My Asparagus Is Too Thin: Causes For Thick Asparagus Spears
Asparagus is one of the most popular vegetables in the world. It grows wild all over the world, but it’s only grown commercially in some countries like Japan and Italy.
You might think that asparagus would grow well everywhere else, but unfortunately it doesn’t. There are several reasons why asparagus isn’t as common in other places. Here are some of them:
1) Climate – Asparagus needs warm weather to thrive.
So when it gets cold, the plant dies back. That’s why asparagus is usually found in warmer climates.
If you live in a colder climate, then your asparagus will probably die back too if you don’t give it enough sunlight or water regularly.
2) Soil – Asparagus prefers sandy soil.
But if you live in a place with clay soils, then your asparagus won’t survive very long.
3) Pests & Diseases – Some pests and diseases attack asparagus plants.
These include aphids, scale insects, spider mites, powdery mildew and others. To prevent these pests from destroying your asparagus plants, you need to use pesticides on them periodically.
4) Lack of Knowledge – Most people don’t know how to take care of asparagus properly.
If you’re one of those people who don’t know much about growing asparagus, then your plant probably isn’t growing very well.
That’s why asparagus is usually only commercially grown in certain places around the world. In places where they don’t grow asparagus, they import it from other places instead.
If you’re a gardener in such an area, then you won’t be able to grow asparagus either.
You can overcome the problem of climate by creating a greenhouse to give your asparagus enough warmth to survive throughout the winter. You can also add compost to your soil to improve its quality.
You can prevent some pests by using pesticides, but you might have to deal with others. You might even have to deal with diseases. If you live in an area with cold winters like the Midwest, then asparagus probably won’t be able to survive through the winter.
So if you really want to grow asparagus, then you’re going to have a difficult time. Unless you live in the right climate or are willing to take the steps to give your asparagus a great environment, then you’re not going to be able to grow it.
Tools To Help You Grow Asparagus
As mentioned before, growing asparagus can be difficult. It’s not impossible though.
If you want success in your endeavor of growing asparagus, then you’re going to need some tools. Without the right tools, you’re probably not going to be successful. You may not even like asparagus too much.
So here are some tools that you need in order to grow asparagus:
1) Spade – To cut out a bed for your asparagus.
2) Asparagus Seeds – These are pretty hard to find, unless you’re a seed-savings expert.
3) Soil Test Kit – To see what kind of nutrients your soil needs.
4) Compost Pile – To make your own rich soil for growing asparagus.
5) Raised Beds – If you don’t have sandy soil, you can always build a raised bed to improve the soil.
6) Fertilizer – To give your plants a boost with the nutrients they need, but no more than what’s needed.
7) Pesticides & Other Chemicals – To keep your asparagus plants healthy and producing great shoots.
Without these, you’ll have a tough time growing asparagus.
8) Tiller – If you don’t want to use a shovel to turn over the soil every season, then you may want to get a tiller.
9) Watering Can – To make sure your asparagus gets enough water.
10) Shade Structure – If you live in an area with a lot of sun, then you could build a shade-structure for your asparagus so it doesn’t get fried in the summer heat.
You may also want to enlist the help of some friends and family members in building a bed and planting the asparagus shoots. It probably would take several people to do the job quickly enough before the asparagus starts growing.
If you really want to get fancy, you could build a small trellis for your asparagus to grow up instead of out. This will help you later when you need to harvest the asparagus.
However, you’ll need to bend over more often to pick the shoots when they’re young. Otherwise, the asparagus will run right through the wires and you won’t be able to reach them at all.
As you can see, there are several steps involved in growing asparagus. It’s not just a matter of plopping the seeds into the ground and waiting a few years.
It takes a little hard work and dedication.
Are you ready for this challenge?
You may also run into the problem of your neighbors. If they see you building a raised bed or putting down seed, they may get suspicious. Some folks call the cops if they think someone is growing marijuana. So be prepared for a visit from the police asking what you’re doing with a bunch of plants. You may even have to show them a license. Otherwise, they may take matters into their own hands (literally) and just destroy your garden without asking questions.
Is It All Worth It?
So is it all worth it? Should you go through all the effort to grow asparagus in your backyard?
The answer to this question really depends on who you are.
If you’re someone who loves asparagus and eats it on a regular basis, then it definitely would be worthwhile to grow it yourself. In fact, the taste of asparagus that you grow yourself will taste so much better than what you can get from the grocery store.
It’s almost like eating something completely different.
If you can get someone else to do the work for you (like the wife), then it’s really not all that bad. Every two years you’ll need to prepare a new bed, but after that, you can just enjoy the harvest for years to come.
If you live in an apartment or have limited space, then growing asparagus may not be for you. You would need a place where you could set up a garden and this isn’t something you can do indoors.
Lastly, as mentioned earlier, there is some work and time involved with growing asparagus. You can’t just plant the seeds and walk away.
You’ll need to prepare the soil, keep it free of weeds, and water it regularly. Once the shoots start growing, you’ll have to thin them out so they aren’t too close together. It’s a lot of manual labor (some people even use a hoe) and it can definitely be taxing on your back.
In any case, growing asparagus can be fun and it can also be a great source of fresh produce for your family. If you like the idea of doing it yourself, but you’re just not sure if you’re up to the challenge, then just find someone who loves you enough that they’re willing to do all the work!
If you’re ready to get started right away, then check out the step-by-step guide below. It will show you exactly what you need to do from the very beginning.
Also, if you haven’t already, be sure to check out the videos on this page to see how other folks are growing asparagus in containers.
Table of Contents:
Overview of Growing Asparagus in Containers
As you probably know, growing asparagus in containers can be a bit challenging. It takes a lot of dedication and patience because it takes years before the plants fully take off.
