Know When to Harvest Your Asparagus

Five asparagus spears coming up from the soil.
Asparagus spears emerge once soil temperatures reach about 50°F.
Photo Credit: Rosie Lerner, Purdue Extension

Q. I planted a new asparagus patch last year. I just have a few spears up so far. Do you think the cold weather injured the plants this winter? Is it OK to harvest these spears? Someone told me I shouldn’t harvest at all the first year.

A. Asparagus is pretty cold hardy, so if the plants were in good health going into winter, they should be OK. This chilly spring was very slow for plant development – asparagus begins to emerge once the soil temperature reaches about 50°F. A few warm sunny days should bring up more spears soon.

Full size asparagus plants with green, fern-like leafy foliage.
Asparagus shoots produce fern-like leafy foliage if left uncut.
Photo Credit: Rosie Lerner, Purdue Extension

As to whether to harvest the first year, traditional garden wisdom says to skip harvest and allow all spears (young shoots) to develop their fern-like foliage the first growing season. This allows the plant to accumulate carbohydrate reserves and make a good comeback in future years. Assuming you planted in spring last year, you should be able to do a little light harvesting this second season.

If your plant is producing good-sized, thick spears, you can harvest for two or three weeks and then allow the rest of the season to mature foliage. By next year, the planting should be well established and you can harvest up until about the middle of June.

More information about growing asparagus is available in Growing Asparagus in the Home Garden

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