Asparagus Quandry

exmarApril 22, 2012

Hi Folks,

We have an asparagus bed that's been there for about 7 years. The results have been far from spectacular. I dug deep, added composted horse manure, compost and good garden soil when the roots were planted. I'm suspicious of the proximity (6') from a fence which is overrun with honeysuckle. Twice a year I subsoil plow between the garden and asparagus and am always amazed at the size and quantity of roots which come up. I then chop them off. Yes, it's honeysuckle.

I'm thinking I should move the bed to another location. A friend suggested that instead of buying new roots, I should dig the ones I have as they'd be "better" or at least bigger. No idea if that's a good idea or not? When should you dig and divide/transplant asparagus, spring?

There's one other issue with these plants, when the spears break ground, they're already huge, usually about 1/2". By the time they're 6-8" tall they're almost 3/4" or more. My wife says they're fine as she only uses them for cream soup.

So, move bed, dig and replant roots we have or buy new, soil amendment needed to address huge spears, or did I plant some "huge" varietal when I initially purchased them?

Any thoughts, comments or suggestions appreciated.

Thanks for your time,


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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Do I understand you to be complaining that your asparagus spears are too fat????? I wish I had your 'problem' :) I don't know asparagus fashions in the US but spears that size are routinely marketed here and are excellent eating. They are absolutely fine cooked in any way you'd normally serve asparagus, as long as they are not fibrous. To only use them for soup seems a terrible waste. That's what the trimmings get turned into.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 10:20AM
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I'm with flora_uk... fat spears are the goal of many an asparagus grower.

I've encountered a lot of people, though, who think that slimmer is better because with many vegetables, slim means young and tender and big means over-mature and tough. Such is definitely NOT the case with asparagus. Spears do not grow fatter once they've poked through the soil; they emerge the width they stay (though the tops are slimmer than the bottoms, which may be why you *think* they're growing fatter).

Your asparagus patch sounds like it's thriving. Your fat spears mean the crowns are getting everything they need to push out lovely big ones. I'd leave the patch right where it is. They're obviously in their happy place. :)

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 10:47AM
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OK, I get the message....:-) I should have started this with stating that I don't care for asparagus, wife and kids are fanatics. I'm only going by what I see in the produce section and on cooking shows.

To further clarify, the bed is about 25' long and only prduces about 20-25 spears. However, as the year progresses, it becomes an impenetrable hedge over 8 feet tall. So, is it getting too much nitrogen or not enough of something else to balance out the growth?

Thanks for your responses,


    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 11:14AM
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If allowed to grow instead of being cut, the same spears you eat become the tall ferns creating that hedge you're talking about. Keep cutting the spears and the ferns won't form until you stop. It sounds like your production is fine, you're just not cutting spears for as long as you could. Seven-year-old crown are fully mature and you can cut them for a month or so, give or take depending on conditions. The more you cut, the more the crown will produce. Your spears are probably big and fat because you're not harvesting many spears. Allowing lots of them to grow is allowing the plant to collect and store more energy underground in its roots. I'll bet that if you harvest more, the spears will tend to be slimmer in subsequent years. Each crown only needs three or four spears to grow into ferns in order for the plants to produce the following spring. Allow more spears to fern and the plant can collect more energy = more and/or fatter spears the following year. Allow fewer spears to fern and the plant can't collect the energy it needs for big spears the following spring. If the energy reserves in the crown get really depleted, the crown will shoot up nothing but skinny little spears that are tough from the get go.

You might be more pleased with your patch if you pay less attention to it. ;) Harvest more and feed the plants less until the they're producing spears of a size your family prefers.

By the way, I always sort my spears and give the slimmest ones to my mother because she still believes that they're more tender (not that she'd know for sure because she refuses to try a fat one). Some people just have preferences and that's totally okay. :)

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 11:59AM
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Oh, and yes, the ferns will still grow that tall no matter how many are allowed to grow, so you have to place your asparagus patch accordingly. The hedge is huge and it will create shade on other plants. I put early-producing veggies in the area that's shaded by my patch so that they're harvested by the time the asparagus ferns totally shade that spot.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 12:06PM
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I plant my summer lettuce in the shade of the asparagus, which keeps it cooler.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 2:04PM
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Flora is absolutely right. Large spears are not good, The're Great. Perhaps the wife and kids don't know how to break the spears so that the fiberous part is left behind? If you have more than 10-12 inches you probably have too much, so cut the spear down. Then you hold the spear by the bottom in one hand and midway in the other and break away with the bottom hand so that the snap/break appears as near the bottom as it will snap.

The cooks probably just couldn't get the fat ones at the time of the show. Small ones are like the secondary broccoli florettes instead of the big broccoli crowns you see in the stores.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 5:56PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

But don't throw out the fibrous bits. Cook up the trimmings, strain the stock and make a cream of asparagus soup out of it. Two meals from one picking of asparagus.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 4:25AM
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