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Chapter 12: Asparagus

12.1 Recommended Varieties

Many newer varieties are all-male hybrids, whereas traditional varieties such as Mary Washington are dioecious with 50 percent male and 50 percent female plants. The new male hybrids are higher yielding, more vigorous, and do not produce seeds.

Table 12.1.1 Recommended Asparagus Varieties

Variety Disease resistance
Jersey Giant RR, FT
Jersey Knight RR, FT
Jersey Supreme RR, FT
RR = Rust resistant; FT = Fusarium tolerant

12.2 Planting Methods

Crowns. One-year-old crowns are generally planted. Commercially, crowns are dug in the fall after one season’s growth, stored, and sold in the spring. If a grower establishes his/her own nursery, crowns may be left in the field over the winter, dug in the spring, and replanted immediately. Crowns are placed in the bottoms of furrows six to eight inches deep with buds up and covered with 1 1/2 inches of soil. Furrows are gradually filled in over the first growing season, by moving soil toward the plants during cultivation until the field is again level.

Transplants. Asparagus fields can be established using ten- to 12-week-old transplants. Transplants are planted in furrows six to eight inches deep. The furrow should be wide and contain a three-inch flattened mound at the bottom in a modified W-shape. Placing the transplant on the mound protects the plant from being washed out or covered by soil during a heavy rain. Furrows are not completely filled in at planting. Instead, the root mass of the transplant is covered, and the soil is gradually moved into the furrows with cultivation over the first growing season.

Table 12.2.1 Recommended Spacing

Row (in feet) In-row (in inches)
4.5-6* 10-18**
* Use spacing that allows room for farm equipment. Mature ferns can become large and difficult to cover with sprays if planted too closely.
** Early yields from closely spaced plants will be high, but as roots spread, the closely spaced plants become crowded and spear diameter decreases.

12.3 Fertility

Apply adequate lime to bring the pH to between 6.8 and 7.0. If a large amount of lime is needed, apply half before plowing and incorporate the remainder after plowing. Remember, asparagus will be in the field for eight to 12 years, so proper soil preparation prior to planting is essential. See Table 12.3.1 for the recommended rates of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Table 12.3.1 Recommended Nutrients Based on Soil Tests

  P2O5 pounds/acre     Soil Phosphorus Level       K2O pounds/acre     Soil Potassium Level      
N pounds/acre   Comments
  low med. high   low med. high  
New plantings                
50 110 60 30   150 100 50 Total recommended.
0 110 60 30   150 100 50 Broadcast and disk-in.
50 0 0 0   0 0 0 Sidedress at first cultivation.
Cutting beds                
50 75 50 25   80 60 40 Total recommended.
50 75 50 25   80 60 40 Apply in the spring before spear emergence. Incorporate lightly.

12.4 Harvesting

Do not harvest asparagus the year of planting. Asparagus can be harvested the second year after planting. A traditional harvest sequence calls for cutting two weeks the first year of harvest, four weeks the second, and six to eight weeks thereafter. These are general guidelines, and the length of the harvest period should be adjusted according to the spear size. When spears are predominantly small in diameter, harvest should be stopped. Fresh-market asparagus is cut or snapped by hand when the spears are about ten inches tall. In warm weather, fields should be harvested daily. Damaged or thin shoots should be cut and discarded. After harvesting, spears should be washed, cooled, trimmed to a uniform length, and graded by diameter. Spears can be stored for up to three weeks at 36°F and 95 percent relative humidity.

12.5 Disease Management

12.5.1 Fusarium Root Rot and Fusarium Crown Rot

12.5.2 Phytophthora Spear Rot

12.5.3 Rust, Purple Spot, and other Fern Diseases

 

12.6 Insect Management

12.6.1 Common Asparagus Beetle and Spotted Asparagus Beetle

 

12.7 Weed Management

 

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Maintained by Abby Seaman, New York State IPM Program. Last modified 2017.