Q: We plan to put in an asparagus bed this coming spring. Is it better to buy crowns or can we start with seed?

A: When you can get asparagus on the table in three hours or less after harvesting, it has wonderful flavor and is wholesome and nutritious. That is one of the main reasons for growing it yourself. Most people who cannot grow it have no idea how really good fresh asparagus can be.

A planting will produce good crops over a period of 15 to 20 years if given reasonable care, but yeild and quality usually decline after about 12 years.

For a small planting, it is best to buy large, one-year-old crowns, according-to Virginia Tech specialists. For a large planting, it may be a good idea to produce crowns from seed, if you have suitable soil and the know-how.

Planted as early as possible in the spring, crowns can provide spears for the table by the third season, for three to five weeks. During the fourth season and thereafter the cutting season lasts six to eight weeks. It takes a year or longer to get your first crop seed.

Starting with seed is less expensive but if you don't have a pretty good idea how to do it, you may be very disappointed with the results.

There are only a few varieties of asparagus. The most widely available recommended variety is Mary Washington. Several new varieties are under evaluation.

Q: Last winter I pruned my Concord grape vine. It was four years old and had not been pruned before. The vine grew well this summer but had practically no grapes. Could it have been due to the pruning?

A: Grapes grow on growth of the current season that develops on one-year-old canes. If you cut off all the one-year-old canes you get no grapes. This winter when you prune, leave four or five pencil-size canes that grew last year, cut them back to 10 to 12 buds, and you should get a good crop of fruit next summer.