Transplanting Asparagus
& Dividing Asparagus Crowns

June 28, 2013 - I could have divided this clump into 2. However, it seemed to be only one big crown, so I planted it together. When to divide? The answer is further below.


Hopefully - and ideally - transplanting asparagus won't be on your regular to-do list.

That's because - besides being a lot of hard work - for asparagus, being a long term proposition, it's best to choose the right location in the first place.

However, we don't live in an ideal and perfect world, but a real and practical one. The reality is, that in spite of the best planning and preparation, there are times when transplanting asparagus becomes a necessity.

Here are some possible reasons for transplanting asparagus:

  • to thin an overcrowded asparagus bed

  • to relocate the bed altogether, due to moving, new construction, etc.

  • to remove volunteers from around your property to a better location


By learning to transplant asparagus, or any other plant, transplanting in general will become easier - an important skill when it comes to planting trees, berries, and vines, which, after ordering from the nursery, is basically transplanting from one place to the other.

However, not all transplants are the same, but they pretty much can fall into general categories.

N. B.   When transplanting asparagus, especially from a grassy area, be sure to carefully check the asparagus roots for grass roots (rhizomes) growing with, through, and in the asparagus roots.

  • Because older asparagus roots are almost a solid mass of root layers right at the crown, it may be hard to find the grass rhizomes. When you do find a grass rhizome, you may have to loosen and untangle some asparagus roots, and then remove the grass rhizomes by pulling them firmly but gently one by one so hey don't break and leave part of a grass rhizome buried in the roots. You don't want the grass to to grow and become a deeper problem at your new location.

  • I Have found several grass rhizomes that split into the asparagus roots and went right through the roots.

  • I even found a grass rhizome that was hidden inside a rotten asparagus root.
Asparagus I Transplanted in the Spring of 2012

Photo on October 8, 2012 - This is an asparagus plant I transplanted from the orchard into my kitchen garden in the spring of 2012. In the beginning of summer 2013, I transplanted it to a permanent 52 foot (16 meter) raised bed, together with many other transplanted asparagus plants growing in different places.

Learn from my Mistakes

Around 2007, I had planted asparagus in the orchard between the trees and berry bushes. This proved to be a mistake.

My thinking was that it would help draw nutrients, and the dead ferns would feed the trees and berries.

However, in the spring I had to walk everywhere to find the small shoots.

Before you know it, you'll miss out, because they get too big!

It's much better to put them in an "in-your-face" central location.

That makes harvesting, weeding, mulching, etc. a lot easier.

Another problem was the grass took over, and I lost many plants.


Do you want to see some of the mess I transplanted the asparagus from ?


Asparagus Plants in the Orchard by the Pear Trees

October 8, 2012 - This is asparagus growing between 2 pear treas in my orchard.

The photo was taken in the morning, that's why you can see the sun in the upper left hand corner.

Asparagus Plants in the Orchard by the Apple Trees

October 8, 2012 - This is asparagus growing between the apple trees in my orchard.

I finally transplanted these at the end of June, 2013.

The long light brown vine stems covering everything is wild vetch, which, because it's in the pea family, adds to the nitrogen and humus in the orchard.

While it looks a mess, even weeds can be your friends!


You may have some surprises after transplanting asparagus.
You may find it growing very healthy indeed - in the first location !!!


October 8, 2012 - This shows why you should be real careful where you place your asparagus bed in the first place.

Several of the asparagus plants I transplanted from this area started growing again, coming up through at least 1 foot (30 cm) of the horse manure!

That's What Happened to Me

In the spring of 2012, I transplanted berry bushes and asparagus from this area. I had a back hoe operator remove stumps, and clear the area.

In spring of 2013 I planted 20 stone fruit trees in this area, and am developing this area into more raised beds for shaded vegetables under the trees.

After it was cleared in 2012, I brought in 4 truck loads of well-aged horse manure, as seen in this photo.

Here you see an asparagus plant coming up through the manure.

On the bright side, it gave me more asparagus to transplant the following June, 2013.

I also had berry plants that came up from the roots left in the ground.

If conditions are right, many types of plants will start new plants from the roots remaining in the ground. This makes for an additional way to propogate. I've had success doing this with black raspberries, which are usually propagated by tip-layering!


Asparagus, Once Well Established,
Can Have Some Unusually Strong Muscles!



There are stories of asparagus, once well established, coming up through new lawns.

I don't know how true this is, but It's even been told that asparagus has pushed up through and broken 7 inches (18 cm) of pavement!

So again, it pays to choose one good asparagus location that won't be disturbed for years to come.

