While asparagus crowns typically produce a few skinny spears the year after planting, the number of spears increases as plants become established. Photo by Sandy Cortez

While asparagus crowns typically produce a few skinny spears the year after planting, the number of spears increases as plants become established. Photo by Sandy Cortez

Get It Growing: How do you grow asparagus?

Washington state is a major producer of asparagus. With a commercial harvest of more than 50 million pounds each year, our state is second only to California in asparagus production. But many local gardeners report difficulty growing this popular crop. How could that be?

Asparagus doesn’t like “wet feet” and grows well east of the Cascades in well-drained sandy soil. West of the mountains, excessive winter rainfall and heavier soils can result in soggy soil. Wet soil and standing water lead to root rot and death of asparagus plants. And that’s not good!

With a few precautionary steps, however, you can grow asparagus successfully.


Most gardeners grow asparagus from crowns (spider-like root clumps) as opposed to seed. Asparagus crowns can be purchased online or at most nurseries in late winter/early spring. Choose 1-year old dormant clumps that look firm and fresh, not withered or mushy.

Plant the crowns after all danger of a hard frost is passed, in a sunny, well-drained spot. Remember, poor drainage is one of the primary reasons asparagus does not thrive. To improve drainage, work plenty of organic matter (compost or well-rotted manure) into the soil. If you live in a soggy location, consider planting in a 2 to 3-foot-high raised bed.

To plant, dig a trench 8 inches deep. Place the crowns at the bottom of the trench 18 inches apart and spread out the roots. Because it can be difficult for young plants to grow through 8 inches of soil, initially cover the crowns with only 2 inches of soil.

When shoots appear, add another 2 inches of soil.

Continue adding 2 inches of soil every couple of weeks until the trench is filled. Take care never to cover the growing tips.

The young shoots (also called spears) are the part of the plant that we eat. As the weather warms, asparagus spears diminish in size and number. Unharvested spears develop fern-like growths reaching 5 or more feet tall. These structures photosynthesize, nourishing the underground parts of the plant, and are critical to the establishment of a strong root system and a good harvest in future seasons.


Asparagus crowns typically produce a few skinny spears the year after planting. As the plants become established, the number of spears increases.

Do not harvest any spears the first year or two after planting and allow all to develop into ferns. Take a small harvest the third year. After that, harvest for 3-4 weeks each season or until new spears are no thicker than a pencil (about 3/8 inch in diameter); then stop harvesting. Always leave a few spears to develop into ferns.

Harvest spears when they are 6-8 inches tall. If they are taller or their heads are open, the spears become woody. Cut (or snap off) the spears at the soil line. As you harvest, be careful not to injure new spears that have not yet emerged.

Asparagus is a heavy feeder and should be fertilized twice during the growing season: once as spears start to emerge early in the season and again when the ferns start growing. Broadcast a complete fertilizer such as 5-10-10 on the bed at the rate of 2-5 pounds per 100 square feet.

Irrigate as necessary to promote and sustain good fern growth after the harvest, well into the fall. The ferns should be left alone until killed by frost, then cut off at soil level. Removing the dead foliage in the fall helps prevent pests and diseases from over-wintering in your asparagus bed. Because of drainage issues, consider covering your beds with plastic or a tarp over the winter.

With a little time — like 3-4 years — and effort you can establish an asparagus patch that will produce more than your family can eat for many years to come. So give it a try!

Jeanette Stehr-Green is a WSU-certified Clallam County Master Gardener.

More in Life

Port Angeles Community Players set to stage ‘Miss Bennett’

The Port Angeles Community Players will present “Miss Bennet — Christmas at… Continue reading

Peninsula College’s ‘Jazz in the PUB’ concert set for Nov. 30

The 12-piece Peninsula College Jazz Ensemble will present their first indoor concert… Continue reading

Milestone: Master Gardener quartet earn golden trowel honors

Audreen Williams, Laurel Moulton, Jan Danford and Teresa Bibler were awarded 2021… Continue reading

Community Calendar — Nov. 24, 2021

Editor’s note: Is your group meeting once more and wanting to get… Continue reading

Parenting In Focus: New level of success for your growing child

By the time your little one has reached 18 to 24 months,… Continue reading

Milestone: Sequim Soroptimists pick Girls of the Month

Soroptimist International of Sequim recently named their Girls of the Month for… Continue reading

Renne Emiko Brock offers hand-dyed superhero capes and scarves during the Art Beat Small Business Saturday event on Nov. 27. Submitted photo
Flurry of Art Beat events, activites set for Saturday

Celebrate creativity and collaboration by supporting local artists and arts organizations with… Continue reading

A&E briefs — Nov. 24, 2021

Strummers set concerts Olympic Peninsula Ukulele Strummers (OPUS) will perform holiday concerts… Continue reading

Right: Pieces of Civil War veteran Moore Waldron’s headstone can be seen in the right-hand corner of this photograph. Historical preservationist Mick Hersey, left, and the Taylor family of Gig Harbor returned the pieces to the Pioneer Memorial Park of Sequim for their friends the Englands (Moore’s descendants). The Englands read in the Sequim Gazette about the Sequim Garden Club’s preservation efforts at the park and decided to return these pieces for restoration. Moore now will have two markers in the park, as the Veteran’s Administration commissioned a new stone for Waldron in 2017 — an article about which can also be found on the Sequim Gazettte’s website. Moore moved to Sequim with his family in 1905 and died in 1908. Moore had five children and has descendants in Sequim and Pierce County as well as other places. Moore’s great-grandson is the founder of the Waldron Endoscopy Center in Tacoma, according to Cheryl England. Sequim Gazette photo by Emily Matthiessen
Historic headstone returns to Sequim

Right: Pieces of Civil War veteran Moore Waldron’s headstone can be seen… Continue reading

Most Read