Asparagus is a perennial, which means it grows every year rather than only one or two years. It is also a fern. We eat the tips of the fern before they open up. What we plant are actually the roots of the fern, not seed, and that’s why it can be difficult to start an asparagus bed – lots of digging!
You have two choices when establishing a new asparagus bed. You can make it the hard way by digging, or you can go the easy way. The easy way is to make your new bed at ground level, or as a raised bed, not in a trench you have to dig. Here is a method that does not involve much work but does require patience.
1. Determine the exact location for your new bed. Two requirements must be met and they are good access to sunshine and the location must be within reach of a hose. There is another consideration and that is to choose a location that you can mow around easily. Don’t order your roots yet.
2. Get some newspaper and lay four or more layers over the grass and whatever else is growing there now. To keep the paper from blowing away, cover it with a mulch of leaves, grass clippings, wood chips, coffee grounds or whatever you can find that will break down over time. Make it deep.
The newspapers will block light from the plants below it and they will die and will become composted just like the materials you are layering on top of the paper. The papers and mulch will also keep the soil moist and encourage earthworms to mix it all up getting it ready for your asparagus roots.
3. Now comes the patience part. Wait a number of months while you continue to add material to your mulch. Once you have a nice mounded area about 12 to 16 inches high you can begin planting your asparagus roots. So now is the time to order them, not before.
4. Once your asparagus roots have arrived, follow the package concerning soaking them for a while before planting. Then simply move some of your mulch pile, use your trowel to loosen the soil and make a small mound to arrange the roots on. Follow the package directions for how to actually place the roots. Cover them back up and keep them watered.
Asparagus grows in the spring but you should refrain from cutting your first year growth to let the roots get stronger. Soon you will be cutting spears bigger than your thumb, but remember – patience!