Asparagus is one of the easiest vegetables to grow in central Texas home gardens. However, it is not the most efficient crop. You will need a lot of growing space if your goal is to make several meals out of your harvest.
Origins of Asparagus
Asparagus is an old vegetable with different cultivars. It was grown in gardens 2000 years ago in the eastern Mediterranean, and wild varieties were found In Africa. The Greeks and Romans used it as an offering to their gods in their rituals. It came to America with the settlers, but it was not grown for market until the mid-1800s.
When to plant asparagus in Central Texas?
Asparagus is a cool-season vegetable. Transplants are usually available in nurseries in late fall. So planting them would around November. Bare roots or crowns start showing up in every garden center by the end of winter or early spring, which is the best time to plant asparagus.
Grow from seed vs crown
Growing asparagus from seed is quite time consuming. The seeds takes about eight weeks to germinate, then you will need to grow the plant for three more years to before getting any harvest.
Crowns are the main way to grow asparagus. They are usually two to three years old. After planting them you should give them a year or two before harvesting.
Asparagus planting requirements
Asparagus is a perennial crop and will grow in the same spot for at least 15 years. Before planting, choose a location that you will not disturb or need in the coming years.
Asparagus grows best in alkaline soil, which is not an issue in most central Texas regions. Prepare the soil by adding good compost or well-rotted manure. Make sure there is no weed competition around it, such as Bermuda grass. You can grow your asparagus in raised beds if the location drains poorly, as it does not stand wet feet.
Asparagus grows best in full sunlight, but it can take part shade.
Asparagus crowns are a bundle of roots that connect in the center, somewhat similar to a spider. At planting, slightly mound the soil, then lay the crown draping the roots on the sides. The top of the crown should be 5-6 inches below the soil.
Asparagus does not like dry soil. You should water as soon as you notice the first top inch of soil is dry. Watering frequency will vary depending on soil quality and the season.
Add an initial application of organic fertilizer at planting time. Then you can apply another dose mid-winter once established. After the last harvest, fertilize with a high nitrogen fertilizer to promote fern growth, which will feed the roots.
The crowns are two to three years old at purchase time, so in the first growing season, the spears come out very thin and should be left to grow into ferns. They grow up to four feet tall during the summer, then die back with the first hard frost.
Allowing the ferns to grow feeds the crowns encouraging better spear quality the following year. After two years of growth, the spears have a better thickness and are ready for harvest. Avoid harvesting any spears that are less than a pencil-size thick. Always leave a few spears to grow into the foliage to strengthen the roots.
How to care for asparagus?
Asparagus does not appreciate weed competition, especially during the first two years of growth. Make sure to remove any undesirable growth as soon as it appears. To help suppress the weeds, spread two to three inches of mulch.
At the first hard frost, cut back the yellow foliage to the ground and add some compost to the bed. Sometimes a few spears appear in the winter if it is not cold enough, and they are edible.
Asparagus beetle is the main pest that could destroy your asparagus. The insect overwinters in the plant debris, which you must discard immediately after cutting it back. If you encounter a beetle feeding on your asparagus, just hand puck it or use an organic insecticide in case of an infestation.
Asparagus is another great vegetable to add to your diet, especially that it is low in calories. It is a powerful antioxidant with its high load of vitamin C, E, and flavonoids. It is also high in fiber, which promotes good gut health.
What causes the strange pee smell?
Asparagus contains a unique acid called asparagusic acid. Once digested, it breaks down into sulfur-containing byproducts. When you pee, the sulfur evaporates immediately, causing an unpleasant smell.