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Why is my asparagus so skinny? And do I harvest it?

Posted by babsh 4 (My Page) on
Thu, May 7, 09 at 23:50

I planted an asparagus bed 3 years ago. I have been giddy over the prospect of *finally* getting to harvest this year (year 3). But to my dismay, most of the spears are very skinny (thinner than a pencil).

1. Am I only supposed to harvest those that are thicker? Do I let them fern out already?

2. Why are the spears so thin? I know they get thinner as the season progresses, but these are the first ones of the year.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Why is my asparagus so skinny? And do I harvest it?

  • Posted by anney Georgia 8 (My Page) on
    Fri, May 8, 09 at 5:48

What variety are you growing, and how are you feeding them?

A three year-old bed should have some skinny ones and some larger ones, too, as the season progresses. I'd harvest sparingly this year and feed them well!

There is another possibility in addition to variety size and fertilization results.

Asparagus crowns migrate to the surface of the soil over time because the new crown grows on top of last year's crown every year. Asparagus beds should be maintained so 3 to 5 inches of soil covers the crowns. Crowns that are cultured too shallow yield spindly spears.

So even if you originally planted them at the correct depth, maybe the crowns of the plants are now too shallow to produce thick stalks.

I envy your being able to grow them. I've grown them when I lived near the coast and they were like weeds in the sandy salt-flavored soil, but I just haven't wanted to prepare this heavy Georgia clay soil for asparagus.

Maybe they'll surprise you with larger stalks a little later!

RE: Why is my asparagus so skinny? And do I harvest it?

This surprises me as we have a three-year old bed of Jersey Knight asparagus. We harvested just 12 stalks last year but harvested about 50 this year and are now letting the rest grow. A few of the stalks we cut were thicker than my thumb, most about index finger thick. We do not feed much so I'm thinking that maybe your crowns were very small to begin with and haven't sized up yet. We did have a few puny crowns and we have not been able to harvest from those, but the majority are thriving. Some things to consider:

Are they in full sun? That is a must.

Do you have an asparagus beetle problem? If so, deal with that as they can defoliate and weaken plants without it being really evident.

You will probably want to fertilize now. If the plants are not strong yet it will probably help.

Good luck!

RE: Why is my asparagus so skinny? And do I harvest it?

They are Jersey Knights, I believe. As far as feeding goes, I put a layer of compost in the fall and water with compost tea and fish emulsion throughout the year. I haven't done anything so far this year, though I know I should've fertilized b4 they sprouted.

I wonder if they aren't at the right depth? I guess I'll try digging a little and see. I am afraid I might damage something though.

Thanks for the feedback. It is great to be able to grow something so tasty. Living in Minnesota poses a lot of growing challenges, but definitely has some benefits as well!

RE: Why is my asparagus so skinny? And do I harvest it?

  • Posted by glib 5.5 (My Page) on
    Fri, May 8, 09 at 22:20

Could it be a pH problem? Asparagus is the least tolerant of acid soils. Easily cured with wood ash or lime (best applied in the Fall). Look around the area. Do you have dock or sheep sorrel as weeds? If they are there in numbers (sheep sorrel prefers sandy-acid, dock heavy-acid) you need to raise the pH. Other woodland plants prefer acid soils too.

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