Asparagus – no dig, planted in mulch over weeds, how to grow and harvest

Filmed in summer of asparagus year 6 after a third season of harvests, this year 2018 we picked 15.5kg/34lb of spears. The asparagus plants are growing on level ground with no ridges, easier for weeding because very few grow. We are a zone 8, temperate climate with around 800mm/32in rain per annum. My garden includes 1000sqm of no dig beds (a quarter acre), growing salad leaves and some vegetables for sale.

68 thoughts on “Asparagus – no dig, planted in mulch over weeds, how to grow and harvest

  1. Hi Charles, I enjoy your videos and the fact you’ve responded to me in the past.
    I bought an asparagus plant last year but didn’t get a spot prepared for it right away so I put it in my perennial bed late in the year (flowers and shrubs, no dig 😉) until I had time to prep a spot (away from my dogs) this year. The bed where it is now has decorative black mulch. Is this plant still safe to eat? I’m transplanting this week into a bed without dyed mulch. Or do you think I should discard it? Will new soil over the next year remove any toxins the plant could have? The bag the mulch came in doesn’t mention toxins; just says it is decorative.

    1. I don’t know that mulch but I do not foresee a problem and would replant the asparagus, for eating eventually.

  2. Hi Charles,

    We are getting ready to plant some 1yr old Asparagus we grew from seed, it is the start of Spring here in Australia.
    We are hoping to use a no-dig method but are unsure about how to plant them in terms of what the appropriate depth is and how to achieve that without digging a trench?
    Did you sit your crown on top of the ground and build up with compost from there so that they are at the depth you need?
    Would you consider the roots in our pot the same as a crown in terms of planting?
    Thanks for your video and advice 🙂

    1. Hi Bronwyn
      You may be planting into the soil a little and that is fine, depending on depth of compost you spread. Make a hole the size of the rootball, no need to spread roots out.
      Just pop the rootball in as if planting a tomato, a little below surface level.

  3. Dear Charles

    I’d really appreciate your advice.

    I planted 18 asparagus crowns back in April but now realise I misunderstood the planting instructions. I planted the crowns at soil level rather than 2-3 inches below soil level. They have grown but with very thin small shoots, especially with the late frost and then endless rain we’ve had. Most are only about 2-3 inches tall and 5mm wide, one or two shoots per crown. I’ve now covered all the plants/crowns in 2inches compost/soil but I’m now wondering whether I need to just buy new ones before they aren’t available online until next season! I’m worried I’ve permanently stunted them. I’m New Forest, UK in terms of climate.

    1. Hi Hywel
      Oh dear this is a pity, and I am unsure.
      Those dimensions are ok for a new planting. I would leave them, see how they go through the summer, could be ok.

  4. Hi! I planted asparagus crowns a couple of months ago and still no sign of any shoots. I gently scraped away the surface of the soil to get to a crown and it looks exactly the same as when I planted it. Not brittle. Should I assume dead or keep watering? Any advice gratefully received! Thanks

    1. Lack of growth may be from lack of warmth and I would expect you to see some spears by the middle of June at the latest. I would stop watering because they just don’t need it at the moment, and too much watering reduces air in the soil which they also need. I have never ever watered asparagus, in my whole life.

  5. Hi Charles, prepping an asparagus raised bed now. Do you think I should get a bulk bag of sharp sand to incorporate into the mushroom compost which I’ll be planting the asparagus into to improve draining? Part of the raised bed is still on very wet ground but I’ve built a raised bed of 15cm and have filled up the 15cm of mushroom compost plus some cow manure. Would that be sufficiently well-draining or should I incorporate a bulk bag of sharp sand? Want to make sure I’m building the bed right as it’s a permanent bed for the next 20 years! Thanks

    1. Hi Jan. I would absolutely not use sand, because it does not improve drainage. It just makes the surface layer a little more aerated perhaps. For the cost of buying sand you would be better just to add more compost, which over the years will be taken down into the soil by earthworms, which will improve drainage.

      1. Thank you so much for the insight that sand doesn’t improve drainage. You’re absolutely right to use the money for compost instead!

    2. Thanks so much for this video. It answers many of my questions. I have a 3 year old asparagus bed with 5 plants. Only three seem to be producing. One thing I realise is that probably I planted them too deeply, and didn’t create a mound that was sufficiently high for roots to fall properly. The consequence is few fat spears that must really work hard to grow above ground. My question is – should I dig up the crowns and put them more shallow or leave them now with the hope that nature will take over given some spears appearing?

