HOW TO GROW ASPARAGUS FROM SEED



When buying asparagus plants for a newly created asparagus bed, most plant retailers will only offer a small range of one or two year old plants. Although they will always look healthy in the pots, there is always a risk of failure when it comes to transplanting - around 10%-15% for one year old stock and as high as 20% for 2 year old stock. When paying full retail prices - particularly with regards to 2 year old stock - this can end up being an expensive lesson.

Asparagus seeds
Growing asparagus from seed - either in pots or directly into the beds - gives the best viability, with a survival rate of around 100%.

In addition, with direct sowing there is no transplanting or root shock to delay valuable root development.

The best time to sow asparagus seeds is around mid-April when the ground is warm enough to initiate germination. A good tip is to soak the seeds in water for a couple of hours before planting.

You will find that this will help to speed up the germination process considerably.

Direct sowing

Once the bed has been prepared raked over the top layer into a fine tilth, then sow the seed into thin rows down to a depth of about 2 inches. Depending on how many plants you intend cropping each subsequent row should be between 12 and 18 inches apart. Water them in well if conditions are dry.

The new seedlings should emerge in about 3 weeks, and as soon as they are large enough they can be thinned out to about 2in apart. Then, once the seedlings reach about 6 inches high, they can be thinned out again to around 18 inches apart. For the rest of the year you just need to keep the beds weeded and the plants well-watered.

If you have bought seed varieties that produce both male and female plants, you will need to remove any female forms as soon as they become identifiable - normally from their berries.

Sowing indoors
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Some asparagus varieties like the popular 'Connovers Colossal' are best sown indoors and this can be done any time between February and March. Again, try soaking them for a couple of hours, then plant them into individual pots containing moist John Innes seed compost. Place them in a warm room at approximately 15-18 degrees Celsius then, once germinated, move to to a cool, light area such as a windowsill, but keep them out of direct sunlight.

Once the threat of frosts are over they will need to be gradually accustomed to conditions outside - this known as 'hardening off' and can take between 2-3 weeks. Once they are ready to be moved out into the asparagus bed proper, they can to be planted fairly deeply leaving a couple of inches of soil above the level of the compost. Keep them nicely watered over the summer period and - as always - keep the bed free of weeds, especially perennial weeds which will compete with your seedlings roots for nutrients.

Growing your own plants can delay establishment of your bed by an additional year, but it does ensure that you are starting with new crowns that have not lost none of their vigour through being lifted, stored and shipped. However, not only will you have a larger selection of varieties available to you, if you choose your varieties wisely you will still be able to harvest in their second year.

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25 comments:

Dave Coulter said...

Simon - I'm not a big fan of asparagus, but I like your blog! Looks really informative. Happy spring :)

p.a.turner said...

hi there, I love asparagus and because of your blog, I ordered 100 Atlas Hybrid asparagus seed and am starting them this spring.
You have a wonderful blog, I posted a link to it in our forum!

pamela

p.a.turner said...

sorry to post again so soon but, if I start them in pots, will I be planting them out this year? or next?

thanks Simon!

Simon Eade said...

Hello pamela,

just to let you know that you will be planting out your seedlings this year. Funnily enough, I sowed some 'connovers colossal' asparagus myself last week. They should take about three weeks to germinate and once they get to a couple of inches high - and the threat of frost is over - they can then go outside, however they will need to be hardened off for a couple of weeks to be on the safe side. There is a trick here to reduce environmental shock with regards to the root system and this is to add some of your 'asparagus bed' soil to the seed and potting mix. Good luck and I hope that it works out well for you. Remember that garden soil is not steralised and you may well get weeds germinating through as well, so wait until you are sure which ones are the asparagus seedlings before you remove them.

p.a.turner said...

thank you very very much!
I'm excited now!
LOL
I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with the little plants all winter but since I can go ahead and set them out after they get big enough, I'll get started right away on their beds!
Thanks again,
pamela

WoundedEgo said...

I've heard that it can take up to TEN weeks before the little bugger shows you that it is alive, so do not become discouraged if you don't see anything happening for a long time. I'm going to try Asparagus this spring.

p.a.turner said...

hey about the asparagus, it came up! every single seed! You're right though, it took a while but I got the plants up and transplanted to permanent beds in the garden. I'm hopeful that they will do well.

thanks for the comment. :D

WoundedEgo said...