Before that happens, you have to prepare the soil properly and add additional elements to help the ferns grow big and strong.
If you’re up for the challenge though, you’ll definitely reap some great benefits. Not only do you get to eat asparagus every day (or whenever you want), but you’ll also get to enjoy the beautiful foliage that accompanies it.
The ferns have beautiful green and white stripes that add a nice accent to any garden bed or even your front porch (if you have one).
Here’s a list of what you’ll need to get started:
Soil – You can either make your own, or purchase it at a local home improvement store.
Plastic Container (or wooden) – This will act as the container in which you’ll plant your asparagus. You can also use a wooden box or make your own container from wood.
Just make sure it has a good drainage system.
Fertilizer – While the asparagus will grow fine in normal soil, to get bigger and healthier plants, you should add some fertilizer to the soil before planting.
Seeds or Seedlings – Whether you get the seeds or seedlings really depends on what type you want and how quickly you want to get growing.
Protective Gear – While asparagus doesn’t normally bother people, everyone’s skin is different. You may end up with a sensitivity to the sap, which can cause a rash.
It isn’t common, but it happens. Also you’ll need some gloves and safety goggles while you’re working too.
Begin by preparing the container and soil. In most cases, a normal garden bed will work just fine.
However, if the soil is too wet or too dry (especially dry), then you may need to add more soil to the mix. After you’re done, it should feel like play dough. If you make a fist and push it into the soil, it should slowly fall apart. If it doesn’t, then it isn’t wet enough. If you punch all the way through, then it’s too wet.
While you can buy premade asparagus soil, you’ll get a better yield if you make your own. To do this, begin by spreading some old newspapers around the area where you’ll be working.
You’ll need to do this to protect your floors from the soil. Next, get a load of manure. If you have livestock, such as cows or horses, you can gather it yourself. Otherwise you’ll need to find a local farmer and ask if you can have some (for free of course). Spread the manure out in thin layers and let it sit so that it can compost. Once it’s broken down completely, you’re good to go. Add three inches of it to your container and you’re ready to begin.
Plant the seeds or seedlings. You can get the seeds from the store or you can simply buy a few small asparagus plants to save time.
If you do purchase seedlings, be sure to dig trenches for them rather than putting them in the middle of the area. This way they’ll have somewhere to fall back on once they start growing up towards the light source. If you’re planting seeds, simply dig small holes (about an inch deep) and plant them about an arm’s length apart.
Once you’ve either planted the seedlings or seeds, it’s time to water them. First, you need to let the soil dry out completely.
You can do this by hand, or simply wait a few days if the weather is arid. Once it’s dry, begin watering it. Use a gentle spray at first so that the seeds or seedlings don’t float away, then slowly increase to a trickle. If you put your hand in the soil at this point, it should feel damp but not too wet. Add or remove water as necessary until it feels right.
Add some fertilizer. Manure is great for fertilizer, but in the case that you don’t have any or can’t get any, you can use store bought fertilizer instead.
Follow the directions on the side of the container for best results.
Add a trellis support system. Each asparagus plant has a natural tendency to send out shoots towards the sky in an attempt to reach the sun.
You’ll need to add a trellis system at this point to make sure that it grows upward rather than outward. Simply push some twine or wire mesh into the ground about a foot high and tie it off.
Soil, Water, Fertilizer and Sunlight
That’s all there is to it! Watch your plants carefully over the next few weeks and prune them back if necessary.
As they grow taller, you may also need to add more soil under them. Be sure to keep watering them too, especially in hot weather. In fact, it’s best to water them every other day or so in warm or dry weather. You don’t want to drown the plants, but you do want them to have enough moisture that the leaves are glossy.
As for sunlight, you’ll want to keep the plants in a place that gets at least a few hours of sunlight a day. While they can grow in light shade, they tend to taste better if they’re grown in full sun.
That’s all there is to it. Just make sure you harvest them before the first hard frost and you’ll be enjoying your own home grown asparagus in no time!
Tips for Harvesting
Harvesting your asparagus is a little different than what you may be used to. With most plants, you simply pull them out of the ground and they’re good to go.
Asparagus isn’t quite that simple though. You need to follow a few steps to ensure that you get the most out of your harvest. The first thing you’ll need is a sharp knife or pair of garden shears. This will be used to cut through the stalk near the base.
The next thing you’ll need is a big pot. You’ll need to fill this pot with water and bring it to a boil on your stove.
Once the water is boiling, you can add the stalks to the pot and boil them for about ten minutes.
After that, you simply need to trim away the ends and voila! You have delicious home grown asparagus that’s ready to eat.
You can also can or freeze the asparagus for later consumption if you find yourself with more than you know what to do with.
Note: If you find that the asparagus starts growing ferns, you can still eat it. The ferns are actually quite nutritious and delicious.
Warning: Asparagus is only good for so long after it’s been harvested. Eat it within three days of cutting it and it will be perfect.
After that, the nutrients start breaking down and it becomes inedible. So be sure to harvest your asparagus on time.
Sources & references used in this article:
Conjoint analysis reveals consumers prefer long, thin asparagus spears by BK Behe – HortScience, 2006 – journals.ashs.org
Effect of cultivars and deep freeze storage on saponin content of white asparagus spears (Asparagus officinalis L.) by A Schwarzbach, M Schreiner, D Knorr – European Food Research and …, 2006 – Springer
Development of a rapid HPLC‐UV method for simultaneous quantification of protodioscin and rutin in white and green asparagus spears by EJ Lee, KS Yoo, BS Patil – Journal of food science, 2010 – Wiley Online Library