Planting Asparagus Bare Roots in a Raised Bed
Did you know that I have failed at growing asparagus once before? Honestly, I still get mad at myself because I was so darn close to homegrown asparagus. Technically, I did actually sample one spear and it was delicious! Today I’m going to share about planting asparagus bare roots for Spring, but also tell you the story of my previous asparagus so you don’t make the same mistakes I did.
Planting a Perennial Asparagus Patch
Edible perennials are the biggest contributors to a backyard food garden! Essentially, these are plants that will come back year after year and provide you with insanely delicious, homegrown food. In fact, one of my very favorite edible perennials for the garden is artichokes. If you’ve been following me a while, you know how much we love our artichoke bed that has been producing the most prolific artichokes for several years now (photo below). You can check out my Artichoke Growing FAQ if you’d like to learn more. Honestly, I don’t find asparagus plants to be really attractive in the garden, but they do make up for it in terms of value (asparagus is so expensive in stores). This is just my personal opinion.
Asparagus patches can produce for more than a decade if cared for properly. This is why it’s important to find an area of the garden you can dedicate to them if possible. Otherwise, I think it’s fine to try growing asparagus wherever you want! Just know that the longevity of your patch might suffer. Asparagus need full sun too.
Planting Asparagus Bare Root Crowns versus Seeds
My first experience growing asparagus was actually from seed. Honestly, it was extremely rewarding and straightforward. The only thing to factor to consider when growing asparagus from seed is the fact that it can be three years or more until you can harvest your spears—whereas starting an asparagus patch from crowns (bare roots) can give you a head start of 1-2 years. Stores sell asparagus crowns at different sizes, so one size might be a 2 year old plant as opposed to a “jumbo crown” (which is three years I think). Essentially, that just means less wait-time until your first harvest.
This year, I decided that I was going to be planting asparagus bare root crowns because I really do want to get started on some homegrown asparagus ASAP! Additionally, I ended up re-starting some precoce d’argenteuil asparagus from seed as well. I have twenty five spots in the raised bed, so I’m planting eight bare roots and the rest will be my asparagus started from seed.
My Previous Asparagus Planting Experience
It was three years ago that I sowed my very first asparagus seeds. Yes. I originally grew my asparagus from seed! Honestly, it was a thrill to watch the baby asparagus germinate and push through the soil of my seed cells. Let me tell you, I definitely want to share about growing asparagus from seed again but that’s a story for another day. For now, I’m going to share why my seed-grown asparagus failed.
Admittedly, I had done all the reading and found a dedicated area in my garden to start my perennial asparagus patch. This specific spot was behind my raised bed, in-ground near an apricot tree. At first, everything went well—it was so cool! The bushy fern-like foliage grew and I just let the asparagus do its thing the first year. If you’re familiar with growing asparagus, you’ll know that it’s not the type of crop that you get to enjoy the first year after planting….or the second, and sometimes even the third. It’s often said the third year is when you can start to lightly harvets spears.
Avoid my asparagus growing mistake
Going into my second year with my precious asparagus grown from seed, everything was looking great. Honestly this variety ‘precoce d’argenteuil’ was a vigorous grower, and I saw a nice size spear my second year! Unable to resist temptation, I did harvest one spear from one plant. I do not regret a thing.
The second winter is when I made my biggest mistake! Somehow, I had irrigated the area too heavily during the colder months and never checked on the asparagus patch. Essentially, when Spring rolled around, every single asparagus plant had rotted away. My asparagus were all gone! Literally, the word ‘heartbroken’ doesn’t capture how sad and disappointed I was in myself. So, if you can learn anything from my own experience, it’s that you need to be careful with your irrigation during the winter months when your asparagus plants are dormant.
Soaking & Planting Asparagus Bare Root Crowns
Since you now know the backstory, let’s move on to the asparagus we will be planting now. Purple passion is a very common and vigorous variety of purple asparagus. If you take a look at the package (purchased from Home Depot) you’ll see that it says the crowns are “two years old” meaning that I might be able to enjoy a tiny harvest of asparagus next Spring (2024). If you google “how to plant asparagus crowns” or about planting asparagus, you’ll get a lot of info that seems overwhelming. Also, many growers actually dig trenches to plant their asparagus crowns which is not applicable to the specific area where I am planting my purple asparagus this time.
This year, I have a plan to add three new raised garden beds to my garden so I’ve decided to take one of my old raised garden beds and dedicate it to my purple asparagus. This proposed raised bed gets pretty much full sun and has a Garden Grid Watering System already installed—-this is how I plan to better regulate my watering this time.