From: http://www.hort.purdue.edu/hort/ext/Pubs/ho/HO_096.html

Select the new all-male hybrid asparagus cultivars such as Jersey Giant, Jersey King, Jersey Prince, and Jersey Knight. Seeds produced on female plants fall to the ground and become a seedling weed problem in the garden. Female plants also have to expend more energy to produce the seeds, resulting in decreased yields of spears on female plants. The all-male hybrids out-yield the old Mary Washington cultivars by 3 to 1. To add a bit of color to your asparagus planting, try one of the cultivars such as 'Purple Passion', or 'Sweet Purple'. The purple color does wash away when fully cooked, but the spears are about the size of Jersey Knight. Purple Passion does have both male and female plants so yields will be less than with the all-male hybrids.

Many gardeners still have older cultivars such as Mary Washington and Martha Washington in their planting. Though not as productive as some of the newer cultivars, these old standbys can remain productive for many years.

WoundedEgo said...

I've been trying to go organic and all, and apparently they stuck me with a bunch of honies, because my ferns are all be-speckled with seeds!

Scott said...

Simon,

I have a few acres and I would like to plant an acre of asparagus.

The property is in Eastern Wa. in april the temp is about seventy degrees, in july it is in the high eighties and can get to 100 degrees in late summer. I do have irrigation on the property so i can keep the ground wet as much as needed. I pay a small fee each year to get as much water as I want.

Will I get a crop the first year?

Thanks for your help,

Scott

p.a.turner said...

Scott, I don't think you get a crop the first year, maybe some the second but after that you get more, bigger stalks.
My seed sprouted so well and I set out two big beds of asparagus this past season.
I expect that not this coming spring but the following, to have good asparagus to eat!
Oh, and every single seed came up! I would never have believed it either! LOL

Maggie Sullivan said...

Hi! I planted some asparagus seeds indoors last week along with my brassicas. I have them all under a grow light right now; should I move the asparagus plants somewhere else? You said not to have them growing in direct sunlight and I wasn't sure exactly why.

Thanks!

WoundedEgo said...

Asparagus is a bit tender about a harsh summer when young, though mine endured our summer. If you summers are harsh, it is sometimes better to plant them in the fall, so they are established by the time the harsh summer comes along.

Simon Eade said...

In reply to Maggies question, It is because the juvenile foliage is so fine that it can be at risk of being damaged by diect sun. Hope this helps.

Your Favorite Neighbour said...

I have a question.... I just started some asparagus (a little later in the year than I had planned on :-/) from some heirloom seeds I got. The package wasn't very descriptive on how to grow them. I started them in regular seed starter with veggie potting soil underneath (prob about 1" of starter and 3 or 4" of soil) Dunno if that was right, but I dd it... Anyway, they've all sprouted and now they're really tall and spindly. Do I need to do somethingto support them or just let them be? My mum recently put them out on the back porch where they get morning and midday sun and she said today they look a little sad. But IDK how they are supposed to look? This is my first time trying asparagus atall muchless from seed :)

Linda said...

I started about 75 plants from seed this year and moved them to a temporary spot in my garden. Should I move them this fall to the new permanent spot or should I leave them until spring and then move them? The are doing really well. How far apart should I put them when moved and should they be covered over winter? I live in northern Alberta.

kschreib said...

I live near atlanta ga. Can I successfully plant asparagus here?

Thanks
Kevin

kschreib said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I've grown asparagus from seed and they are at least 2 foot tall. Do I cut them down in the first year. I plan to move them in April.

Anonymous said...

Hi i am wondering how to grow asparagus in doors me and my classmates with our teacher want to grow it and we need to know how and how much it needs sunlight and water and when so please give me all the information.. thanks

Robtho said...

Hi, I would like to know how many seeds to have enough crowns to produce one hectare??
Thanks in advance

Anonymous said...

I planted some seeds and have 2 full flower pots of asparagus plants. I'm wondering what to do over the winter since I haven't put them in a "bed" yet? We live in PA and it will be getting cooler every day now. I had really hoped to do a raised bed. I'd be grateful for any advice. THANK YOU!

Anonymous said...

I've been able to transplant asparagus that has come up from seed (bird planted). Can I take the seeds from the mature plants I have and use them for spring planting. If so when do I pick the berries; before or after the freeze?

misty said...

We have some wild asparagus at one of the farms, I stopped and seen it had these red berry looking things on it and some were white colored and have black seeds in them. I want to plant asparagus in my garden, here are my questions. Can I use these seeds, when do I plant, and what do I do with these seeds until planting?

. said...

Hello. I have a question regarding growing asparagus from seeds. This year (in May) I planted some 15 seeds of asparagus in pots. Now I have 10 your asparagus ferns, 2 inches tall. I noticed that most of the tops of the plants are light green in color, and one of them is getting light brown. Is it normal? I am worried about that one with light brown tip. Thanks