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How much asparagus to plant? What yields to expect?

 
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This year I’d like to plant some asparagus crowns. I’d like to have enough planted to be able to go out there in asparagus season and harvest 1 or 2 pounds at a time (or more), enough for a big family side dish. I like to feel like there is an abundance of food and to just harvest it and tell the kids they can eat up as much raw as they like, but asparagus crowns cost money, and there’s lots of other things I can be growing, so I don’t want to go too far overboard.

I could always feed the excess to the goats if we get too much, I just have no idea how much to plant!

How much yield would you get per week for 10 plants?

How many asparagus crowns would you plant, if trying to grow food for 8 people that love vegetables?

And another asparagus question… Some places say not to harvest any at all the first year it’s planted - is this just for seed-grown asparagus, or is it for crowns as well? What actually happens if you harvest some in the first year?
 
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I grew some Mary Washington from seed around 5 years ago. I think you need more than 10 crowns.

I'm working my way up to 50 plants, so that there's 10 plants per person in the ground. Each plant usually puts up one spear at a time, so with us, with around 30 plants, we'll go out and maybe 6 spears are ready... then we put them in water in the fridge and a few days later 10 more, and then with around 3 pickings we have enough for a good meal. With 10, I feel like your max spears at a time would be quite low. Maybe as mine grow they'll put up more than one spear at once...But the spears are pretty big and the root balls are massive, and i still think we need more to feel abundance!
 
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I have planted 30 crowns this year and I'm hopeful that it will provide a good side for the two of us, each time we harvest. I planted an older variety - Connivers Colossal - which apparently produces considerably less than some of the modern varieties.

A bed with 30 crowns occupies quite a bit of space. This isn't a problem for us but it may be something you want to consider.

On the crowns versus seed debate, crowns will have a head start and allow you to skip a year or so. I've heard that you still shouldn't harvest in year one or year two, however, as you are trying to allow the crowns to grow and expand. Take a light harvest in the third year and then go for it after that! I have also heard that picking the spears in the centre of the bed and letting those are the edge grow up is a good way to encourage the asparagus crowns to spread outwards and become more productive.

My experience is that, in the first year, the crowns have produced very small spears that do not look very appetising. Much better to let the plants establish and be patient.
 
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Kate,

Since you are wanting food fairly quickly, I recommend planting root crowns.  Some sellers sell older root crowns that can theoretically be picked the first year, though I would want to wait at least a year to let them get established.

On another point, asparagus is a pretty hungry plant and your yield will depend heavily upon the fertility of your soil.  In particular, asparagus likes nitrogen.  This means that you will want to do something to get extra nitrogen to your plants.  This could be accomplished by adding in an organic fertilizer like blood meal or compost/ comfrey tea; adding some type of cover crop; or my personal favorite—add in biology to work synergistically with your asparagus.

Eric
 
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Jo Hunter wrote:I'm working my way up to 50 plants, so that there's 10 plants per person in the ground. Each plant usually puts up one spear at a time, so with us, with around 30 plants, we'll go out and maybe 6 spears are ready... then we put them in water in the fridge and a few days later 10 more, and then with around 3 pickings we have enough for a good meal.



We have 24 3-year old crowns and get enough for the two of us to have several meals in late spring. I collect several spears a day and put them in a jar with some water until I have enough for a meal. I don't pick anything smaller than pencil sized diameter and at a certain point, I stop harvesting and let them get on with growing and strengthening their root systems.

I agree with Jo that you will need a lot more than 10 crowns for a big family. But they sure do take up a lot of space. The nice part is that they are low maintenance for me.
 
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As others have said, I think you will need quite a few plants to feed that many people.  I look at it as a long term investment.  Whatever you spend on the plants, you will be harvesting food from them for literally decades.  That is a very hard investment to beat.

I'm hoping to get to at least 40 plants for the two of us.
 
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If money rather than time is your limiting factor, then many varieties of Asparagus grows fairly easily from seed: I have Connovers Colossus and Argentuil Early, Mary Washington is another commonly available variety. They will take an extra year or so to get to cropping size, but you could start them in a nursery bed and transfer the better plants in the second year.
There have been a few threads on companion planting with Asparagus - this way the space they take up can be stacked with other crops. The consensus is that this doesn't necessarily affect the yield if the plants are well fed. Here is the most recent thread discussing this: https://permies.com/t/185149/Companion-planting-Asparagus
 
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This is my asparagus after ~4 months of growing. It is quite small at the moment and struggled early on due to slug pressure. My point is even crowns grown in rich soil/compost will take a long time to get established.
progress.jpg
[Thumbnail for progress.jpg]
 
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Seeds vs crowns: I didn't have the option of crowns here in India, so I started asparagus from seeds. I found that I was getting a modest harvest on year 3 and a good bit on year 4, of super fat spears that were very tender and yummy. I expect bigger yields on year 5. My understanding is that if you plant crowns you still shouldn't harvest in year 1 or 2, so crowns don't seem to actually give you a major head start over seeds (I've read this too).

