• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com pie forums private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Carla Burke
  • John F Dean
  • r ranson
  • Nancy Reading
  • Anne Miller
  • Jay Angler
stewards:
  • paul wheaton
  • Pearl Sutton
  • Nicole Alderman
master gardeners:
  • Christopher Weeks
  • Timothy Norton
gardeners:
  • Matt McSpadden
  • Rachel Lindsay
  • Jeremy VanGelder

High, Dry, Cold Climate perennials

 
gardener
Posts: 1290
Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
388
4
hugelkultur cat dog books food preservation
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am experimenting with a neglect-tolerant garden in a somewhat unforgiving climate.

We are gone for periods from 2 weeks to 2 months.
We live in the arid North American west, at an elevation of about 3200 feet (1000 meters?) above sea level.
We have rain averaging maybe 12" to 15" per year, possibly more due to cloud-forest effects at our elevation.
The pattern is about 1" (2.5 cm) per month 8 months of the year, with up to 2" (5 cm) in May and June, the best growing season. Up to 3 high summer months (July, August, into September) are often completely dry. If there is rain it will be a thunderstorm often accompanied by lightning-struck fires. We get pretty smoky some summers from all the wild fires.

The soil is rocky, glacial and volcanic silt. Areas of upland bog are showing some signs of salt accumulation.

We have a pond, in which I am attempting to remediate some past bulldozer and black-plastic work. I am spreading existing cat-tails and bulrushes, silver cinqueoil, and hardy reeds as I clear plastic from the exposed banks. The pond does not hold as much water as formerly. The entire mountain is being settled more and more; we may have a groundwater shortage, or more draw from the aquifers than is replaced by snow and rain. Or it could be due to earth-moving efforts; there have been some dams on the creek upstream, illegal drainage work, etc. We may just not be receiving the spring thaw floods as we used to do.

So as a responsible permie, I would prefer a no-irrigation garden.
I am working with hugel beds (buried logs), both above and below ground level. I had arugula re-seed in one of the beds after total neglect from mid-August through mid-October, a real success for me.
I am also interested in working along the boggy areas around the pond, and some existing lawn-like swales grazed by an elderly horse, to create food and wildlife habitat without much additional fence work.
Experimenting with re-establishing aspen trees, using capsicum and slash piles to deter browsers.

I would like more perennial food plants for our fenced garden areas, a mixed orchard with some pine shade, a south-facing exposed area with hugels. And I'd like to expand into unfenced areas if there's a way to do this.
My first choice would be native American bulbs and perennials that can produce a fallback food supply with no attention at all. Berry bushes would rock, but locals have not seen blueberries naturalize here. Huckleberries? We do have wild currants or gooseberries, and elderberries and apricots do well at elevations not much lower than ours.
I'm also interested in fuel forestry, insulation materials, and basketry plants; the reeds and cat-tails are great there.

Do you know anything useful, and cooperative about future succession, that can out-compete thistles in disturbed ground?
(yes, please give me 3 magic beanstalks, and a flying carpet, too. thank you.)

My next choice would be food plants that can survive the winter here (sometimes -10 to -30 in exposed places, we don't always get enough snow to insulate the ground before it freezes hard.)
We have had some good success with horseradish, rhubarb, some onion species, wild and some cultivated strawberries, violets, a small dwarf orchard with apple, cherry, and trying to establish Asian pears; the plum rootstock thrived but the graft didn't.
As for greens, we plant some frost-hardy stuff like peas and broad beans, and are looking at hardy stuff like the horseradish. Some kind of sorrel has volunteered, either re-seeding or perennial.
We would like to find more tubers or bulbs, more perennial vegetables.

The plants we need are both frost-hardy and drought-hardy.

We can get snow in any month, though it's rare past April and before late September. Intermittent radiant frosts are common. The in-laws raised radishes, salad greens, potatoes, bush beans, and strawberries enough to run a farmer's market stall for a few years, using hand-watering irrigation for these annuals and choosing varieties with very short seasons (55 days to maturity) because our average frost-free season is only 70 days.
Summer drought is predictable and extended - we just call 2 or 3 months with no rain "summer," aka "Fire season."
Almost all the native plants are frost-hardy and put on their main growth spurt during the spring thaw, with a minor growth option in the fall if weather permits. Many are summer dormant due to the low moisture. Humidity levels are routinely below 25% in summer daytime, increasing above that level only at night. Daytime humidity may remain below 10% for weeks at a time. Evaporation exceeds rainfall by several times 100% in these months.

Summer is not excessively hot - 90 to 105 highs occasionally - but more typically 80's high with 60's low through the summer, sometimes 50's lows even after a hot summer day.
It's just completely without rainfall, and the soil is well-drained expansive silt - "moondust" that can block incoming water and drain the rest pretty quickly.

