Asparagus Growing in South Louisiana

noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)November 16, 2013

Hello, I believe that I have a "volunteer" asparagus plant that popped up under my fig tree in my back yard this past year. I let it grow because it was wispy and fernlike, so I was curious about what it was. I crushed the tips of one fern and it smelled like asparagus, so I let it stay.

The spears that have grown up look like asparagus, as well.

I can't leave the plant under the fig tree because asparagus needs a lot of food and fig trees don't. I will need to put the plant into a raised bed.

How do I transplant the asparagus plant without killing it? Can I leave it until the spring?

Also, what is the best variety to plant if I decide to get some more plants? I've always wanted to try to grow asparagus. I know nothing about it and want to learn. If I dig the plant up, how large a root ball do I need to allow for? I know, since the plant had to have grown from a seed dropped by a bird, that I won't be able to harvest anything from it for a few years, but it's got a lot of shoots coming up and is that a good sign?

Does the asparagus need to be grown where it will get some sun and some shade? If so, how much sun and how much shade would be best? The little plant seems to have liked living under the fig tree, which sheltered it from the blazing hot sun over the summer months.

Thanks,

noss

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wisner_gw wisner

I haven't grown asparagus, but I know people in south La that grow it. It sounds like you need to do a good job preparing the bed because asparagus can produce for many years. I wouldn't spent too much time trying to grow the wild plant since it may not turn out to be any good. As far as varieties, I'm not sure, there are some new varieties that produce better than the old varieties. You might want to post your question on Bayou Gardener forum which has a lot of La folks. Good luck

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 5:44PM
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noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)

Hello Wisner,

Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

I'll try the Bayou Gardener forum--I don't think I saw that one, so it's a big help to know about it.

I thought I would prepare a raised bed for the asparagus and see how that does. I'll need to find out what kind of soil is best for the asparagus. I know they require good food to keep them going, to feed the roots.

Our friends who live in Minnesota told us that asparagus grows wild along the highways and fields. Wouldn't that be fun, to be able to just go out and harvest asparagus for dinner? Of course, these days you'd have to be careful that herbicides arent' used where you want to harvest.

noss

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 7:21PM
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wisner_gw wisner

I had a friend from Wisconsin who told me the same thing about the asparagus growing wild up there. I'd really like to be able to go out and pick some like that. I've never tried growing any since I always heard it's hard to grow this far South, but some people are doing good with it.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 7:56PM
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noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)

I've found out that the problem with growing asparagus here is that we don't have cold weather for it to be dormant for awhile. Because it tends to keep growing, the spears get thinner and thinner. Makes sense. Perhaps growing it on the North side of something would make a difference if the cold winds would hit it. Don't know. The other thing might be to just keep planting it in a series so that if one batch goes reedy, the new ones would take over, but probably not. Maybe keeping on feeding it often would help. I'm ignorant about asparagus growing, so what do I know? LOL!

I wish someone could have made a variety that would require less chill hours.

noss

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 8:34PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

This is a quote from The Southern Living Gardening Book: "Plants take 2 to 3 years to come into full production but then furnish spears every spring for 10 to 15 years or more. They take up considerable space but do so in a grand manner. Use along a sunny fence or as a background for flowers or vegetables. (You don't have to plant every plant all together. You can scatter them around through ornamental beds and just walk around to harvest.) Set out seedlings or roots (not wilted, no smaller than an adult's hand) in fall or winter. Make trenches 1 ft. wide and 8-10 inches deep. Space them 4 to 6 ft. apart. Heap loose soil enriched with composted manure at bottom of trenches and soak well. Space plants 1 ft. apart, setting them so that tops are 6 to 8 inches below the top of the trench. Spread roots out evenly. Cover with 2 inches of soil and water again.

As young plants grow, gradually fill in trench, taking care not to cover growing tips. Soak deeply whenever soil begins to dry out at root depth. Do not harvest spears the first year. The object is to build a big root mass. When plants turn brown in late fall or early winter, cut stems to the ground.

The following spring you can cut your first spears; cut only for 4 to 6 weeks or until appearance of thin spears indicates that roots are nearing exhaustion. Then permit plants to grow. Cultivate, feed, and irrigate heavily. The third year you should be able to cut spears for 8 to 10 weeks. Spears are ready to cut when they are 5-8 inches long. Thrust knife down at 45 degree angle to soil; flat cutting may injure adjacent developing spears."

"Jersey Knight is the best variety for Southern Growers. Male hybrids typically produce more and larger spears, because they don't put energy into seed production. Such selections still produce an occasional female plant."

At my old house, I followed the above instructions and had asparagus there. (I live in East Central MS, about 200 miles inland from the Gulf Coast.) I made a three foot wide raised bed alongside my vegetable garden and planted nothing in it but asparagus. Ever. That is one disadvantage to asparagus and why they are so expensive. You cannot plant anything else in their bed. That soil only produces something edible for 2 to 3 montsh each year. In my youthful ignorance, I bought the typical order of plants, which is 20, and then split them with a friend to save money. Ten plants never produced enough spears at one time to feed my family of four.

However, the plants did well, and required very little work except feeding, watering, and giving them a good mulch each year to keep down weeds. If I had space, I would definitely grow them again, but plant AT LEAST 20 roots this time.

The Gardening Book says asparagus will grow as far south as the Lower South, which is all the way down except a narrow strip along the coast.

Asparagus roots are not that expensive, though you may have to hunt for Jersey Knight. If you want to grow them, do a really good job of preparing the soil and digging the trenches and see what happens. It's not much to lose and you just might succeed!

