Asparagus is a delicious, flexible, and nutritious vegetable that is easy to grow in Iowa. It is a perennial plant that can be grown through spring, summer, and fall. The stems are edible and provide potassium and vitamin C, while the leaves are used in soups or tea. You can also eat the raw stalks or cook them as a side dish to meat or eggs. Here are critical aspects you should know when planting asparagus in Iowa.
When To Plant Asparagus In Iowa
The ideal time for planting asparagus is in the spring. In particular, you can plant it starting from March through June because it allows your plants adequate time to establish roots before the temperature gets so hot that they need full sun, and people start using their gardens again.
Other than in spring, you can plant the asparagus in the fall and winter. Asparagus can grow year-round in Iowa in the South and Central regions of the state. For those who live further north, you should start thinking about planting your asparagus from April so you will have a harvest by December when temperatures drop below freezing with snow cover for weeks at a time.
A soil thermometer is handy when planting anything. It is beneficial for those in Iowa because the soil temperature drops below 60 degrees at night, and it can be hard to tell if it is warm enough for planting. The ideal soil temperature for asparagus is 70-80 degrees. If you live anywhere in Iowa, you can use a soil thermometer to help you determine the best time to plant asparagus.
How To Plant The Asparagus In Iowa
Plant the spears deep enough to be almost entirely buried with only their tips showing by about 2 inches. Place them 4-6 deep in rows 18-24 inches apart within a bed 5-8 feet wide, loosened with a fork or spade before planting the asparagus sprouts.
After digging out the soil, spread it out evenly over the area you wish to plant your asparagus. The depth at which you plant your asparagus can vary between one and two inches. Should the soil moisture below for the duration of the growing season, be sure to put your shovel into the ground about halfway and dig down until you hit fresh soil.
For one’s asparagus to grow well during the growing season, they must regularly fertilize their plants with a high phosphorous level. They should also keep the soil well aerated for proper drainage and moisture retention for the entire growing season.
Further, if one were to use bone or blood meal on their plants, they would not have problems with growth and flowering. After the seed is planted, do not disturb them for at least two weeks after planting. A person living in Iowa can expect their asparagus plants to produce their first shoots by late May or early June.
The spacing between your plants should be no less than one foot apart. If you would like to use two rows for your planting area, make sure that you are about two feet apart from one row to the next. If one were to plant their asparagus closer together, they might have problems stunting the plants. You should only plant your asparagus row to row if there is not enough room for them to grow any other way.
When To Harvest In Asparagus In Iowa
You should allow the asparagus to become well established before harvesting any spears. Avoid harvesting the asparagus within the two years of planting. Starting from the third year, you can start harvesting from early July to mid-August. In between those dates, pull up only one or two stalks at a time until they dry out. Harvesting is difficult during the winter months due to wet weather and low temperatures that do not allow sprouts to grow very well. So the best time to harvest asparagus in Iowa is from July to October.
Related: Asparagus Growth Stages
For the tastiest harvest, pick stalks when they are 6-10 inches high and are firm with tightly closed tips without any browning around them. You can harvest the asparagus as soon as the first spears are ready, with the smaller ones being particularly tender and sweet. For instance, if a spear has a diameter of more than 1/4 inch in diameter, it is probably mature enough to harvest. Mature spears will be straight and firm, even if they are bent over from the wind or snow.
If you want to harvest fresh asparagus, look for young shoots and trunks. These will be tender and sweet enough to eat raw, either cooked or chopped up into salads. If the season is short, these are the best option for harvesting fresh asparagus!
Alternatively, you can pick larger stalks when they have grown taller or have thickened. The younger and thinner stalks have a softer texture and flavor, which will differ from older stalks allowed to grow taller before harvest. It is critical to remember that as asparagus grows from a seed, it will make more shoots.
When harvesting asparagus, you should aim for the tender shoots at the top of the plant, particularly sweet and tender. If you cut too early, the plant will continue to grow, and you may miss out on those early shoots, which can be the tastiest!
Challenges With Growing Asparagus In Iowa
Difficulties with Plant Growth
Asparagus prefers higher heat and humidity levels than those found in Iowa. To compensate for that, you should plant your asparagus crowns in containers filled with water or moist soil, which will provide just enough warmth for them to thrive.
Surprisingly, asparagus crowns are notoriously snappy and can easily snap off (and possibly damage surrounding plants) when caught in a strong wind. In addition, you need to ensure that the soil drains well and does not get too hot. Considering that asparagus takes three years to mature, you will have to be patient with your crop.
Plenty of Preparation
Growing asparagus in Iowa requires a lot of preparation and research before actually planting anything. You will also have to prepare your soil for planting by adding compost and fertilizers.
Additionally, you need to space out your plants to have enough room for growth. Growing asparagus from seed instead of crowns will take even more research than simply growing it from crowns.
You can grow asparagus from cuttings, if you are so inclined.
Drought is the second biggest challenge of growing asparagus in Iowa. You will have to be ready for this because you cannot permanently protect your asparagus from drought, especially if you grow it from seed.
One of the best ways to ensure that your root system is healthy and strong is to constantly water your asparagus crowns before planting them in containers or soil. Once you have planted them, ensure that they get watered daily.
Shielding from Garden Pests and Diseases
One of the biggest challenges of growing asparagus in Iowa is that you will have to protect your plants from weeds, insects, and diseases. To do this, you will have to research the best moth traps for asparagus and apply them to your plants to protect them. Additionally, you can use soil sterilization methods that help to prevent pests such as onion maggots, root grub, and black fungus.
When To Plant Asparagus In Iowa: Conclusion
Asparagus is one of the earliest crops planted in the springtime and will grow well in colder climates like those found in Iowa. For this reason, they may be more successful there than other types of plants that need warmer climates and longer growing seasons to mature properly.
However, when planting the asparagus in Iowa, you should be prepared to handle pests and diseases, drought, and low humidity challenges.