Fresh asparagus is high in vitamins A, C and B9 as well as being a good source of fiber. This hardy perennial is a member of the lily family and grows wild in many parts of the world. When cultivated, an established bed can be expected to produce an annual crop for 20 to 25 years. There are many varieties of asparagus available, including newer strains that are particularly cold hardy. As such, asparagus is among the first vegetables to be planted in the garden in spring.
Purchase one-year-old asparagus crowns from your local garden center or nursery in early spring. Select a high yield variety of asparagus such as Jersey Giant or Viking KBC. There are many other types to consider, so ask about specific recommendations for your area.
Pick a well-exposed location to make a bed for your asparagus. Like all vegetables, asparagus likes direct sunlight and well-drained soil. A bed 3 feet wide by 12 feet long will be large enough to plant 10 to 12 crowns. Clear the bed area of weeds and other plants and turn the soil to a depth of 8 inches. Cover with 4 inches of aged compost or rotted manure and dig this into the soil. Wait three or four weeks before planting to allow the organics to start breaking down.
Dig a trench 1 foot wide by 6 inches deep. Make a small ridge along the center of the trench and place the crowns on top of this with the roots draped down either side. Space the crowns 12 inches apart. Backfill the trench until the crowns are covered with 2 to 3 inches of soil. The remainder of the soil can be backfilled through the summer as the plants grow.
Give your asparagus at least an inch of water per week. Hand watering may be reduced if the rainfall in your area is adequate.
Spread an inch of aged compost over the bed in spring and fall as a fertilizer. Alternatively, apply a balanced organic fertilizer at the recommended dosage.