Asparagus in South Central PA

Varieties

Asparagus comes in a variety of colors including, violet-green, pink and purple. Any asparagus can be made white by keeping it in the dark as it sprouts (heavy mulching, or cover with basket).† The following varieties are suggested by the Cooperative Extension Systems of OH, PA and NY.† Except for Purple Passion, all are green.† Because the Jersey series are all-male they wonít produce seed, but the others will, and you can start more plants for yourself or to share.

Jersey Giant: highest green spear productivity and quality in Pennsylvania

Jersey Knight

Jersey Supreme

Purple Passion: highly productive, extra sweet flavor

Martha Washington, Brooks strain: has shown excellent vigor (not fusarium resistant)

Viking KB3: probably the best nonhybrid (not fusarium resistant)

Conditions

Sunny, well drained soil, high pH (7.0).

Asparagus grows tall and can last 25 years or more, so choose a site that wonít block the sun to other plantings.

 

Insects and Diseases:

Asparagus Beetles:

Hand pick, brush larvae off with a broom, or use insecticide.† Clean up debris at end of season, provide fresh mulch.† When I clean up my bed thoroughly, I almost never see an asparagus beetle the following year.† The pictures were taken the year after I was not thorough enough in my cleanup.

 

 

Fusarium Root Rot:

will eventually kill asparagus plants.† Donít plant in wet areas or where asparagus has grown before; plant resistant varieties.

 

Common Asparagus Beetle


Spotted Asparagus Beetle


Asparagus Beetle Eggs


Asparagus Beetle Larvae

Planting and Care

Plant seeds, plants or roots.† 1 year roots are better than 2 year roots, 3 year roots and older are not recommended.† Plant seeds in summer through fall as seeds become available, or the following spring.† You can plant seeds directly into their permanent bed, or in a temporary spot for transplanting in spring (so you can choose the healthiest plants), or in pots 10 to 12 weeks before the frost-free date.† In spring, when soil temps reach about 50˚, place plants, seeds or roots 4Ē deep in trenches for larger spears, shallower for higher production.† Plants need to be between 12Ē to 24" apart in rows 36Ē or more apart.† Apply about 1 lb. of 0-46-0 (triple superphosphate) or 2 lbs. of 0-20-0 (superphosphate) or 4 lbs. of steamed bone meal (about 1 cup per plant) per 50 feet of row directly under plants.

Water the first year; water and fertilizer are not necessary after that.† Keep well mulched.† Donít till; youíll get less asparagus.† Asparagus likes a less acid soil than other vegetables, so liming is recommended.† Mow or cut fronds after they die in fall, remove and replace mulch with fresh to keep asparagus beetle populations low.

 Harvest

First harvest begins the third year after field planting. General recommendations dictate harvest for 2 weeks the first year of harvest, 4 weeks the second year, and 6 weeks the third and following years. Better advice is to harvest until the spears thin to about the thickness of a pencil.†Harvest frequently; if you harvest a spear after it gets too tall it will reduce your harvest.† Remember, thicker stalks are sweeter and more tender than thin spears.† Allow a few fronds to grow to feed the roots to extend the harvest, or donít harvest some plants at the beginning of the season.† When you cut back the fronds later, new sprouts will emerge.

After the harvest season, let the fronds grow, they are feeding the roots for next yearís crop.

Cut or snap spears at ground level.† Cut asparagus can be kept fresh longer if you wrap a moist paper towel around the stem ends, or stand upright in two inches of cold water. Cover with a plastic bag and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days or until ready to use.