How to Harvest Asparagus: A Complete Guide for Every Gardener to Get the Best Spears

Harvesting asparagus can be a bit tricky, especially for first-time gardeners. Did you know that the edible part of the asparagus plant is the young stem shoot, which emerges in spring when soil temperatures rise? In this informative guide, we’ll walk you through understanding the life cycle of asparagus and how to correctly harvest it for optimal yield.

Let’s dive into uncovering these gardening secrets!

Key Takeaways

  • The edible part of the asparagus plant is the young stem shoot, which emerges in spring when soil temperatures rise.
  • Asparagus growth can be divided into three phases: spears, ferns, and dormancy.
  • Spears should be picked when they are about 8 to 10 inches tall and between 1/2 inch and 3/4 inch wide. They should have firm, closed tips that are dark green or purple.
  • The best time to harvest asparagus is in the morning before it gets too hot. Harvesting early in the day helps maintain quality and freshness.

Understanding Asparagus Growth

Asparagus growth can be divided into three phases: spears, ferns, and dormancy.

Phase 1: Spears

Asparagus plants begin with spears in the first phase. They grow fast and need to be watched closely. You should pick them when they are about eight to ten inches tall. The thickness is also important; good ones are between 1/2 inch and 3/4 inch wide.

But don’t pick any spears in the first two years of growth. Only crop from year three onward, when your asparagus bed can give you a full haul!

Phase 2: Ferns

They are a key part of the asparagus life cycle. After you pick the spears, they start to grow. This is Phase 2 for your plants. The plants do not make more pikes now but focus on growing ferns.

These brackens keep your asparagus bed healthy and productive by saving energy for next year’s lance crop. To help them do this, spread compost or manure around your plants at this stage.

This feeds them and aids in their growth process.

Phase 3: Dormancy

Asparagus plants sleep in winter. We call this time “dormancy“. The plants save up energy during this break. It helps them grow better lances when spring comes. Pruning asparagus to the ground is smart before this rest starts. Learn more about how plants grow.

This keeps beetles away from the plants over winter. Remember that at this point, a mulch cover and some food for the soil can make your plants very happy after pruning.

When to Harvest Asparagus

To determine when to harvest, look for signs that the spears are ready to pick, such as a diameter of about 1/4 inch and tight tips. Gather in the morning when the spears are firm and before they begin to open up into ferns.

Signs Your Asparagus is Ready to Pick

You can tell your asparagus is ready for harvest with a few easy signs.

  • Look for spears that are 8 to 10 inches tall.
  • Check their thickness. Ready spears are between 1/2 and 3/4 inch thick.
  • Pay attention to the tips. They should be firm, closed, and dark green or purple.
  • Check the color of the pikes. They should be bright green in mid-spring.
  • See if the fern-like leaves have started to open. If they have, it’s too late to gather that pike.
  • Be sure not to wait too long after the pike comes up from the soil. If you do, it will start to turn woody and lose flavor. Discover if lemon grass is a perennial.

Best Time of Day to Harvest

The best time of day to crop asparagus is in the morning when temperatures are cooler. Harvesting them early in the day, before it gets too hot, helps maintain their quality and freshness.

Cooler temperatures in the morning prevent the spears from wilting or becoming limp, ensuring that they stay firm and crisp. By picking asparagus in the morning, you can also expect higher yields and better overall quality.

So next time you’re ready to gather your asparagus, remember to head out early in the day for the best results!

How to Harvest Asparagus

To harvest, you can either hand-pick the spears or cut them at ground level.

Hand-Picking vs. Cutting

When it comes to harvesting, you have two options: hand-picking or cutting. Hand-picking involves snapping off the spears with your fingers just above the soil line. This method is quick and easy, allowing you to selectively choose which lances to gather.

On the other hand, cutting involves using a clean sharp knife or scissors to cut the spears at the same spot. While cutting may take a bit more time, it provides a neater look and reduces the risk of damaging nearby pikes.

Both methods are effective, so choose whichever one works best for you! Just remember that any stubs left behind will eventually disintegrate and won’t harm your plants.

How Much Asparagus to Expect During Harvest

The amount of asparagus you can expect during harvest depends on the age of your asparagus bed and how frequently you crop.

Amount Based on the Age of Your Asparagus Bed

The amount of asparagus you can expect to harvest is directly correlated to the age of your plant’s bed. Below is a general guideline detailing the number of harvestable spears based on the age of their bed:

Age of Asparagus BedHarvestable Spears
First YearNone, as harvesting too early can be detrimental to the plants.
Second YearNone, as the plant needs time to mature and establish a vigorous root system.
Third Year and BeyondYou can start harvesting, though initially, it should be light. Over time, as the plant matures, you’ll be able to harvest more and more.

Remember, patience is key when it comes to reaping asparagus. Giving your plant a bedtime to grow and mature will result in a bountiful harvest in the years to come.

Frequency of Harvest

The frequency of harvesting asparagus depends on the age of the plants. In the first couple of seasons, there should be no collection to allow the plants to establish themselves. Harvesting can begin in the third year when the bed is in full production.

