Growing Asparagus in The Northern Territory
This delicious perennial vegetable is an asset to any vegetable garden. The plants take a few years to start producing, but once your asparagus plants are established, they can produce for 2-3 decades. It takes a little more effort to grow Asparagus in the tropical climate of Northern Territory’s Top End, but it is possible.
Don’t be tempted to start harvesting from your plants too early. Follow the harvesting instructions carefully to help your asparagus grow into strong plants that can produce abundantly.
Asparagus likes full sun, but will appreciate some shade over the hottest part of the afternoon.
Asparagus plants live for a very long time (around 15-30 years), so it’s worth taking the time to prepare their bed well. They like rich, well-draining soil. Work plenty of compost and well-rotted manure as well as lime into the soil. Find an area in the garden that won’t get water-logged during heavy rains, and dig a trench approximately 15-20 cm deep.
Get your seeds started during the dry season so that they can establish themselves before its too hot and humid
Asparagus can be started from seed. Sow the seeds into seed beds until the third year and then dig up the crowns, separate them and plant as you would for crowns.
Crowns should be planted during the cool weather of the dry season.
Soak the crowns in water for at least an hour before you plant them. Place the crowns gently into the trench with their roots fanned out and cover lightly. Once the shoots appear, keep adding layers of soil until your trench is level with the ground and then apply a good layer of mulch. When you’re done covering the trench in, the crowns should be 15cm-20cm below the surface.
The fern-like plants will die back annually. Once they are dead, cut them back to make way for the new growth that will burst through in spring. You can use the dead ferns as a mulch on your asparagus bed or add them to your compost heap.
Keep them well watered while they are active. In the tropical climate of Top End there should be little to no risk of them drying out quickly.
Asparagus grows in the same spot for many years, so it needs to be fed well to produce well. Add a good thick layer of compost or well-rotted manure to the bed while the plants are dormant. Heavy rains can wash nutrients out of the soil more quickly, so if they look hungry, then top them up with a balanced organic fertilizer.
Asparagus appreciates a thick layer of mulch. Sugarcane or lucerne are good options to help smother the weeds.
Spears will start to appear in spring. Use a sharp knife to cut them off as low as possible.
Assuming you've planted crowns:
- In the first year after planting crowns: Harvest only very lightly or not at all.
- In the second year: Harvest for 2 weeks.
- In the fourth year: Harvest for 4 weeks.
- From the sixth year, you can harvest for up to 6 weeks.
If you’ve grown your asparagus from seeds, you can start harvesting for 2 weeks after 3 years.