Asparagus is one of the tasty and healthy perennial vegetables that you can grow for years in your garden. Whether you’re a gardening enthusiast looking for a new challenge or an urban gardener trying to maximize your space, asparagus is an excellent crop for the Texas climate. Not only is it hardy and low maintenance, but it also produces a delicious harvest that can be enjoyed year round.
This guide will walk you through the steps necessary to grow and harvest your homegrown asparagus in Texas!
How to Grow Asparagus in Texas
What to Know about Asparagus
Asparagus is a hardy perennial vegetable that is easy to grow and maintain, making it an ideal choice for any gardeners. In fact, the asparagus spears you harvest are the young shoots of the asparagus plant, which will bear fruit for up to fifteen years if it is properly cared for.
Asparagus is a cool-season crop, meaning it prefers cooler temperatures and can tolerate light frosts. It grows best in parts of the country that have mild winters and hot summers. This makes asparagus a great option for the Texas climate, which is known for its hot and dry summers, as well as its mild winters.
Talking about its nutrition, asparagus is a great source of vitamins A, B, and C as well as minerals such as iron and potassium. Additionally, it has many health benefits such as helping to reduce cholesterol levels, aiding in digestion, and even preventing certain types of cancer.
If you’re looking to add some nutritious and delicious vegetables to your garden, asparagus is an excellent choice. This verdant, long-lived perennial vegetable will last for many years with minimal effort, and its delicious harvest can be enjoyed year round.
Planting Site Preparation
The first step to grow asparagus in Texas is to prepare a new asparagus bed. Find a sunny spot that will get at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. Before planting, you should loosen the soil and remove any perennial weeds or rocks, which can damage asparagus root systems.
Asparagus prefers a well-drained site with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5. It also needs full sun and therefore should not be planted in an area that is constantly shaded. To prepare the soil for planting, you should enrich it with organic compost and mix in some sand to help improve good drainage.
Before planting your asparagus, make sure to test the soil pH and amend accordingly. If necessary, add lime to raise the pH level or sulfur to lower it. If your soil pH is too high (alkaline) or too low (acidic), you can use lime or sulfur to adjust it. Additionally, adding compost to the soil not only improves drainage, but it also provides essential nutrients to help your asparagus thrive.
Growing asparagus requires loose soil with plenty of organic matter. If your soil is heavy and clay-like, consider mixing in some sand or compost to improve its texture and drainage. Additionally, you may want to add some organic fertilizer or compost tea to the soil before planting your asparagus. This will help ensure that your asparagus receives all the nutrients it needs for optimal growth and production in the subsequent years.
When the bed is ready, you can begin setting up the trellis for your asparagus plants. Asparagus has tall stems that can reach up to five feet, so the trellis will help keep the plants upright and off the ground. A simple trellis made out of PVC pipe or wooden stakes should be enough for your asparagus bed.
Preparing Your Asparagus
Whether you choose to grow asparagus from seeds or crowns, you should prepare the plants before planting.
Starting from Seeds
If you’re starting from seeds, it’s best to start them indoors about four weeks before the last frost date for your area. Asparagus does not tolerate cold temperatures well and can suffer damage if it is exposed to frost.
If you’re using asparagus seeds, you’ll need to soak them overnight in lukewarm water before planting. This process helps soften the seed coat and encourages germination.
A mini greenhouse can be helpful for starting asparagus seeds. The extra warmth and humidity will help the seeds germinate more quickly. Be sure to monitor the temperature and moisture levels of your mini greenhouse, as too much heat or humidity can cause the seeds to rot.
Seed germination is slower compared to asparagus crowns, so you should be patient and allow the plants to grow undisturbed until they are ready for transplanting.
Growing from Crowns
Asparagus crowns are an easier option for growing asparagus in Texas. These crowns are already sprouted and ready to be planted directly into the soil.
When purchasing asparagus crowns, look for those that are firm and free of disease or rot.