      1. I am not sure Tony. It’s possible that the neighbouring successful crowns will root into the free space.

  6. Charles

    Thank you for the informative video regarding asparagus, specifically regarding spacing, and a better understanding of plant development for such a long term plant.
    Due to having heavy clay soil which is prone to waterlogging I’ve recently completed a purpose built raised bed. Dimensions are 182 x 198cm, 45cm high raised bed & 28cm high soil level.
    Five Asparagus crowns have been planted in a saltire cross, 62cm from corner to first crown, 68cm to middle, 70 cm to third crown and 65cm to opposite corner… similiar distance from other corner.
    The bed itself has been filled with topsoil & green goodness compost, trench mixed with well rotted manure (8+years old – worms aplenty), once asparagus crowns were planted a 2cm layer of seaweed kelpie compost was applied as a mulch. Ideally I’d like to increase the mulch level another cm or two. On my allotment site there is an abundance of wood chip available, both fresh & decomposted (2+years), would you recommend adding a 2cm layer of the decomposted woodchip on top of the existing bed?

    Many Thanks

    Townhill, Fife

    1. That sounds thorough Alan, and should give you nice asparagus eventually, and yes I would mulch the surface with that decomposed woodchip, good luck

      1. Many thanks for the prompt reply!!

        I look forward to following more of your advice in the following months & years.

  7. Dear Charles,

    Can I sow now the asparagus seeds directly into the permanent beds? Or should I sow them in modules and them transplant them perhaps in the summer to the permanent positions? Or do I have to wait till next year to plant them in their permanent bed?
    If I can do the above, as the asparagus seeds are so small, can I grow other plants to keep the bed productive, say celery or salad leaves or radishes, in between the planted seeds?

    Thank you in advance for your advice!

    Am in Dunfermline Scotland.

    1. I was sow Asparagus always undercover in modules and then pot it on, to transplant next spring, then next year yes you can grow other vegetables between

  8. Hi Charles, I have 6 asparagus plants (not crowns) to out into my new no dig beds. The garden centre suggested digging them in but there’s cardboard 6″ beneath the compost!
    Can I just treat them as crowns and fluff out the roots?
    Many thanks Chrissie

    1. Those roots are finer and more tender than the older roots of crowns and I would not do that.
      If they need to go in deeper than your compost you can simply cut a pot sized hole in the cardboard and set them in to the deeper hole, so the bottom of the pot is in soil

  9. Charles, your crown spacing vs others… I’m losing my mind! You use about 2 feet / 60cm between crown. A lot seem to advise 1 foot between crowns and sellers even say to get 5 crowns per meter 😳

    1. How interesting.
      Sellers want to sell many crowns.
      One foot is good for the first say 5 years. But after that, it gets crowded as plats develop.
      Try some closer and some wider perhaps!

      1. I could try that. I’ll be ordering 10 green & 10 purple crowns. As my bed width is 1.2m, is it also advisable to have a more zig-zag line, instead of a straight line?

  10. Hello,

    I’m in zone 7b/ border 8a in Brittany, France and wondering if I can plant the crowns now (ground prepped in Jan) with the temps still going down to around 0 some nights, but warming up to as high as 15 in the afternoons. The bulbs are all coming up, despite the recent freeze and unusual snow. I am thinking it should be fine but just wanted some advice 🙂


  11. Hi Charles,

    Big fan of your work.

    We are going to plant no dig asparagus this spring. We have a slightly weedy contained patch that has been covered since October. We live right next to the sea and getting seaweed is very easy for us. Our plan was to lay cardboard, add a very thick layer of seaweed (which is already chopped up by the sea), add some homemade compost on top and plant into that? Does this sound sensible?

    Thank you in advance.


    1. Hi Luke and this sounds amazing. My slight concern would be putting so much seaweed under the compost, it almost feels like it needs to be on top but I have not used it a lot so I am guessing.
      Most important point is that asparagus loves seaweed, so it should be good!

  12. Hello from SW Idaho, USA. Thank you for the wonderful work you share- it’s been so helpful!

    We straddle zone 6b/7a here in the high desert. Our average precipitation is only about 12 inches per year.