Then, with proper care, it can feed you for years to come!


Special Instructions when Transplanting Asparagus


Transplanting asparagus is similar to transplanting rhubarb.

However, here are some precautions:

  • A good time to transplant is in spring, when both locations - transplanting from, and transplanting to - have plenty of moisture, and the days are shorter and cooler.

  • A good day to transplant is on a cloudy day in cooler weather.

  • If at all possible, make sure your asparagus bed in your new location is ready to go.

  • Dig as much of the larger roots as you can. If you only get a small root ball, it's like setting your harvest dates back a year or two later! When it comes to asparagus roots, the more, the merrier. You want to keep the larger roots as long as possible. Only prune the roots if they are excessively long, rotting, or seriously damaged.

  • After digging out the plant, prune off all "above-the-ground" stems and leaves. You should end up with basically only the crowns and roots, just like 1 or 2 year old plants are shipped from the nursery. Except in your case, if the plants are older, you may have much bigger clumps. Then, you might consider dividing your plants into new plants, which I discuss below.

  • When transporting, keep roots in a moist, but not soaking wet, medium such as shredded newspaper, cloth, or shavings. Too much moisture will cause fungus and rot, too little moisture and the roots will dry out, then die.

  • If your asparagus has already leafed out, cut the stems down to an inch or 2 from the crowns. Cut off the ferns, the leafy above ground part, either before you carry it to the new location, or after you get there, or at least right after transplanting. You want the crowns to grow new roots and then new shoots. By starting over like this, your transplant will have a much greater chance of survival. Leaving the leaves may look pretty, but can seriously drain the plant's energy - unless you have optimal conditions, provide it with lots of water and temporary shade, and in many other ways babysit your plant - which can seriously drain your energy!

  • At the new location, follow the instructions for planting asparagus. You might have to make little ditches for some of the longer roots, but in general, you'll be planting about 3 or 4 inches deep.

  • Mulch your asparagus bed. Mulches are so valuable to conserve water, provide nutrients, keep you and the plants clean from the soil and dirt, and so many other good things, that it's unfortunate so many still don't or won't do it. In nature, practically everything is mulched! Scientists are now finding out that branch mulch actually collects water like a sponge from the air at night! Remember studying about c-o-n-d-e-n-s-a-t-i-o-n in school?

  • Don't forget to thoroughly and deeply water your transplants, and continue to do so once or twice a week through hot and dry weather during the first season, until they really are well established. 

Here are some photos when I transplanted asparagus in early summer 2013:

June 28, 2013 - In this photo, you see an asparagus crown in the hole, and the stem and leaves which I have just pruned from the crown. Sometimes you have to dig little ditches from the hole for the longer roots. If too long, you can clip them off.

June 29, 2013 - After I finish covering the crowns, I take the stems and leaves with the same clippers and chop them into smaller pieces, letting them fall on the bed as a mulch covering to conserve water and add nutrients.

June 28, 2013 - When I transplant anything into an existing bed, one tool I use is a black plastic mortar mixing tray tray to put the soil from the new hole, so it doesn't spread soil all over the mulch. The soil, and the dirt below it, can carry latent weed seeds that can germinate when closer to the surface, and cause needless weeding in the future.

I have a number of these trays, as I use them to weed, mix potting soil, and many other uses.

 June 29, 2013 - When I transplanted into a bed that I created as I went - obviously less than ideal, but I ended up with more crowns than I planned for - I simply laid the asparagus crown down and spread the roots, after the bed had been built to the proper level for the asparagus crown - as seen in the left of this photo.

I then continued covering the roots and building the rest of the bed over the asparagus roots - as seen on the right of this photo.

In addition to the black plastic mortar tray, here are some other tools I use when transplanting:

  • A wheelbarrow to take all the tools, if the location is at some distance from the tool storage.

  • A large shovel to dig the plants out from the old hole, and dig a new hole, if necessary.  I also use a smaller shovel to put the dirt back over the asparagus roots. In the tough grass I used a shovel. I had one asparagus plant growing in my softer garden beds with no grass. To dig it out, I used a potato fork, so that less roots were cut off.

  • A pair of nursery gloves with plastic on the palms of the hands. I go through a lot of them, and wash and re-use them till they disintegrate. I only started using them in the spring of 2013, after I cut my finger on a rock when planting garlic. Now I use them for almost anything.

  • If necessary, I use wet burlap to cover the roots and keep them moist. Since Saturday was mostly cloudy throughout the day, I simply sprayed a bit of water on the bare roots now and then when they were starting to dry out.

