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Mar 9, 2012 10:58 AM

Can I Salvage My Asparagus Plants?

I planted some asparagus last spring. I'm a bit of a newbie, and I didn't pay much attention to my soil. Imagine my surprise when almost nothing sprouted... Anyway, if I fertilize carefully can I expect the plants to come up this year, or should I buy some new roots? And assuming they do sprout this year, can I harvest any, or should I call this the first year and forgo the harvest? What do you think?

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  1. I think your roots died. Read a good article on starting an asparagus bed. You need to dig trenches, set roots and fill in gradually. I would not harvest any stalk that isn't at least the thickness of a pencil. Let the stalks develop into tall fronds to feed the roots.

    4 Replies
    1. re: dfrostnh

      Thanks for the reply. I did try those things - dug trenches, filled in gradually - or would have, but almost nothing came up. Can you recommend a good article?

      1. re: CoachJ

        The thoughts on deep trenches and and gradual fill has changed. I followed the advice in this article and had amazing results. We even snuck a few stalks the planting year because there was so much asparagus. I hope you have similar success if you try it.

        1. re: joaniebaby

          That's an interesting article. I usually trust university fact sheets.
          Here's the growing sheet from Johnny's. Note the warning to keep roots moist if you can't plant right away. If the OP bought roots late in the planting season, the roots could have been dried out/dead. But, maybe you'll see something this year.

          1. re: dfrostnh

            Agreed about the watering. And one thing the article doesn't state, but that I did, was soak the roots overnight before planting. The guy at the place I bought them told me that was helpful too.

    2. I had some asparagus that were slow to start - as in, first year after planting crowns, only one plant sent up shoots, the next year a couple moreplants revived...but none of them really ever got going strong. If you have room for a new bed (or can remember exactly where you'd planted before and can squeeze them in) it's probably worth it to put in new crowns.

      1. I've got about 9 sprouts. One is really nice and large, a good 2 feet tall. The others are kind of puny. They're mostly in one furrow, with a few in a second. I'm hoping the third furrow will join the party, and they'll fill in around the sprouts I have. Sound realistic?

        4 Replies
        1. re: CoachJ

          I don't know where you are, but if you are in the northern half of the US, it is still early for asparagus. Don't give up hope just yet. Keep the weeds under control, add a little compost/manure to the row.

          1. re: sparrowgrass

            I'm in Massachusetts, where it's been absurdly warmer than usual. But we have frost warnings for the next couple of nights...

            Can I add fertilizer and/or compost to the rows that have already come up? I don't plan on harvesting any this year, if that matters.

            1. re: CoachJ

              If it freezes, your sprouts will shrivel and die--might as well eat them!! You can harvest lightly this year--according to the Ohio site posted above, early harvest stimulated more buds on the roots.

              Yes, you can add fertilizer/compost now. According to the U of Illinois site:

              Asparagus should be fertilized in the same way as the rest of the garden the first 3 years. In the spring, apply 10-10-10, 12-12-12 or 15-15-15 fertilizer at the rate of 20 to 25 pounds per 1,000 square feet of area or 2 pounds per 100 square feet and incorporate with soil tillage. Starting in the fourth year, apply the same amount of fertilizer but delay application until June or July (immediately after the final harvest). This approach encourages vigorous growth of the "fern," which produces and stores nutrients in the roots for next year's production season.

              I 'side dress' my asparagus in the spring--put your fertilizer/manure on the ground next to your row, and lightly incorporate it into the soil. My garden is slightly sloped, so I put it on the uphill side--the rain will take it down to the roots.

              I also mulch my plants on either side--helps keep the weeds down and the moisture constant.

          2. re: CoachJ

            Hooray! Glad the p[lnats made it through.

            I'm just north of Boston. My asparagus (new plnats put in last fall, in a new location) are sending up big firns at this point. I did snek a spear or two early on, simply for the novelty of munching fresh asaragus in the garden in March. Who knows when that opportunity will come again? :-)