Fresh Asparagus vs. Canned Asparagus

Ask most people if they like asparagus and the majority of the time you get a resounding NO!  But on further questioning you will probably learn that most people have never eaten fresh asparagus picked right from the garden.  Their only point of reference with asparagus has come in the form of canned, store bought asparagus, which is normally bland and tasteless.


Asparagus picked fresh from the garden, steamed for a few minutes and served with tiny amounts of butter is like heaven to the tongue.  Gone is the bland, soggy taste; instead you have crisp texture veggies with a slight nutty taste.  There is no comparison and I’m sure if you will give fresh asparagus a chance, you will never buy the canned variety again.


Asparagus is a perennial and it is usually one of the first veggies to poke its head up in the spring; it is a welcoming sight for many people.  The climate in Kentucky is perfect for asparagus because asparagus needs to be planted where the soil is cold enough to freeze down at least a few inches.


Plants can be started from seed or crowns, but crowns are the preferred method.  Seedling plants can be quite different and they take several years to establish.  I like planting two-year-old rootstock because this will allow for first pickings of asparagus after only three years.


In choosing a site to start a new asparagus patch, make sure it is well drained.  Asparagus will not tolerate soggy, poorly drained soil, which will cause the roots to root.  A loose sandy soil is usually preferred, but any healthy garden soil can be used.  Asparagus is unlike many veggies because it needs a slightly alkaline soil pH.  Most other veggies thrive in acidic soils.


The first asparagus patch I planted was inside two tractor tires I had hauled to the garden.  I filled these tires with soil, well-rotted manure and compost, mixing up a rich healthy soil.  If you are the type to like commercial fertilizers, then a balanced fertilizer like a 12-12-12 at the rate of two pounds per 100 square feet of garden area is recommended.


I prefer to use organic fertilizers in my gardens; so regular compost, vermicompost and manure teas are my favorite ways to enrich soil.  Since asparagus prefers a regular fertilization schedule, I apply these techniques once every two to three weeks.


I started these new beds by laying two-year-old asparagus roots in the bottom of my tractor tire.  I covered the roots with five to six inches of enriched soil, tamping it down lightly and then watering throughly.  During the first active growing season, I continued to fill the tire with soil when the asparagus reached five to six inches tall.  Newly planted asparagus will produce a few harvestable stalks during the first year, depending on the variety.  I typically leave these first stalks and by the end of the growing season, the tire is filled with rich healthy soil and I have several asparagus fronds feathering above two feet above the tire.



After the third year of growth, you can pick asparagus stems until your heart’s content, leaving a few stems in each patch.  In order for the asparagus to grow and remain healthy, a few stems need to be left so they will send out the feathery fronds.  It is these fronds that get energy from the sun to continue the growing cycle.


So next time your in the Farmer’s Market, pick up some fresh asparagus spears for supper.  I’m sure you will love them, and maybe start your own asparagus patch.


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