THE asparagus season may be short, with tender stalks being harvested in April, May and maybe June depending on the weather, but nothing tastes like home-grown asparagus spears, even if you might have to wait up to three years after planting to cut your first crop. But after that, this perennial crop can last up to 20 years.
If you don’t want to wait quite that long, buy one-year-old crowns to plant in early spring and go for an all male F1 hybrid as male plants tend to be more productive. Asparagus prefers a sunny, sheltered site away from frost pockets and wind, which can snap off the mature fern. Make sure your soil is well drained and dig in plenty of organic matter beforehand. On heavy soil, the bed should be raised and mounded up to improve drainage.
Plant crowns into prepared 15cm (6in) deep trenches in rows, spaced 30cm (12in) apart each way. Cover them with 7.5cm (3in) of soil and water in well. Don’t be tempted to cut emerging crowns as they appear, or you’ll weaken the crown.
During their first two years of growth, plants should be left to form lots of ferny foliage, then you can cut down the stems in autumn, leaving 5cm stumps above the ground. The following year, you can harvest the spears when they are around 12cm long, cutting them off a few cm below soil level with a serrated knife. It’s important to cut every spear, even thin ones, because this stimulates the dormant buds in the crown to grow.