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If you’re one of the people who love asparagus (by nature, a fairly divisive vegetable), then growing your own asparagus is a special treat. You get to have your own asparagus spears to brighten up the still-frosty days of early spring without spending a fortune at the grocery store.
However, asparagus is not the most common garden vegetable, so you must research its growing conditions.
The good news is that asparagus grows exceedingly well in mushroom compost. This vegetable thrives in soil that retains water and is slightly alkaline, both features you can achieve by using mushroom compost. If you have some on hand, apply it to the beds where you hope to plant your asparagus.
What is the best way to grow asparagus, and is there a specific way to apply mushroom compost? What is mushroom compost, after all? Here are the answers to your questions about mushroom compost and growing asparagus.
What Is Mushroom Compost?
Mushroom compost is not compost that you get from mushrooms breaking down, despite the deceptive name. However, mushrooms are still involved because mushroom compost is made of the organic material commercial mushroom farmers use to grow fungi for sale.
Although every individual farmer has a different makeup of mushroom growing material, it most commonly contains hay, straw, corncobs, manure, gypsum, lime, and other mix-ins.
For many gardeners, mushroom compost is a holy grail for fertilizing the garden. It has many unique features, including:
- A high pH thanks to the addition of ingredients such as lime that can help neutralize acidic soils
- High levels of organic matter, which add plenty of nutrients to depleted soil
- High moisture levels
Mushroom compost can break down clay soils and improve the moisture levels of sandy soils, which sometimes let the water run out instead of retaining the moisture. It can neutralize acidic soils, which are bad for most vegetables.
Finally, it has plenty of the nutrients that vegetables need to grow properly without relying on harmful chemicals that you may find in artificial fertilizers. It’s no wonder that gardeners recommend using mushroom compost for so many vegetables, including asparagus.
One of the only downsides is that mushroom compost is relatively difficult to find compared to other composts. If you live near a mushroom farmer, you’re in luck—you can try to strike a deal to buy compost directly from the farmer once the mushroom harvest is over.
If not, you can sometimes find mushroom compost in your local garden center or a landscape supply company (although the latter is more likely to sell it in bulk).
Why Is Mushroom Compost So Good for Asparagus?
The features listed above that make mushroom compost so unique are the same ones that make it perfect for growing asparagus. Asparagus grows well in soil that retains plenty of moisture but also drains well, which is why gardeners recommend mulching the soil as well before growing asparagus.
Since mushroom compost naturally retains plenty of moisture and helps improve the soil’s water-retention abilities, it is a great fertilizer for asparagus beds.
Asparagus also grows well in neutral or slightly alkaline soil. While most chemical fertilizers add acidity to the soil, mushroom compost does the opposite. It helps soils stay neutral or makes them slightly alkaline, which creates the perfect growing conditions for asparagus.
Finally, asparagus needs plenty of nutrients to grow, and mushroom compost adds plenty of organic matter to the soil.
Tips for Applying Mushroom Compost
Getting the most out of mushroom compost requires some planning ahead. This compost functions best when you mix it into the soil ahead of time, so add it to your beds in autumn, making sure to pick out any visible chalky bits and let it rest during the winter.
This is convenient for asparagus (whose sowing season is in the winter and early spring) so that the soil will be ready by the time you start planting.
When using mushroom compost in your plant beds, apply it a few inches deep, and don’t use it in tandem with other fertilizers or weed killers as you don’t want to negate the benefits.
However, be careful not to use too much mushroom compost or to use it in the same spot several years in a row. The high chalk content could make your soil too alkaline to function.
Other Tips for Growing Asparagus
Besides using mushroom compost to achieve the ideal growing conditions, here are a few other tips for growing asparagus.
- Asparagus takes a year or several years to mature into harvesting from planting. Either be ready to be patient or plant from crowns instead of seeds. Crowns are more expensive but cut down the growing time by one year.
- After you plant them in winter or early spring, the asparagus will only produce fronds. Cut down the fronds in late fall and add them to the compost to nourish the asparagus roots.
- Plant asparagus in raised beds to ensure well-drained soil and that deep roots have somewhere to go.
- Asparagus loves plenty of water, medium sun, and winters. If you live in a tropical climate, you should probably get your asparagus from the supermarket, but don’t worry about your asparagus in frost—these hardy plants can survive some tough winters and start growing as soon as it slightly warms up.
Home-grown asparagus seems like a luxury but is surprisingly easy to achieve once you get your hands on some seeds or crowns and get the patience you need to wait for asparagus to be ready for harvest after a year or so.
Asparagus needs well-drained, moisture-filled, slightly alkaline, or neutral soil to grow, all of which you can achieve with mushroom compost. As an added bonus, mushroom compost prepares your soil with plenty of nutrients.
Be sure to prepare your raised beds ahead of time with the compost, and get ready to plant your asparagus!