    I’m planting asparagus crowns this spring. Prior to learning that asparagus could be planted using no-dig, I’d covered the bed with cardboard (until we ran out, then finished the job with a few layers of biodegradable landscape paper) and covered that with spoilt hay. The area has a seedbank full of perennial weed seeds. We finished covering the beds mid-November. My intent was to pull back the hay and dig traditionally to plant crowns.

    After watching your asparagus video, I’m excited to learn a better way! 🙂 To clarify, it looks like you’ve got fairly fresh cow manure directly under the crowns. Then you covered with a few inches of compost? Is that right?

    We have access to both fresh cow manure, some that’s been partially broken down and I’ve also had a load of compost delivered that was made from arborist waste. I was thinking of pulling back the spoilt hay, layering in the fresh manure, spreading out the crowns and covering with a few inches of either partially composed cow manure or the pre-finished delivered compost.

    Am I too late here in mid-January to lay down fresh manure in time for planting crowns this spring?

    Happy gardening!

    1. Nice to hear Michelle.
      I would spread no fresh manure but just some of the older manure, then do exactly as you describe, and it will be a lovely bed of asparagus, eventually!

  13. Hi Charles,
    I planted my asparagus seeds in summer and they grew nicely in pots in my cold frame, which is where they still are. The foliage has died off now, is this as I should expect and am I ok to leave them in their pots until spring until I transplant them to their bed?
    And just to say a big thank you for sharing all your knowledge, it is always inspiring!

    1. Thanks Alison
      Yes that is totally normal for all the foliage to die by the end of autumn. The crown is still in your pots, should be good to grow from transplanting in March.

  14. Hi Charles – I’m going to bite the proverbial bullet in 2021 & start to grow asparagus. Being an impatient soul, I’m going to buy crowns. You recommend an all male hybrid – any particular variety? I’m preparing a bed behind my allotment shed… it gets a few hours sun, but not constant – do no that’ll be OK? When’s the best time to buy and plant the crowns?

    FYI the WahtsApp group from your course at Homeacres in November 2018 is still going strong – we’re sharing tips – successes and failures!

    Seasons Greetings, Ruth

    1. Nice to hear that Ruth! Yes I recommend crowns of any all male hybrid variety and best time to plant is actually March. That spot you mention sounds fine. I would order the crowns now because there may be a risk of them selling out.

      Have a lovely Christmas and lots of success in 2021 🌺

  15. Hi there,
    I have just today cut back all the dead greenery off a very established but much neglected asparagus plot, there’s also very well established tough grasses in there. What is your advice now re the weeds, should I feed the bed with a mulch of well rotted stable manure and then cardboard or plastic on top before removing in spring?

    1. Yes Lisa, that is exactly what I would do.
      Total light exclusion, until about 20th April, even if there are a few spears already of asparagus then. May need second layer of card in February.
      The grass needs as long as possible in darkness! May be possible to remove some surface grass roots next spring.

  16. This all sounds very organised. My asparagus bed escaped – that is to say it has been over whelmed by docks, thistles ,nettles and especially large bindweed. So we now mow it. Asparagus marked by canes and then mowed round. They are amazingly tough plants. If not they would never survive on sandy beaches. And although unorthodox the system works very well.

  17. Thank you for the information, video and replies to the comments. I haven’t got any questions to ask now! I’ve potted my asparagus seedlings after starting them as plugs. Just got to make a bed and keep them alive til Spring! Loving the no dig theory – bed prep starts this year, planting the next.

  18. Hi Charles. I can get a few 4 years old asparagus plants from a friend. Would it be possible to use the cardboard and mulch for a new bed with mature plants like this? Apparently spears would be available for picking next year. All blessings and thanks for all you contribute for those of us who love to garden in harmony and simplicity 🙂

    1. Thanks Cheryl, and that can work to grow it, but I would allow it to establish another year before first picks in spring 2022.

  19. Hi Charles, I just ordered some asparagus seeds and I’m planning to plant them in modules once they arrive. Then they will continue to grow in a polytunnel under they can be planted out in April/ May next year. Would they survive the winter in an unheated polytunnel or should we over-winter them in the house. There’s quite a lot of seeds – about 50. If not, what would be your recommendation? I live in Fife, Scotland.

    1. All fine and they survive outside although in pots which may freeze solid perhaps not. Fine once in the ground. Keep in a shed even, over winter.

