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Fresh asparagus is almost a delicacy in the U.K.  The delicious spears in spring and summer can be pricey in the shops and are well worth growing in our gardens and allotments.  Unfortunately it is a waiting game as spears should not be harvested for the first two years. Growing in containers is not often recommended, you will need to give them space in separate beds. Asparagus has the advantage of being a perennial crop, and so can be harvested for many years to come without replanting.  The crop is reasonably disease free, and can be harvested at a time when there is little else to harvest.


March is an ideal time to plant.  Some varieties are also suitable for autumn planting if you can avoid waterlogging. Plant in well drained soil in sun or dappled shade.  Very acidic soil may require the addition of garden lime. Ideally plant where asparagus has not been planted before.  Raised beds are better if you have heavy soil.  Make sure the soil is weed free, and improve the soil with compost or well rotted manure.  Dig a trench 30cm (1ft) wide and 20cm (8in) deep. Add to the base of the trench a layer of compost or well rotted manure. Cover this with a 5cm (2in) layer of the  soil you took out to make the trench, making  a ridge of soil 10cm (4in) high, along the centre of the trench as pictured below.


Carefully spread the roots of the crowns accross the top of the ridge 30–45cm (12–18in) apart. Further enrich the soil excavated from the trench with compost or well rotted manure and return the soil into the trench, leaving the tips of the crowns just visible above soil level. If you wish to add more rows, space them 45cm (18in) apart and stagger the plants between adjacent rows. Water the beds and add mulch to seal in the water and to help with weed suppression. Continue to water in dry spells.


Plants must be left to establish for two years, allowing them to produce plenty of foliage, in order to establish strong plants.  From the third year onwards harvest the spears 2.5cm (1in) below soil level with a sharp knife in mid April.  Continue to harvest for six weeks. Do the same in following years, but harvesting can be carried out for a period of eight weeks. Harvest every two to three days, especially in warmer periods, when the spears are up to 18cm (7in) tall or less. Stop harvesting after this period so plants can build up energy for the following year. Prune off the foliage in autumn once it has yellowed to avoid the wind tugging up the roots.  Earlier and later varieties can be chosen from the catalogues for continuation of cropping.


Mark Snelling

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