Yield: Asparagus has a low yield of weight of vegetable for its area, but if you mulch deeply then it's very little work once they get established. In my climate I have to irrigate, but if your climate has normal rain you won't even have to do that except during a drought. I irrigate with a hose at ground level onto the mulch. I fertilise occasionally with some liquid gold in the irrigation water tank, haha, but I don't add any other compost because I don't want to disturb the deep mulch. Upshot: It's excellent yield to work ratio but poor yield to area ratio. So it depends on your resources. I've seen listed that you should calculate 20 plants per asparagus-loving adult in the house.

Male::Female: I got "Jersey Knight" seeds from the US that are supposed to be 75 - 90 % male, but I find at least half the plants are female. These produce prodigious numbers of berries, which is a bit of a problem, because they produce lots of tiny seedlings the next year if I don't remove the berries before they ripen. The tiny seedlings are weeds, almost the only weeds able to come up in the deeply mulched asparagus beds, and they are said to cause crowding and reduction of yield. But I think maybe the female plants are the ones giving surprisingly fat spears. If crowns give you much fewer females that would be a major benefit.

Beds & Companions: My asparagus beds are 4 feet (1.3 m) wide, with two rows of asparagus plants about 2 feet (60 cm) apart down the length of the bed, spaced about 12 to 18 inches in their rows. In one bed I planted daffodils down the middle, which works nicely because they bloom at the same time as the asparagus harvest, and do their annual photosynthesising while the spears are small or being harvested. When the spears are allowed to grow up into ferns and shade the daffs, then the daff leaves are already turning yellow. I don't know if this is a good long term companion as the 'gus roots get bigger, though. In the other three 'gus beds, I've allowed super early leafy greens and flowers to reseed around the edges, and that also works well for me. In my case it's mostly lettuce, rocket, red orach, and a little cilantro and red mustard, all of which prefer full sun in the early spring when the 'gus is just spears, and once it's ferned up, the leafies are finished and can be easily pulled or left to reseed. Parsley isn't a good choice because it survives the winter, bolts the second year, and its deep taproot can't be pulled out without damaging the asparagus.
 
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Kate Downham wrote:This year I’d like to plant some asparagus crowns. I’d like to have enough planted to be able to go out there in asparagus season and harvest 1 or 2 pounds at a time (or more), enough for a big family side dish. I like to feel like there is an abundance of food and to just harvest it and tell the kids they can eat up as much raw as they like, but asparagus crowns cost money, and there’s lots of other things I can be growing, so I don’t want to go too far overboard.
I could always feed the excess to the goats if we get too much, I just have no idea how much to plant!
How much yield would you get per week for 10 plants?
How many asparagus crowns would you plant, if trying to grow food for 8 people that love vegetables?
And another asparagus question… Some places say not to harvest any at all the first year it’s planted - is this just for seed-grown asparagus, or is it for crowns as well? What actually happens if you harvest some in the first year?




I can only tell you that 50 Millennial asparagus crowns for 2 people, [one of them who doesn't like asparagus] is probably too much [Ha: ask me how I know!]
Taking your statements in the order given:
Feeding it to the goats: Asparagus are at a premium in the spring, and if you have a Farmers' market, I would either sell them there, or offer them to a farmer that is selling other veggies: split the take 50/50? Otherwise, you might want to can/ freeze them. [This year, I'm cutting them in 1 or 2" lengths, making sure I only snap them so I don't have any woody stems, blanch them quickly, then chill them and lay them on cookie sheets, put in the freezer overnight, then vacuum seal them in bags].
I do love them fresh, so I gorge on fresh asparagus, on their own, raw or in salads in the spring and you are doing that already.
As far as the amount you should plant, that depends on your soil, your climate, if you plant seeds or crowns and the specific cultivar. Seeds will give you male and female plants  and the female plants will give you more seeds. Crowns will only be male, so they won't go to seed. Going to seed does tire a plant and you need to feed more.
As far as harvesting the first year: these crowns need all the strength that a full foliage will give them for the 2nd season: If you pick everything, your plant will be exhausted and that can be long term, with asparagus that can never recover enough to give you the "promised" yield. [Take the promised yield with a grain of salt as these specimens are raised in almost ideal conditions.]
I picked very sparingly the first year that I put my Millennials in the ground [one asparagus/ plant, only if I saw a couple more coming, and only if they were thumb size].
 
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True Food TV on YouTube - Asparagus: How Does it Grow?