  20. Hi Charles. Am so impressed with no dig I have been following your channel and was moved to grow asparagus from seed this year from spring sowing, but unsure when to prick out and plant them out. How big they should be to separate?, and what is the best time of year and size to plant out?. They are 7-8 inches but I only hear about 1 year crowns wondering when to out them outside… it’s late may 2020. All the best.

    1. Nice to hear Rosi.
      I pricked mine as seedlings in April to modules, then to pots about now. Planted following February-March.
      Means ground is free this year to weed or grow, and watering is easier.
      Pot into large pots say 4in-10cm wide in July.

  21. Hi Charles, I am going to try growing asparagus from seed. Wondering if you have done this before? Can I plant them in one pot and then prick them out into individual pots when big enough? Or do they do better planting an individual seed in their own pot? Thanks so much! I absolutely love watching your videos!

  22. Hi Charles,
    Wonder if you can clarify about cardboard mulch under asparagus bed. I have couch grass around but the ground is clear at the moment, it was killed off with weedkiller by an over zealous friend. I can put 6inches or more of bed filling, 5year old animal manure and compost etc onto the space
    Should I put a base layer of cardboard in to stop the couch grass coming through or just plant my crowns in the compost.
    I will put cardboard around the edge and mulch with wood chip to keep the paths clear

    1. Lorna I expect the couch roots are still alive, so cardboard (then wetted since it’s summer) then s little compost then crowns then say 3-4in compost above crowns will be good.

  23. Hi. I wondered if once the asparagus was finished for the season, if I could grow another surface crop in the asparagus bed.

    1. No Claire, because the asparagus needs then to grow full size ferns, to feed the roots. There will be little spare light or moisture.

  24. hi charles, Thanks for all your gardening help! I just finished your online gardening course and Im super excited to start he next one!! Im starting asparagus from seed today and was wondering about module sowing (a few seeds in each cell) or maybe sowing in a tray and pricking out one plant per cell. which is best? I live in ZONE 7A (petersburg Alaska) and we are right on the water which keeps as a little warmer but being that we live so far north our daylight is what has me wondering about sowing dates. Ive been copying yours but i was hoping for suggestions? we have dark winters (January and February its dark by 3 pm and light by 9 or 10 am) but in the summers sun set is sometimes 11pm and sunrise its 4 am. if you were me how would you change your sowing dates?

    1. Hello Chelsea, nice to read your feedback and have news of distant Alaska.
      Your light levels are similar to Scotland, where I worked in 1981. Great in summer at least!
      I would sow just a week or two later now in February through March, then same time April through to end June, then a week earlier in summer and two weeks earlier September.
      After doing that for a year you can fine tune dates – everybody has microclimate aspects, such as your proximity to water.
      You should find row covers/fleece very useful in early spring, to convert light into warmth. I wish you well.

    2. Forgot to mention asparagus – if expensive hybrid seed, sow in tray to prick out. If cheaper seed you could sow 2-3 per cell then thin to one.

  25. Great Video Charles.
    I live in a zone 5-6 . in Canada. I was wondering if just 3 or 4 inch hollow would be enough protection from the hot summer sun and the cold winters that we have here. I understand that a top up of compost would be added in the fall . Should my Crowns be planted deeper because of my climate?
    Last summer temperatures were around 30 C for most of the summer and winters can be colder than -20 C for several weeks.
    Also just wondering how to be able to tell if the crowns that I purchase are males?
    Thanks for your help.

    1. Hello Nancy, thanks, and crowns can’t go too deep for fear of weakening new shoots so yes, add just one inch to planting depth, and I would try a mulch of straw in winter, perhaps summer also, applied after the picking season, which for you should be May-June. Summer growth could ne through the mulch.
      I don’t know of a way of checking crowns for sex!

      1. Hi Charles
        Thanks for the quick response and the advice.
        I will plant them today,
        Love your web cite and all your videos.
        Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  26. Could you please advise how you plant your asparagus. Most conventional advice involves digging trenches etc, but I’m assuming with no dig you wouldn’t be doing this:)
    Many thanks

    1. Hi Daisy and no trenches needed, just pull out a 3-4in/8-10cm deep hollow in the surface compost and soil, see also my Asparagus video

  27. Thanks again Charles, though this is a first thank you. I have been following your site and advice for a couple of years. After organic gardening for 40 years your short piece on BBC excited me to try 2 small beds on our lawn. Ureka! It worked and I now also have 2 allotments and a walled garden under no dig cultivation. Looking forward to an extended gardening life. Thanks again. Chas

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