Plant the crowns about six inches below the soil surface and cover with compost or a thick layer of mulch to help keep the asparagus roots moist. Allow 12-18 inches between each crown to give your asparagus ample space to grow. Water the plants well after planting, and keep the soil moist until the shoots emerge from the ground.
When to Plant Asparagus Outdoor in Texas
Asparagus thrives best when planted in the early spring, once temperatures begin to reach 10°C (50°F). In areas of Texas where the soil temperature doesn’t warm up until late March or early April, it’s best to wait until this time period to plant your asparagus outdoors to prevent any danger of frost.
As mentioned before, you can also choose to start your asparagus indoors during late winter, a few weeks before the last frost date for your area, and then transplant them outdoors once temperatures are more ideal. This is a good option if you have limited space in your garden and need to maximize the space you have.
To plant asparagus in the garden, you need to make sure your soil is loose and well-drained. You also want to amend the soil wth compost or manure to provide your asparagus with essential nutrients. Before you begin planting, it’s also important to check the soil pH and adjust accordingly if necessary.
Asparagus primarily needs adequate water during the early spring while it’s establishing itself in the ground. Once the asparagus plants have established themselves in the garden, they will require very little maintenance and you can reduce watering significantly.
Harvesting & Maintenance Your Asparagus
Your asparagus should be ready to harvest in the late spring or early summer, when the stems reach about six inches in height. Depending on the variety of asparagus you’re growing, the harvest season can last anywhere from six to eight weeks. During this time, you can enjoy fresh asparagus spears for salads and other dishes.
Start harvesting the asparagus by cutting off only the top third of each stem with a sharp knife, leaving the remaining two-thirds in place, and letting the remaining stems grow and develop into ferns until it’s time to start harvesting again next year. As long as you keep up with watering, weeding, and fertilizing your asparagus bed, it will continue to produce new spears for several years.
In its first year, refrain from harvesting any spears so that all energy goes towards establishing strong roots. From the second year, you can begin harvesting spears when they reach 8-10 inches long; just be sure not to take more than one-third of what’s available each time or else your plants may become stressed out.
Once done harvesting for the season (usually late May/early June), cut back any remaining stalks and apply fertilizer or composted manure around them — this will provide nutrients over winter when growth slows down again until the next spring.
Having a high yield this year? Don’t let all that asparagus go to waste! You can store asparagus in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or blanch and freeze it if you want to enjoy it throughout the winter. Frozen asparagus should last up to 8 months in the freezer while still keep its flavor.
You can also preserve asparagus by pickling or preserving it in olive oil with herbs and spices. This method of preservation will give you an array of flavors to choose from so that you can use your asparagus throughout the year.
Best Ways to Cook Asparagus
Depending on which types of asparagus you’re cooking, you can use several different methods to prepare it.
For green asparagus, you can roast, grill, or sauté it for a delicious side dish. You can also bake it in the oven with some oil, garlic, and Parmesan cheese for a savory taste.
White asparagus is slightly less common but still very easy to prepare. It’s best cooked by boiling or steaming to ensure that it doesn’t become tough and fibrous. Once cooked, you can season it with butter and herbs or top it with hollandaise sauce for a delicious meal. White asparagus soup is also a great way to use this less common variety.
Purple asparagus is also easy to prepare but requires a bit of extra special attention because it’s more delicate than its green and white counterparts. It should be blanched first before adding it to any recipe. Once blanched, you can add it to salads or sauté it in a pan for maximum flavor. You can also add it to salads or risottos for added color and sweetness.
No matter which type of asparagus you’re cooking, the key is to not overcook as this will make it mushy and unappetizing. Keep an eye on it while cooking and remove it from the heat when it’s just tender but not soft.
Asparagus is a delicious, nutritious perennial crop that’s easy to grow in any vegetable garden in Texas. With the right well-drained soil, watering, and maintenance techniques, you can enjoy fresh asparagus spears for several weeks of the year and for many years to come!