We do have connections in the valley for your more standard annuals, where the frost is not as extreme, and irrigation water more easily available due to the river and being downslope of some mountain reservoirs. There are a few grass crops that are grown without irrigation in our climate, but the majority of production is irrigated orchards, irrigated hay and grain, and small fruit-and-vegetable farms.

So we don't need to grow the usual annuals up here - we're looking for creative options.

Any favorite plant suggestions much appreciated!

We have had some good suggestions in threads in the regional forums, as well. I liked these threads:
- Montane Indicator Plants
- High Dry Plant List (book review, article link: Article with plant examples from book)
- Okanogan Highlands - good groundcovers, mulch plants?

Thanks,
Erica W
 
steward
Posts: 1202
Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
134
goat duck trees books chicken bee
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Eric Toensmeier's high altitude Colorado plant list
 
Posts: 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My favourite top 3 perennials are Astilbe, Lady’s Mantle and Heartleaf Bergenia. They are often considered as old fashioned, but I adore them. They thrive well in a shade garden like mine. Here is more info about them https://medium.com/@jessiealinari/three-shade-tolerant-perennial-plants-that-will-brighten-your-garden-88336d17783f
Heartleaf Bergenias deserve to be more popular as they have unique leaf form and beautiful flowers. They don't require much care, tolerate prolonged droughtр spread quickly ьха form a lovely dense cover.
 
pollinator
Posts: 684
Location: Richmond, Utah
32
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hello Erica,

It sounds like you live in a rough place to grow food!

We have different soils, but a similar climate here in Northern Utah, so I can share what has worked for me.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but in addition to the plants you have already named:
Saskatoon Serviceberry - the most useful native plant in North America
In the sunny dry areas;
Choke Cherry, Nanking Cherry, native Plum, Siberian Almond, Elderberry, Sumacs, Utah Honeysuckle, Goji, Aronia, some grapes, Golden Currant,

In the shady, wet areas;
Thimbleberry and Salmonberry

Red willows and Osier Dogwood, Gingko and Linden trees, Asparagus, Comfrey, Feverfew and some fast growing coppice trees like Elms near the pond.

I am also trying out Asian Pears, but they grow very slowly here.

I'm sure some plant experts could be more helpful, but that's a start.

All Blessings,
Bill
 
pollinator
Posts: 2908
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
513
kids duck forest garden chicken pig bee greening the desert homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Lupine, blue bells, bachelor buttons and yarrow come up here no their own.
 
author & steward
Posts: 6899
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
3146
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My definition of native plant is anything that is currently growing in the surrounding wildlands...

So with that big grain of salt added to an already over salted bog, I'll add to the excellent suggestions previously given: winter wheat and rye, biscuitroot, parsley, Oregon grape, flax, Pinion pine, apricot, lettuce, chard, Egyptian onions, pistachio.
 
pollinator
Posts: 2426
Location: RRV of da Nort
645
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Erica, I don't know how your seasonal environment compares to that of Summerland, BC, but there is good ag research done there and some of it may be relevant to your own climate. There may be a university research extension service there in addition to the Ag-Canada--Summerland facility [ http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/science-and-innovation/research-centres/british-columbia/pacific-agri-food-research-centre-summerland/?id=1180620561099 ]. I could not find extension bulletins in the short time poking around on the web, but you may find others who know who, and how, to contact them for information the information that you seek. I did come across some private grower blogs from people who are probably in Summerland as affiliates with the research station. May be worth a try....good luck!
 
Erica Wisner
gardener
Posts: 1290
Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
388
4
hugelkultur cat dog books food preservation
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you for all of these excellent suggestions.

I didn't describe the native plants much, but in case it wasn't clear, of course I'm very interested.
We do have serviceberry and something my father-in-law calls "Indian ice-cream," a leathery-leaved, red-berried fruit with a slightly bitter aftertaste, kinda like baby aspirin (one of my favorite bitters).

We have Oregon grape, aspen, larch, bunch grasses and reeds from the wetland footprint, some native currents or gooseberries of some sort, possibly some cherry or willow types (there is certainly cherry across the street where the creek goes through the neighbors); and thorny wild roses that put on good hips.
In spring, flowers include lupine, shooting stars, and something that might be a wild garlic, then a few tiny balsamroot, and some white-blooming things I don't know. Snowberry, strawberry, and kinnickinnick (creeping bear-berry, I know there's a lot of things called kinnickinnick, this is the low-growing relative of blueberry and heather and manzanita that has small, slightly leathery/fuzzy green leaves, woody creeping vines, and reddish berries.). We don't get to eat the wild strawberries but it's nice to have them there all the same.

There are also some pines with edible nuts, if the squirrel-cache in our woodshed is any indication.