  • Of course, it helps to have  a water hose and/or a bucket of water handy to wet and water your new transplants.

  • I also brought a bucket of small stakes to mark the new location of the crown.

I make the small stakes from prunings of my fruit trees in the spring, or from tree branches or brush that I have been recently clearing - usually using the same red-handled hand pruners pictured above.


Special Instructions when Dividing Asparagus


Some types of plants can be divided into lots of smaller pieces, and they'll grow just fine.

NOT ASPARAGUS !!!

When you plant asparagus roots, the roots are attached together in the center by what is called an asparagus crown. It may look a bit lumpy, because buds for new asparagus spears may be forming.

If at all possible, do not divide a crown in half.

In general plant the whole clump, no matter how big, if it hasn't divided into more crowns.

You might get away with dividing a very large crown clump in half, and I've done this, but usually it exposes so much root tissue that can easily rot in the soil.

And if it does survive, the plant seems to stay quite small for awhile.

However, if the clump of asparagus you dig up has more than one separate crown growing together, you can divide - or more accurately, separate, - the crowns from each other.

When dividing asparagus, you may have to untangle the roots, as you can see in the photos below:

June 28, 2013 -This photo shows one of the big clumps I dug out of the grass in the apple and pear orchard.

I shook the clump to loosen the dirt and the roots

You can see what looks like 3 separate parts.

June 28, 2013 - This photo shows the same clump, now separated into 5 different crowns.

At first, I shook the whole clump loose, because the roots were tightly packed into dirt and into each other.

Then I started to untangle individual roots from each other, and soon the whole clump shook loose.

I actually ended up with 6 crowns, because when I went to plant one of the crowns, it fell apart into 2 crowns.

June 29, 2013 - Because so many clumps ended up in many more crowns, I had to extend the bed to the full 52 feet (16 meters).

I had planned on 10 or 15 crowns to transplant.

Then I could plant the rest of the bed into purple passion asparagus the following year.

But I ended up with about 54 crowns to plant, so I filled out the whole bed.

(Several months earlier I had staked out 10 separate beds 52 feet (16 meters) long to develop in the coming months. This was one of them.)

What about the rocks on the paper you see in this last photo?

Well, here on this page, I won't go into all the things I do to build a standard garden bed - using earthworms, manure, rock basalt tailings, branch mulch, paper weed barrier, soaker hoses, oyster shell, and more, but just in case you're interested ...

The rocks temporarily hold the 2 layers of biodegradable paper weed barrier down. Then I put some well-aged horse manure down, placed the crowns in the middle of the paper about a foot (30 cm) apart, and spread the roots. Then I covered them with more of the well-aged manure.

The rocks are a certain kind of rock we have here in the mountains, that decomposes rather quickly, especially in good soil and manure.

The asparagus will grow their roots out to, around, below, and even into these rocks to get the minerals leaching around and down into the soil from the rocks.


My Own Experience in Transplanting and Dividing Asparagus Crowns



I made several plantings of asparagus crowns in the orchard area in 2006 or 2007 and also in later years.

With so many duties on the farm, I kept putting off transplanting the asparagus to one location.

Finally, in June of 2013, I had to cut the tall grass in the older orchard of pear and apple trees.

However, the leafy asparagus ferns were above the grass, and if I mowed them down, I wouldn't find the place they were hiding at.

I thought I had about 10 or 15 plants left in the old orchard, and volunteering here and there and everywhere. I had 2 shorter sections off a 52 foot (16 meter) bed partially ready to go.

I thought I could be done transplanting asparagus in a couple of hours on a Friday morning.

Actually, it took Friday, and then all day Saturday.

That's because, what I thought would only be 10-15 plants turned out to be more like 55 plants, and completely filled the 52 foot (16 meter) bed.  Which of course, meant I had to clear the grass, lay some paper weed barrier, haul manure and alfalfa hay mulch, to fill out the whole 52 foot (16 meter) bed.

So how did I get so many asparagus crowns?

When I transplanted asparagus in June 2013, I found that a number of clumps had grown very large, and had divided themselves into as many as 6 separate crowns.

But the roots were entwined tightly together. It was a matter of carefully untangling and separating the roots, and surprise, I ended up with much more asparagus to plant.

Transplanting and Dividing Asparagus Can Be Hard Work.

It rained on and off Saturday, and it was a dirty job. Everything, including me, my shoes, my clothes, and all the tools and buckets and wheelbarrow, got wet and filthy muddy dirty.