I lightly soaked the asparagus crowns in water for about 10 minutes before planting. You can see all these steps in more detail if you watch our asparagus planting YouTube video.
Planting asparagus bare roots in a raised bed is different
Almost all the information I saw online was for growing asparagus in the ground. Essentially, you dig a long trench, arrange the asparagus bare roots in the trench, and cover the crowns with soil gradually. I decided to focus on one common fact: the crowns of the asparagus should end up being 6 inches deep at the end of this whole process. Therefore, I figured out how I would plant my asparagus bare roots in my raised bed so that they eventually ended up with the crowns being 6” inches deep.
For documentation’s sake, I filmed a video of how we planted our asparagus bare roots in the raised bed—you can watch it now on YouTube.
Ideally, step one of this process was to remove soil from the raised bed so that there was about 4-6 inches between the soil level and the top level of our wood bed. I kept all the removed soil in a Rubbermaid tub, so I could easily add it back into the raised bed as needed.
Amending Soil for Asparagus
Step two for planting our asparagus was to amend the soil a bit with some organic composted chicken manure, homemade compost, and some bone meal. The bone meal is supposed to act as a source of phosphorus for the asparagus (as phosphorus is an ideal amendment for root development). I mixed it into the soil and even into some of our fill soil in the Rubbermaid container.
Planting the asparagus
Step three for planting the asparagus bare roots was to take our soaked roots and gently lay them in their designated spots. Thankfully, using a Garden Grid for irrigation means that I knew how far apart to space my asparagus. Each grid is one foot square, so I simply places one asparagus per square. It’s important to note that you can spread the asparagus roots out like an octopus when planting. Instead of digging a hole down for the roots, you can splay them outwards from the crown and place them in their spot on top of the soil.
Step four is to cover your asparagus crowns! In many tutorials I’ve seen, gardeners come back every couple weeks to fill the soil trenches gradually over the crowns. It’s possible you could simply plop all the soil on top and hope for the best, but I did like being able to see the crowns start to push through the soil before burying deeper. I covered each crown with about an inch or so of soil and waited for the asparagus to push through the soil.
Cover Your Asparagus Gradually
Finally, as your asparagus starts to appear, continue to cover the spears (gently!) with a couple more inches of soil. Soon you’ll reach the top of the raised bed and voila! You’re done planting your asparagus bare roots! Also, you’ll know that the crowns of your asparagus are planted deep enough and have not rotted away!
Watering Asparagus Plants
After planting our bare roots, I did water the soil well. As with many bare roots, you do not want them to dry out but also don’t want them to rot either. Therefore, I’ve been watering my asparagus patch carefully since we planted it—-I check it daily just to see if the spears are poking through and I check to make sure the soil is moist but not soggy. Ideally, asparagus won’t be this high-maintenance in the long run but, for now, I’m being careful because of my last experience with growing asparagus! An asparagus patch is definitely a long-term investment that will be completely worth it!
As I said before, I’m using a Garden Grid to irrigate this bed, so it will be on a timer during the growing season. Furthermore, I can adjust the amount of water this bed will get in Winter so my asparagus crowns don’t rot.
Covering & Protecting Newly Planted Asparagus
This is so important! I learned this lesson the hard way my friends. You can watch this YouTube short to see what happened, but essentially a critter came through and dug up my first round of asparagus bare roots. I’m not kidding, I came out one morning and found the crowns on top of the soil, completely dug up. In the critter’s defense, I did not properly cover my bed, and it was only looking for grubs. Unfortunately, most of those bare roots did not make it even after I attempted to replant them.
So what’s the lesson here? Cover your newly planted areas! This is similar to how I cover my saffron patch and my anemones/ranunculus in Fall. After planting, I took some rolled wire grid and an extra fence panel and covered my patch as you see below. Thankfully, this has kept the critters out!
Plant edible perennials & fruit trees for the future
One of our biggest regrets is not planting fruit trees sooner in our backyard garden. Yes, we did manage to plant a tangerine, plum, and apricot—but overall we waited. Looking back, it’s truly edible perennials and fruit trees that really work the hardest and produce the most high-value crops. For example, I should have planted asparagus seven years ago! We would have been enjoying delicious spears from mature plants by now. But, hindsight is 20/20, and I’m glad to be able to share our gardening experiences with you. Grow some asparagus!