Asparagus is a hardy perennial that requires considerable work to establish a good asparagus bed but is well worth the effort since a well-planned bed can last from 15 to 25 years. Make sure you plant your asparagus at the side or end of the garden where it will not be disturbed by normal garden cultivation.
Although the list of common varieties has changed in recent years standard varieties like Mary Washington, Martha Washington and Waltham Washington can still be easily obtained. A number of new varieties that are predominantly all male have been introduced in to common usage. The female plant bears seed, which take considerable energy from the plant and they sprout new seedlings which causes overcrowding in the bed. The male plant produces thicker, larger spears since they do not expend the energy into producing seeds.
A line that produces only male plants was discovered and has been incorporated into some truly amazing varieties. Jersey Giant, Jersey Knight, Jersey Prince, Syn 53, Syn 4-362, UC 157 and Viking KBC are new hybrids with larger yields.
When To Plant
Asparagus should be planted as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring. The easiest and quickest way to start asparagus is to start with one-year-old crowns or plants. If you prefer you can start plants from seed but this will add a year to the process of establishing the bed.
Spacing & Depth
Start preparing soil about a year before planting by mixing in large quantities of organic matter, such as composted manure, compost, and green manure crops. Mix 2 to 3 pounds of 13-13-13 fertilizer per 100 square feet into the soil and lime to a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Asparagus does poorly at a soil pH below 6.0.
Place the plants in a trench 12 to 18 inches wide and a full six inches deep. The crowns should be spaced 9 to 12 inches apart. Spread the roots out uniformly, with the crown bud side up, in an upright, centered position, slightly higher than the roots.
Cover the crown with two inches of soil. Gradually fill the remaining portion of the trench during the first summer as the plants grow taller. Asparagus has a tendency to "rise" as the plants mature, the crowns gradually growing closer to the soil surface. Many gardeners apply an additional 1 to 2 inches of soil from between the rows in later years.