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A Springtime Treat 

Asparagus Caprese Salad

Last week I made one of my favorite seasonal dishes. If you imagined a multi-layered cake enrobed in a sublime chocolate frosting or a deep-dish fruit cobbler oozing with a syrupy filling and the perfect cinnamon-dusted crust, think again. 

Instead, I’m especially drawn to the simplicity of a different springtime jewel. Colorful, tasty and nutritious, this one is a winner for me. 

Roasted Caprese Salad is easy to prepare and lovely to serve. If you already have asparagus growing in your springtime garden, chances are the other ingredients may be found there, as well. Gather up some cherry, grape or Campari tomatoes, several sprigs of basil and head to the kitchen. For the past few years, I’ve developed a fondness for Balsamic Blooms and Cardinal basil. Both are growing in my garden now. The leaves hold up well using the chiffonade method and maintain their color nicely. 

After reviewing the recipe, you might want to follow it, as is, or try my suggestions for adding a little punch to the flavor profile. Once roasted and out of the oven, I like to drizzle the tomatoes with a generous splash of Apple Balsamic Vinegar. Next comes a sprinkling of Fennel Salt with Pollen. Finish the dish with chopped basil and prepare to dazzle your family or guests.

Sheila Standing in Front of her Asparagus Bed

Master Gardener, Sheila Kostelny, graciously shared her asparagus growing tips in a short Q & A. 

When did you first plant asparagus in your lovely backyard garden?

“I planted 2-year crowns from Redenta’s in 2014. I believe the variety is UC 157. I lean on the wisdom of Dr. Sam Cotner, Dr. Joseph Masabni and Skip Richter for advice regarding all my vegetables.”

When do you start harvesting?

“I harvest them from about the second to third week in February for about 6 weeks. Then they present foliage that I will use for flower arrangements for the rest of the growing season.”

How long do you expect your asparagus to produce?

“In North Texas, the crowns should continue to produce for 12-15 years. That’s quite a bonus for little effort on our part.”

What do you enjoy most about having asparagus growing in your garden?

“Asparagus are a ‘no fuss’ no muss’ vegetable. They require little and reward you with a sweet, bountiful harvest. What I especially love about them is that they grace your garden in the dead of winter when there is nothing else to bring to the table.”

Happy Growing Sheila! We appreciate your asparagus “tips”.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Growing Asparagus

Jerry Parsons and Sam Cotner, Extension Horticulturists
Texas AgriLife Extension Service

Asparagus is a highly productive vegetable best suited to cooler areas of North and West Texas. Grown for the stems or spears, a well tended planting yields 8 to 10 pounds or more per 100 square feet of bed or 24 to 30 pounds per 100 feet of row. For most home gardeners, one row is adequate. 

An asparagus planting lasts 15 to 25 years without replanting if it is well cared for and the climate is suitable. It does not do well if summers are extremely hot and long and winters are mild. 

Asparagus is grown from 1-year-old plants or “crowns” planted in January or February. Crowns grow from seed planted in flats or peat cups in October for January transplanting, or they are transplanted from an existing asparagus bed. To get healthy, vigorous plants, buy 1-year-old crowns from a nursery or garden center or order them from a seed catalog. It takes 1 year to grow a good crown. 

It requires 3 years from the time the crown is planted until the bed is in full production. Buds arise from the crown when conditions are favorable and develop into edible spears. If these spears are not harvested and are allowed to continue growing, they develop into “fern-like” stalks. 

From these “ferns”, the mature plant manufactures food and stores it in “storage roots.” This reserve supplies the energy necessary to produce spears the following year. 

Asparagus does best in a deep, well-drained soil with full sunlight. 

Soil Preparation 

Since an asparagus planting lasts many years, good seedbed preparation is essential. The soil should be free of trash, soil insects and weeds such as johnsongrass and bermudagrass before planting. 

In late fall, spread a 3-inch layer of organic matter such as manure, rotted sawdust or compost over the beds. Till or spade to a depth of 10 to 12 inches and turn the soil so all organic matter is covered. Asparagus grows well in high pH soils but does not do well if the soil pH is below 6.0. Test the soil before planting the beds and add lime if needed to adjust the pH to 6.5 to 7.0. 


Before planting new asparagus beds, till in 2 to 3 pounds of 10-20-10 or a similar analysis fertilizer per 20 feet of row or as directed by a soil test report. 

For established beds scatter 1 to 2 pounds of 10-20-10 fertilizer per 20 feet of row before growth begins in the spring, late January or early February in most areas of Texas. Add an additional 1 to 2 pounds per 20 feet of row after the last harvest. If available, use a nitrogen fertilizer such as 21-0-0 at this time. Water the fertilizer into the soil. Low fertility can cause fibrous spears. 


Martha Washington, UC 157, Jersey Giant and Mary Washington tests have shown hybrid asparagus varieties produce more than the standard varieties, but they are not widely available to home gardeners. 


Since asparagus will be in the same place several years, it is important to select the right spot. Asparagus plants make a good border around the edge of a garden or along a fence. 

After asparagus beds are tilled, mark rows 4 to 6 feet apart. Dig a furrow 4 inches wide and 6 to 12 inches deep. Place the crowns in the furrow, cover with 2 to 3 inches of soil and firm the soil around the roots. Do not fill the entire furrow at once. Plant crowns 6 to 12 inches deep in loose soils and 4 to 6 inches in heavier soils. 

Place crowns 12 to 14 inches apart. Planting too closely can cause small spears. Wider planting results in larger spears but lower total yield. Control weeds but do not injure the crowns. Fill the furrows gradually as the shoots grow. This covers small weeds, and they die from lack of light. By the end of the first season, the furrow reaches its normal level (figure 1). Deep planting of the crowns allows cultivation with garden tools or tiller (do not till too deep) without damage to crowns. 


Asparagus plants like frequent, deep watering. Water the beds thoroughly as needed. Allow the top 1 inch of soil to dry before watering again. The time varies from 3 to 5 days depending on temperature. Asparagus roots reach 10 feet deep if the soil is adequate and moisture is available. 

Care During the Season 

Keep weeds pulled or hoed from the beds. Asparagus beds require little care after the first 2 years. Control weeds without damaging the spears. In early season, till the soil when fertilizer is applied before the spears begin growth (figure 2). Control weeds during the season by raking lightly or mulching. After the last harvest, cut back all top growth. Apply fertilizer and till lightly 1 to 2 inches to kill weeds. 

Cover the bed with a 3-inch layer of clean straw, compost or other mulch material, water thoroughly and allow to grow the rest of the year. This helps insure a good harvest the next year (figure 3). 

After the first hard frost/freeze of fall, cut fern tops off at ground level and mulch with manure. In southern areas the fern may not be killed by a freeze and should be removed in late November. Any spears which sprout may be removed and eaten. 


Harvest asparagus spears from established beds for about 8 weeks. Do not harvest too soon from a new planting. 

Harvest spears when they are 4 to 10 inches long. To prevent spears from becoming fibrous, harvest at least every other day. The fibrous condition is caused by overmaturity or inadequate fertility. Spears with loosely formed heads are overmature. 

Cut asparagus spears 1 to 2 inches below the soil level. At least one-half the length of the spear should be above the ground. Never cut the spear within 2 inches of the crown to avoid damage to the developed buds. Never cut asparagus spears above the ground and allow stubs to remain (figure 4). Discontinue harvest when spear diameter becomes less than 3/8 of an inch. 

Reprinted courtesy of Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

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