As a favorite in my family, I want to make sure and get my asparagus beds planted so I can enjoy them for the next 20 years. The good news is that like Japanese raspberry there are tons of “wild” asparagus along many of the fence lines in the surrounding area where birds have dropped the seeds with their manure so I know the climate is right. Asparagus, like Persimmons, are monecious meaning they have a female plant that produces flowers to be fertilized by a separate male plant. About 2 decades ago, Rutgers bred a male only plant that capitalizes on omitting the energy needs to produce flowers and seeds. I plan to have a smaller bed of un-sexed heirloom varieties while having a few of the Rutgers-based “Jersey [fill in the blank]” varieties as my commercial bed.
As a very long lived and delicious perennial, I’m giving the entirety of my choicest garden bed to asparagus. It can tolerate some shade but enjoys full sun and a lot of water on well drained soils. Recommended planting distance of 12-18″ will be observed. The boundary of the bed will be planted with a combination of marigolds and nasturtium spaced 1 foot apart while basil will be planted or potted between asparagus crowns. If beetle or bugs become a problem, I will bring the laying hens in for a few hours after the years harvest is complete to protect the ferns. Any of the Jersey Giant, Jersey Knight and Jersey Supreme should work in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia (Hardiness Zone 6-b). I don’t think Purple Passion would do well so I am going to save additional areas for heritage varieties like Martha Washington.
Here is a peak at that GIS data. Note I have not nailed down specific varieties yet as those will be based on local availability.