On the bright side, a wet rainy day is a very good day to transplant asparagus, especially since summer had already started. Whenever the sun did come out, it immediately got very hot and humid. So the storms were a blessing in disguise.


But that wasn't the hardest part.
Probably the hardest part was cutting the asparagus crowns from below 6-12 inches (15-30 centimeters) of solid matted grass.

The grass roots were so matted I had to keep hacking away at the grass, and jumping on the shovel over and over, to dig a hole around the asparagus and through the roots.

Then I had to pull the tightly matted grass clumps in sections apart and away from the lower part of the asparagus stems.

If I can help it, never again do I want grass growing with asparagus!

Here's more photos. I took these while digging an asparagus plant out of the grass. I then untangled the roots and pulled this clump apart, and ended up with 3 separate crowns:


June 29, 2013 - Transplanting asparagus from grass. Tough work. The tree on the left is a pear tree.

June 29, 2013 - Close-up of transplanting asparagus from grass. What a mess!

June 29, 2013 - The same clump in a black mortar mix tray. As you can see from the last photos, the black mortar mix tray got dirty. We had rain storms come throughout that Saturday, and turned the dirt into mud. Of course, I got wet and dirty too!

June 29, 2013 - This same clump divided into 3 completely separate crowns. If you look closely, you can still see some green leaves of grass in the roots, and their white rhizomes, which I pulled out after the photo.


Is it Worth the Trouble to
Transplant - & Divide - Asparagus?


If done properly, you might be surprised how quickly older and larger asparagus roots will grow, compared to the smaller crowns you buy from a nursery or catalog.

I certainly am pleased how quickly the transplanted and divided asparagus started to grow, as seen in the following 3 photos, taken 12 days after transplanting:

July 11, 2013 - This is the newly planted 52 foot (16 meter) bed looking from the east towards the west. The hill slopes down to the left in this photo.

You can see I have a lot of work to do to finish the bed with rock basalt tailings, mulching, and weeding or paper weed barrier the paths on both sides.

And then finish it all off with branch mulch to keep it weed free.

But the hot July weather has already come, and harvesting of peas, and berries, and weeding, and watering, and, and, .......

Well, I'm just thankful. The important thing is the asparagus is transplanted and in the ground!

July 11, 2013 - This is the newly planted 52 foot (16 meter) bed looking in the opposite direction, from the west to the east.

The bed is fairly level, but the hill slopes down to the right in this photo, with a southern exposure.

In the background you can see my almond trees. That fence in the back (top) of the photo is 8 feet (2.4 meters) high!

We live in the mountains in the woods, so my farm is a bit hilly with slopes, and even some steeper terraces in places.

By the way, a good many of the asparagus are already 2 feet (61 cm/.61 meter) high in less than 2 weeks!

July 11, 2013 - I had just watered the asparagus when I saw this photo opportunity.

It's sometimes hard to see the asparagus, like in the 2 other July 11th photos a little further above, unless the sun helps.

These 2 spears from 1 crown were about 2 feet tall (61 cm/.61 meter) 2 weeks after planting.


Watering the Newly Transplanted Asparagus Bed

I water the newly planted bed in the morning for about 1 minute per section, once or twice a week, with a spray wand at rather low pressure (because there are 3 long hoses from the water spigot to the orchard area, where the newly transplanted asparagus bed is located.) I measured that 1 minute = 5 gallons (19 liters) of water.

This is the same time I water the 20 newly planted stone fruit trees just to the south of this asparagus bed - 1 minute each - just for the first year, during our 45 day hot spell of summer. After that, they're on their own.

I time my watering with a pocket watch in my left hand.

In the 52 foot (16 meter) bed, there are 4 13 foot (4 meter) sections. Each section has cedar stakes at the corners of the bed. So it takes about 4 minutes to do the entire bed.

It's really not that much water, I would like to do more, but our water is very limited.

Additional mulches will help conserve water, and will help retain the snow melt in the following years. With the proper amount and types of mulch, you won't have to water the asparagus in subsequent years.


Again, is Asparagus Worth all the Trouble?


July 9, 2013 - Morning Dew on an Asparagus Tip in my Garden


I think so, as I hope to get lots more asparagus in a few years.

And then, for years and years to come.

Asparagus from the store is getting expensive.

And there is no comparison to your own home grown asparagus, right from your garden.

A Quick Story

My father tells how, after the Depression Years, a 10 x 12 plot of asparagus fed their family every year in the spring for many weeks.

Every night, his mother would steam the asparagus and make a white sauce to cover it, and serve it with toast.

So let's not take it for granted.

Every piece of food is a miracle.

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