I stumbled upon a great resource in an out-of-print ethnobotany booklet, Ethnobotany of the Okanagan-Colville Tribes, done in our area and just north of us in BC. Learned a lot more about what I already have that is edible - up to and including some of the ubiquitous black tree lichen. It will probably take me years to fully learn all of the info in that book, and it's grouped by type of plant not location for harvest, so I will have to learn to recognize what will grow up this way.


-Erica
 
pollinator
Posts: 938
Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
90
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Perusing one of my favorite nursery's (Burnt Ridge) website, this harkened back to your inquiry -

BUFFALOBERRY (Shepherdia argentea)
Widely adapted 6 ft.shrub native to the northern Great Plains. Small, tart, but pleasant tasting, red fruits have enough sugar to be eaten fresh or dried and can also be made into preserves or wine. They are very high in lycopene and other phenolic antioxidants. This plant can tolerate extremes of cold, wind, drought, alkalinity and poor soils, fixing nitrogen much like peas or beans. Silvery gray foliage, small yellow flowers, thorny branches. These can be male or female seedlings so plant 2 or more for cross pollination. Zone 2.
 
pollinator
Posts: 268
Location: Sunizona Az., USA @ 4,500' Zone 8a
22
greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Jujube trees & Sand Cherries have been easy for me.
 
pollinator
Posts: 132
Location: Mississippi
51
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A couple of things that are both frost and drought hardy, and quite valuable, are black gojiberry and sea buckthorn.
 
Posts: 15
Location: No. California, East Bay, Zone 10a
5
hugelkultur forest garden cooking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I wonder if tree collards/kale would work if planted deep in a hugel? I have a different climate, but we have been having drought for the last number of years, and they are robustly perennial and self-propagating here. They love our minimal frosts and freezes. In a former hugel, I let them grow wildly, so they were fairly thick in the bed. When I refreshed the hugel bed periodically, I would cover over any straggling branches with organic material/soil/compost/woodchips and the branches would simply become part of the structure of the bed and produce more roots. Truly em-bedded! They don't like drought, but have survived, even when I re-did the bed and they were roughly heeled in and neglected in a temporary location--even the few that looked dead mostly revived. If you cut them back to little stubs, they look like never coming back, but in a few months they're going strong. The leaves are smaller than if one planted them far apart, but still respectable  for a conventional garden plant. Also, growing them closer (and shorter) like this, they form their own little colony and conserve their community moisture. I mostly have purple tree collards, and when the frost hits them they turn more purple and get sweeter. The worst problem I have with them is not harvesting soon enough (like months after they were ready) and the leave verrrry gradually degrade from salad/stir-fry grade to soup grade to good-for-mulch/compost.
 
master steward
Posts: 14862
Location: USDA Zone 8a
4103
dog hunting food preservation cooking bee greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here are some threads for perennial vegetables that might work:

https://permies.com/t/116936/perennial-vegetables/Growing-Native-Wild-Vegetables

https://permies.com/t/146267/perennial-vegetables/Checkermallow-great-native-PNW-perennial

https://permies.com/t/142540/perennial-vegetables/Growing-longevity-spinach-zone

https://permies.com/t/138977/perennial-vegetables/Potato-onions-easy-grow-perennial
 
gardener
Posts: 3065
Location: Cascades of Oregon
756
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Same type of soil and precipitation but slightly higher elevation. Something probably mentioned in your book but Camas Lilly is a plant that can be planted and ignored. The flower not showy or long lived.  Honeyberry blooms here before the crocus. Asparagus becomes a nice looking feathery voluminous landscape plant even after harvesting. Sunchokes require water, a bunch of water, they have been accepting of being planted under eaves and done well. Raspberries have been a hardy producer. Collards, I can only eat so many collards but they do appear to be hardy enough or at least my plants have adapted enough to become perennial here. The become chop and drop after the tender stage. Walking onions, I wish there was a variety that produced a bigger bulb in a season but the bunching harvest is ok. Those are some of the things that survive my sometimes STUNT (shear total utter neglect) periods.
 
pollinator
Posts: 133
68
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Apios americana on the edge of your boggy area. There is a farmed form in Japan but I have not tried that. Takes a couple 2-3 years for tubers to get egg size. Cinnamon vine makes huge underground edible roots, several years to harvest. Both thrive on neglect, and just keep getting bigger. There is an annual form of chufa (tiger nut) that does not get  invasive. Tough wild flower winecups (callirhoe involucata), edible root.
 
Whoever got anywhere by being normal? Just ask this exceptional tiny ad:
NEW BOOK: Pawpaws: The Complete Guide to Growing and Marketing
https://permies.com/t/152725/BOOK-Pawpaws-Complete-Guide-Growing
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic