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Asparagus: When to cut it back?

November 04, 2012
  • The trick, Yvonne Savio says, is making sure the plant can photosynthesize and any trimming you do now won't hurt harvests in the future.
The trick, Yvonne Savio says, is making sure the plant can photosynthesize… (Ann Summa )

"We are growing asparagus for the first time, and the plants rose to about 3 feet," Culver city reader Jesus Pantoja wrote to the SoCal Garden Clinic. "Do we cut them back this year or let them grow? When do the stocks come?"

For an answer, we turned to Yvonne Savio, manager of the UC Cooperative Extension's Common Ground Garden Program for Los Angeles County, who oversees the related training of master gardeners.

Savio's response:

Don't cut the fronds while they're still green. They're busy feeding the roots through photosynthesis. When they die back naturally, turning brown and brittle, they have completed their jobs and you can then clip them back to the ground.

After a dormancy, new shoots will rise. Because well-maintained plants can produce for about 20 years, it's best to harvest only the stalks that are thicker than a pencil. Leave the thinner ones to photosynthesize; they will feed the plant, provide larger stalks for the future and extend the harvest.
The Garden Clinic welcome questions and comments at Please include "Garden Clinic" in the subject line. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can respond only to select questions.

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