How to grow asparagus in Western Australia
Asparagus is a perennial, in the lily family which can be cropped for up to 15 years. Being a perennial it can require some special attention to grow your own asparagus but don’t let that deter you. It is the young shoots of the asparagus plant that are harvested from the spears once the plants are three years old. Asparagus is best suited to the cooler areas of the state like Hills region and southern parts of the Western Australia.
Plants can be bought as crowns which are dug up in winter when the plants are dormant. For rapid establishment ask your nursery to order in one-year old crowns for you.
There are male and female asparagus plants. The males have better quality spears and the females produce little red berries in autumn. Collect the berries from the female plants when they’re ready to produce seed and sow them. They take about two or three years to become strong.
Choose according to the availability at your local nursery. Popular varieties include Mary Washington, Fat Bastard (Which has fatter than normal spears), and purple asparagus.
Asparagus likes deep, friable, rich soil. If you’ve got heavy, clay soil, you’ll need to mound the plants up or dig in plenty of organic matter so that it becomes nice and well drained. If you have sandy soil it will need to be enhanced with generous amounts of soil improver, compost and clay.
Dig trenches at least 30cm deep and 60cm apart, filling them with a mix of organic material and topping up with un-manured soil to a depth of 5cm. Place the crowns on top of this enriched mix, back filling around them to cover the roots.
When your asparagus is three years old you can harvest it during spring. Asparagus should be harvested when it is 15-20cm long and before the tips are open. The first harvesting period will last approximately 4-6 weeks. After this period the ferns should be allowed to produce ferny growth. Cut the spears just below the surface with a sharp knife. In succeeding years the spears can be harvested for 8-10 weeks.
During the cutting period, asparagus draws on food reserves stored in the root system which can grow up to one meter deep. The top growth after cutting allows the asparagus to replace the food stores in it’s roots. Note that excessive harvesting in any one year puts additional strain on the plant and may result in a decreased yield in the following year. Harvest your asparagus every second day and eat them as soon as possible for optimal freshness and flavour.
If you have any tips or tricks for how to grow asparagus then feel free to leave them in the comments section below.