Harvesting Asparagus
Questions and Answers

We get so many harvesting asparagus questions to answer that we thought we'd put them all together on one page. We hope that those who are not quite sure what to do at the most exciting time of year in the asparagus year will feel more confident about how to make the most of their asparagus patch once they've read this.

Harvesting Asparagus Questions Answered here:

1.     Hi, I am not sure if I just didn’t look in the right place, can you eat the fronds as well as the spears? They would look great as a garnish or in a salad??

The fronds are certainly very pretty but we’ve never eaten them! Stick to eating the spears and you won’t be disappointed.

2.       Hi, I have a question- when the spears start coming up, do I cut all of them, or does the plant need one left to grow into the ferny stuff to keep the plant alive or do I harvest all spears and then it will go ferny AFTER I stop harvesting for 8 weeks?   Please let me know! My spears are starting to come up now as I am in Australia.  Thanks!

Harvest all the spears as they come up for the 8 weeks and then stop. Let the new shoots that come up after you have stopped cutting grow on and from the fern.

3.       Does one cut “all” the spears, no matter how thin, or do you let the thin ones grow us to the fern stage?

4.       Should I cut the small shoots (1/8 in ) or let them fern out.

5.       You say to cut the asparagus when it’s half inch in diameter and 6 inches long. What do you do with the spears that are less than a half inch in diameter?  do you let them grow or do you cut them and throw them away?  

6.       Do I let the new skinny, thin spears keep growing,  go to seed or do I cut them the same as I do the mature spears?

7.       Among our asparagus we notice some very thin spears are growing, do we have to remove them as we harvesting the right size and length of most of the other plants ? We have 2 - 3 and 4 year beds. Thank you for your advice.

All of these question are asking the same thing, and the answer is: as for question 2. Cut all the spears whatever thickness before the tips start to open up to form ferns. (When the tips start to open the stems get tougher but thin spears with tight tips still taste delicious.) Harvest all the spears as they come up for 8 weeks and then stop. Let the new shoots that come up after you have stopped cutting grow on and from the fern.

8.       Hello!  I apologize if you mentioned this already. Do we have to cut the asparagus down that has grown past the picking stage yet it’s early in the season and green?  Do I cut an inch below the surface the tall asparagus so another one can grow in its place? 

9.       I haven’t been able to keep up on my harvesting. I missed a couple of days and now some of the shoots have gotten quite tall. Should I cut back the ones that have gotten away or let them go until fall?

10. I plan to be away for about 10 days towards end of May just as my asparagus spears should be harvested daily. On my return, should I cut and compost any spears that have opened to form asparagus fern or just let them continue to grow.  Will it diminish the overall crop?

If you are still in the cutting phase and a few shoots have grown on (maybe you’ve been away for a day or so) cut them back too unless its nearing the end of the harvesting period in which case you could let them grow on.  We put question 10 to Jamie our expert and this is what he said:

"1. I like your idea of using the neighbour! This would be the easiest and best for the plant. (We had suggested inviting the neighbours to enjoy the harvest)

2. Cutting them and composting is fine, but there should still be some parts that are usable, especially for soup for example. If this is done, then I would suggest stopping cutting around the 12-15 June rather than 21 as extra energy will be removed from the plant.

3. If they are left to continue to grow, it will help to boost the crop next year, but will reduce the number of new spears that develop this season. Cutting could take place until the normal end of the season (21 June) with this method."

11.   I planted asparagus roots about 3 years ago and just checked it and the spears are ready to be picked. The problem is that some of the shoots are 3-4 ft high. If I cut off the top, should I cut the shoot back to ground level?

In the case of the 3-4 ft shoots you may need to shorten the period you cut for this year as the crown has already put some of its energy into those first 3 – 4’ ferns. Watch closely and try to catch the first shoots as they come up next year.  

12.   I have a 5 year old patch , but this year it produced mostly foliage , very few spears. I was very cold last winter and I did forget to fertilize the bed last fall.  My question is , will the bed become productive again next year assuming I take care of it.

If your bed produced mostly foliage you must have missed the spears as they came up. You don’t get foliage without spears. The good news is that this year’s foliage will have delivered lots of energy to the crowns stored ready for next year’s growth. So watch closely in the spring and cut the spears as they come up, don’t let them go to fern until the end of the cutting season (about 8 weeks – no longer). A bit of fertilizer this year will be all to the good.   

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