We have enjoyed this channel as she goes over a variety of plants, how they grow, and how they are dealt with commercially.  She has several other videos specifically about asparagus, including why not to harvest initially, why it impacts the odour of urine, and more.

Alas, the crowns we planted last year got put in late and I believe they are microbe food at this point.  We will try again, but I don't know whether we may be too late to get crowns this year, or if they are sold as plants later on at the nurseries.
 
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I have a small asparagus bed- originally 4 crowns- on a low berm about 10 ft from the street, and there are also some roses and perennials there. After 8 years or so things seemed to be slowing down, despite mulching with bagged manure. This year the first shoots were very skinny, and my first picking was 2 of pencil caliber.
In desperation I gave the area a "golden shower", which, considering the location right by the street, was administered by gallon jug. WOW! everywhere I "fertigated", up popped bigger spears. second picking was X3 considering weight, and they seemed to be spreading in the thick mulch. As a kid a couple miles S. of Lake Ontario I picked wild asparagus on the sandy ridges from past lake levels and brought 'em home to Mum, so besides mulch I have added sand at times, which I got at the coast. So far I haven't seen any 1 inch caliper spears, but I am being careful to leave the biggest and merely thin, and the bed does seem to be building energy and spreading. My "gardener snakes" seem to be living in the mulch and maybe keeping the slugs down, because there's been little slug damage: so far this year only one spear has been damaged. The slug was detained for interrogation, but maintained silence, and so was released to the driveway but could not find shelter before a bird found him/her.
 
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to buy them at a good price they are usually sold by the 1000 lot size, yeah I know you only want 2 or 3 pounds. I'm a firm believer in planting as much as possible. if you have space enough start out with 100 crowns and see how it goes. it takes a couple years for them to get established. but asparagus for me anyway is addictive.  I can eat it every day in the spring
asparagus is a beautiful crop in that after getting established it needs very little to no maintenance, like rhubarb and blueberries  and it comes back year after year, very few pests bother it and you can even get a second cutting each year if you want even if the second growth stalks are much thinner than the first.
 
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Rick Valley wrote:I have a small asparagus bed- originally 4 crowns- on a low berm about 10 ft from the street, and there are also some roses and perennials there. After 8 years or so things seemed to be slowing down, despite mulching with bagged manure. This year the first shoots were very skinny, and my first picking was 2 of pencil caliber.
In desperation I gave the area a "golden shower", which, considering the location right by the street, was administered by gallon jug. WOW! everywhere I "fertigated", up popped bigger spears. second picking was X3 considering weight, and they seemed to be spreading in the thick mulch. As a kid a couple miles S. of Lake Ontario I picked wild asparagus on the sandy ridges from past lake levels and brought 'em home to Mum, so besides mulch I have added sand at times, which I got at the coast. So far I haven't seen any 1 inch caliper spears, but I am being careful to leave the biggest and merely thin, and the bed does seem to be building energy and spreading. My "gardener snakes" seem to be living in the mulch and maybe keeping the slugs down, because there's been little slug damage: so far this year only one spear has been damaged. The slug was detained for interrogation, but maintained silence, and so was released to the driveway but could not find shelter before a bird found him/her.




Sometimes, the first shoots are quite skinny. It doesn't mean that the crown is failing or is missing something. Some come out of dormancy timidly. Perhaps they were planted deeper. The first showing isn't as telling as the second showing, 2-3 days later. At 8 years of age, your asparagus should still be good for another 7-8 years if weeded religiously and mulched.
The recommended balance is 10-10-10, applied right after the spring harvest is over so it makes lots of fronds, which in turn energize the crowns for the following year. If your soil is tighter,  you can also give it another application after there is snow on the ground. This way, the nitrogen won't go down until early spring, after snow melt. I don't add anything besides mulch in the fall because my soil is too sandy: If I were to apply some, with the first rain, it would go down past the root zone and be lost to my crop. They like it quite sandy.
This is what Veganic Culture is saying about our pee: "Our urine contains significant levels of nitrogen, as well as phosphorous and potassium. The relative ratios are typically around 11 parts nitrogen to 1 part phosphorus to 2.5 parts potassium. Americans produce about 90 million gallons of urine a day, containing about 7 million pounds of nitrogen".
So yeah, asparagus will respond to a treat like this.
Incidentally, the largest spears on my property come from a volunteer that started growing on the North East side of a shooting berm, made from ... a lot of sand. It is common for this hill to have 8-10 spears at once, and its growing season is long. The spears are often thumb thick and I have so many asparagus plant that I wasn't  fertilizing or mulching it. It is maybe 3-4 years old? This one seems to thrive on neglect. go figure!
 
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I haven't planted asparagus, but it is on my list.  My question is, how much water do they require during the summer months (hot and dry here in Oregon)?
 
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