Paradise Garden

Gardening Articles written by Experts

Asparagus Cultivation

by Mark Rowland

Asparagus Diary

This is the diary of a seed raised asparagus crop grown in an unheated greenhouse. Photos of the different stages of this crop may be viewed on the asparagus cultivation page.

4th April 2009

100 Asparagus seeds, comprising 50 Gijnlim, 25 Thielim and 25 Millennium, from Moles Seeds module sown on a heated bench. The seed was sown straight out of the packet with no soaking or other pre-treatment. The finished tray was bottom watered with Filex solution, before being placed on the heated bench and covered with horticultural fleece.

18th - 20th April 2009

Emergence, giving 97% germination. Fleece removed to allow the young asparagus seedlings maximum light and air. Heat reduced gradually over the succeeding days to harden the young asparagus plants to normal glasshouse environment.

9th May 2009

The asparagus seedlings potted individually into 9cm pots. Plants looking strong and uniform, see photos 1 & 2 for an illustration of plant development at this stage.

28th June 2009

By now, 10 weeks after the seed germinated, the young asparagus plants were growing strongly and were at the point of exhausting the resources of a 9cm pot. Images 3 & 4 show them immediately prior to and post planting in a carefully prepared bed. Growth soon accelerated to exploit the potential of their new environment with each new shoot being stronger and taller than the preceding ones.

January 2010

Growth continued late into the autumn, but by now virtually all the fern is brown and withered (image 5). Time to cut all the old fern away to prepare the asparagus bed for the next season. Once clear, the bed is carefully weeded and top dressed (image 6).

March 2010

Waiting for the first asparagus spears to appear. The size of these spears will be a measure of how well the asparagus bed has established, and how strong the plants are.

18th March 2010

A few spears of Gijnlim are now pushing through. They are strong and surprisingly thick - easily harvestable size. Not bad at only 11 months from sowing.

21st March 2010

First spears of Thielim and Millennium just breaking the surface. Cut a few spears of Gijnlim.

6th April 2010

Full emergence. Gijnlim has much heavier spears than Thielim or Millennium. Still cutting a few spears of Gijnlim, but will not cut the other varieties this year. Not cutting anything less than 15mm diameter; makes the asparagus for sale in the supermarkets look utter rubbish.

20th February 2011

First emergence. All three varieties emerge within a few days of each other. Growing three varieties to crop in succession doesn't seem to work under glass.

12th March 2011

First cut of all three varieties. All producing good spears, but Millennium is the most uniform and is producing the thickest spears. A few very thin spears from Gijnlim and Thielim, which I eat as I go.

15th March 2011

Have now tried our asparagus steamed, sliced raw in a salad, and grilled. Grilled asparagus is definitely the favourite; better texture and more flavour than steamed. No obvious culinary differences between varieties.

29th April 2011

End of season. Six weeks of full cut followed by one week of selective cutting of the strongest spears. My decision to grow from seed and not from crowns is clearly vindicated.

Summer 2011

Some of the strongest plants are producing hermaphrodite flowers and forming berries. Even with all male varieties there is a problem with self seeding - I had not anticipated that.

10th January 2012

The bed now cleared of old fern; over six foot high, and some very heavy stems. From the look of it, harvesting could have continued a little longer last season.

28th January 2012

Bed weeded, raked over to break up the surface crust, top dressed with fertilizer and Seanure (seaweed extract), raked again to incorporate top dressing, and smoothed.

22nd March 2012

First cut of the season; a bit later than last year.

25th May 2012

Finished cutting. A nine week season this year, better than expected. Gijnlim has been very productive and reasonably uniform. Thielim has been disappointing; low yield and very variable in size and quality. Millennium gave a very good yield of impressively uniform spears of excellent quality.

We have pulled most of the spears this year instead of cutting. This avoids damaging developing spears where they are close together, and also avoids a build up of 'stumps' at he soil surface. Again Thielim was the least successful in this respect, and mostly had to be cut.

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© 2010 - 2012 Mark Rowland