    Bookmark   November 25, 2013 at 9:15PM
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wisner_gw wisner

That's some good information. Thanks

    Bookmark   November 26, 2013 at 10:54PM
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johnnp(8b/9a)

I live 30 miles north of Gulf in Southeast LA. Plant asparagus in 3.5 x 40' raised bed, this will be third year since I planted. Last year selectively harvested, should do well this year. Planted 32 "jersey giants", 31 sprouted last year (second year). Just finished cutting spears to the ground. Noss, don't know about chill hours, last 2 winters real warm (not like this year) and they seemed to do well. I also plant garlic successfully not many do around here. I enjoy trying things that many say won't work. I have read that Asparagus doesn't like soggy soil, but after all the rain we had last spring the bed continued to do well. I hope to have a substantial harvest this spring, I guess I will have to keep my fingers crossed. Johnnp

    Bookmark   January 2, 2014 at 11:57PM
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noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)

Thanks to everyone who took the time to discuss this subject. I didn't see notice of any of the last few posts/replies until Johnnp's post just showed up. Don't know why, but I'm thankful for it because it led to the others I hadn't seen. :)

I don't think asparagus gets upset with being soaked. Rather, I think it doesn't do well in soil that stays soaked because it will rot the crowns. I think it's the overall drainage factors that count. I hope, anyway because we can put them in raised beds to help drainage.

I hope y'all have good harvests this season. Good eating to all. I think I'll be trying some asparagus this year.

Do you think using soil conditioner, with sand and very fine pine bark would be good to use for the raised beds? I am thinking of using bagged garden soil because it's light. Our regular soil is clay and it turns to cement when it's dry.

The one volunteer who popped up under my fig tree this past spring, is still alive and well. I haven't been out to see it lately, since we've had cold temps and it's supposed to dip into the 20s, but I'll believe that when I see/feel it. I was born and raised in NJ and love really chilly weather that we have every-so-often and not for long enough.

Thanks, again, for the good information.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2014 at 10:12PM
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energy_rater_la

I'm near lafayette too.
this is year 2 of the raised asparagus planter I have.
martha washington asparagus.

harvested a little last year...this year we are
harvesting again.

rather than try to amend clay soil ...we just filled the
box with comopost & mixed some miracle grow garden
soil in with it. 2 rows of asparagus (6 plants)
green onions in center.

mulched about 4" deep & we water a few times a week.

best of luck.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 3:51PM
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noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)

Hi energy rater la,

It's good to hear from you, since you live near Lafayette, but just nice to hear input from people in the South.

Well, the cold weather we had killed back the ferns completely, so there was a teensy stretch of, dare I call it--dormancy??--for my volunteer asparagus plant. This is its second season of life.

I think it's a female, as there are all sorts of doo-bobs dangling off the ferns. I have no idea what they are, but they're interesting. I don't think males would have those, but I don't know much about asparagus except I really like to eat it. :D

I bought some Jersey Giant plants from HDepot and one pkg of Mary Washingtons. Then I read that JGs are MM and will not have any females in the lot and because the males don't waste any energy producing seeds, the nourishment they take up goes into thicker stalks to eat! Sounds good to me.

There can be females amongst the plants of the Mary Washingtons, I think I read, anyway.

I shouldn't have, but I cut and shared two stalks with my hubby, of the asparagus that has been growing up from the crown this season. They were quite thick and were they ever delicious! A couple of thin stalks have grown up and also a very thick stalk. The thick stalk shot up and is about 7 1/2' tall right now and I haven't even fed the plant yet! Maybe it's a good thing?

I cut the stalks on two different occasions. The first one, I cut into chunks about the length of cut green beans, then sautéed them in a little browned butter and olive oil and seasoned with California Style Lemon Pepper that has garlic & onion in it--McCormick's brand. The lemon in the mixture really enhanced the flavor of the asparagus. I cooked the second spear the same way and Mike really liked it. He had only had either canned, or steamed asparagus, so this was a real treat for him. As good as the fresh asparagus has been from the stores, the spears that I cut, brought inside and cooked right away are awesome!!!

We will be putting in a couple of raised beds, for asparagus, soon and will see how it goes. Perhaps if we plant them in cycles, we'll have asparagus longer.

I wish they could develop asparagus for the South, but I guess that's asking a lot, since it likes cool weather. You never know, though, because they developed blueberries for the South and they're very good. I have Sunshine Blues that only need 150 chill hours and are very good and productive.

noss

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 10:39PM
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noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)

energy--I forgot to ask--What kind of mulch do you use for the asparagus plants? Also, what kind, if any, fertilizer do you use for your asparagus plants?

I have a neighbor whose sister lives in the Shreveport area and they raise asparagus, which seems to do well for them. How far South does the asparagus grow well and keeps producing?

Thanks,

noss

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 10:49PM
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noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)

Johnnp,

How did your asparagus harvest go this spring? Haven't heard from you about it.

noss

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 10:57PM
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energy_rater_la

I used to buy muclh...but then happened across my
utility company cutting & mulching trees. so now they
bring me a load or two of mulch every year.
other than that I go to the landfill for their mulch & compost.

My Mike is a miracle grow guy. I like osmocote...but
he is in charge of garden...I'm the flower girl.

I don't know how far south..but I knew people in N.O.
who grew asparagus!

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 8:34AM
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lovevintage(8)

Hi noss, your asparagus sounds delicious. Good luck with it. Nice to see Louisiania posts. I see your zone listed as 9a. Do you live on the north or south side of Lafayette? I'm only 45 mins. above you, but my zone is 8b. I suppose somewhere along I49 the zones change. Do you also do flower gardening? Thanks.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 2:56PM
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