will supply about ½ pound of spears per year once it is established.
You probably won't find organic asparagus crowns at your local nursery, but there are a few websites that carry them online.
Seeds of Change
Seeds of Change is a company that supplies gardeners with organic seeds and plants. They carry one type of asparagus crowns, Jersey Knight. They also sell many other types of vegetables.
Peaceful Valley carries three different types of asparagus crowns.
- Jersey Knight
- Sweet Purple
- Organic UC 157
The company has been supplying gardeners with organic seeds and gardening supplies since 1976.
Organic Gardening Catalogue
The Organic Gardening Catalogue is located in the UK and carries six different kinds of asparagus crowns.
- Connover's Colossal
- Grolim F1
They do ship outside the UK, however the shipping is higher. You should also check to make sure that live plants can be shipped to your area before ordering.
How to Grow Asparagus
Asparagus is a long lived perennial. If it is started in favorable conditions and allowed to establish itself, an asparagus bed will last for 15 years or more without replanting.
Choose the area for the bed in a place where it won't need to be disturbed and the tall fronds won't shade other plants.
This plant is not too fussy about soil, as long as the area has good drainage. A soil pH of 6.5 to 7.5 is ideal. Have your soil tested and if the pH is below 6.0 you can work in 20 pounds of organic compost for every 1,000 square feet of garden bed. Be sure to work it in at least six inches deep before beginning to plant the asparagus crowns.
Buy your one year old crowns from a reputable organic grower. While you can plant asparagus from seed, the process is time consuming and tedious. Planting crowns is easier and you will benefit from fresh asparagus much sooner. You can plant the crowns as soon as the soil has warmed to 50 degrees; about April in most areas of the country.
- Dig 15 inch deep trenches that are about a foot and a half wide. Allow four feet between each trench.
- Line the bottom with six inches of well rotted manure or a mixture of manure and compost.
- Create a mound in the center of the trench and place the crowns on top, 18 inches apart, allowing the roots to flow down over the mound.
- Fill the trenches with a mixture of soil and compost until the crowns are covered with one inch of the mixture.
- As the shoots emerge, keep covering them until the trench is completely filled.
- Keep the bed weeded and well watered.
- Don't harvest the spears the first year. Allow them to grow into fronds. This will help the asparagus to become strong and well established.
- The second season, you can harvest two or three spears per plant.
- During the third season and from that point on, you can harvest the spears.
Harvesting asparagus is easy. When the spears are between six and ten inches tall, but before the buds open, cut the spear at the soil line. You will be able to harvest asparagus for about two months.
Once the harvest is over, do not cut the fern growth. It needs to continue to grow to capture energy for next year's growth. Before the new shoots emerge in the spring, cut the dead growth by mowing over it.
Pests and Diseases
There are few pests and diseases that attack asparagus. These can be controlled by keeping an eye on the bed and dealing with problems immediately.
Asparagus beetles chew on the fern and cause the stem to die off. This reduces the yield for the next year. You can control this pest with natural predators like birds, lacewings, or ladybugs. The beetles do not like tomato plants and so growing tomatoes and asparagus in the same bed can help, too.
These pests attack the entire plant and carry viruses that can kill and entire asparagus bed if you are not careful. Mix vegetable oil and dish soap and spray it on the plants.
Root Rot Diseases
These are fungal diseases that attack plants when they are stressed. The tips of the ferns turn yellow and die off. Yield will be reduced and eventually the whole plant will die. To keep this from happening, be sure not to over water the bed. Handle insect infestation promptly and do not over cut the spears.
Enjoy Unique Flavors
By growing your own organic asparagus, you will be able to enjoy unique flavors that are not commonly found in the grocery store. While others are paying $4.99 a pound for this healthy delicacy, you will be enjoying it, organic and fresh, from your own backyard.