For younger beds, a light crop can be done in the second year. It takes up to three years for their bed to reach its full reap level. Once in season, it’s important to collect asparagus every day or every other day to prevent the lances from growing too large.

Post-Harvest Care for Asparagus

After picking them up it is important to know when to stop cutting and how to properly cut back the brackens for future growth.

When to Stop Cutting Asparagus

Once you start cropping, it’s important to know when to stop cutting. You should stop collecting the spears when they become thin and less than pencil thickness. This is usually around 6 to 8 weeks after the first harvest.

At this point, the pikes need to grow into brackens so that they can replenish energy for next year early spring. It’s important not to cut back the brackens until they turn yellow or brown in autumn, as this signals they have fully matured and stored enough nutrients.

By letting your plants rest and grow their foliage, you’ll ensure healthy and productive plants for years to come.

How to Cut Back Asparagus for Future Growth

To ensure healthy and productive plants, it is important to know how to cut back the foliage for future growth. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Wait until fall or after the first frost to cut back the ferns of your plants.
  2. Using clean garden shears or pruners, cut the brackens down to about 2 – 3 inches above the ground.
  3. Remove all the foliage and debris from your plant’s bed.
  4. Dispose of any diseased or damaged plant material properly to prevent the spread of diseases.
  5. Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or compost, around the base of each plant.
  6. This will help insulate the roots during winter and provide nutrients for future growth.
  7. Avoid cutting back the foliage too early in late summer or early fall, as this can weaken the plants and reduce their ability to store power for next year’s growth.
  8. By cutting back at the right time, you’re encouraging your plants to enter dormancy and prepare for a strong comeback in spring. Get insights on the best soil conditions for growing tomatoes.

Storing Asparagus After Harvest

To keep your asparagus fresh, store it in the refrigerator for up to a week using proper storage methods.

Tips for Fresh Use Storage

Here are some tips for storing asparagus for fresh use:

  1. Store the asparagus in the refrigerator.
  2. Wrap the stem ends of the asparagus in a moist paper towel.
  3. Place the wrapped asparagus in a plastic bag for storage.
  4. If you prefer, you can also stand the spears in a glass jar filled with water.
  5. Loosely cover the jar with plastic to keep the asparagus fresh.
  6. To maximize freshness, store the asparagus in the crisper drawer of your fridge.
  7. Properly bundled asparagus pikes can be stored this way for up to two weeks.
  8. Before refrigerating, sprinkle water on the cut end of the asparagus lances to prevent dehydration.
  9. Follow these steps to preserve your asparagus fresh and delicious until you’re ready to enjoy it.

Preserving Asparagus for Out-of-Season Use

Preserving asparagus for out-of-season use is a great way to enjoy this vegetable all year round. Here are some methods you can use:

  1. Freezing: Blanch the spears in boiling water for a few minutes, then transfer them to ice-cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain and pat dry before packing them in freezer bags or containers. Label and date the packages before placing them in the freezer.
  2. Canning: Asparagus can be canned using a pressure canner. Trim the spears to fit into canning jars, leaving about 1 inch of headspace. Add hot water or a brine solution (consult a trusted canning resource for recipe recommendations), then process according to proper canning guidelines.
  3. Pickling: Pickled asparagus is a delicious option for preserving this vegetable. Clip the spears and pack them into sterilized jars with spices like garlic, dill, and red pepper flakes. Heat vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a saucepan until boiling, then pour it over the asparagus in each jar. Seal the jars and let them cool before storing them in a cool, dark place.
  4. Dehydrating: Dehydrating asparagus removes moisture from the spears, allowing them to be stored for an extended period of time. After trimming and blanching the asparagus briefly, place them on dehydrator trays in a single layer. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying time and temperature.


In conclusion, cropping asparagus spears requires patience and careful observation. By picking at the right time of day and using proper techniques like hand-picking or cutting, you can ensure a bountiful harvest.

Remember to stop cutting when the spears become thin and let them grow into ferns for future growth. With proper storage methods, you can enjoy fresh asparagus long after the season ends.

So get ready to savor the tasty rewards of your hard work in growing and gathering asparagus!


1. How do I plant and grow asparagus in my garden?

Planting asparagus involves placing asparagus crowns or seeds in a sunny garden bed. The soil pH should be right, and you may need to add soil amendments.

2. What are the different types of asparagus I can grow?

You can grow different asparagus varieties like Jersey Giant, Purple Passion, or even white asparagus. Each type has its own growing tips.

3. When is bloom time for Asparagus officinalis and when should I harvest it?

The bloom time varies with the hardiness zone but often starts in springtime. The season typically begins when the spears reach full length.

4. Are there ways to protect my growing asparagus plants?

Yes! Keep an eye out for pests including slugs, snails, cutworms, and beetles that might harm your healthy plants.

5. How do I store fresh Asparagus?

Freshly picked Asparaguses could either be kept fresh in the fridge or frozen for future use.

6. Is there any difference between male and female plants?

Yes! Male asparagus plants usually yield more than their female counterparts making them better fit for most vegetable gardeners.

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