I live in the cold (though you wouldn't know it this summer) and rugged lands along the northwest edge of lake Superior Just outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario (about 3 hours drive north of Duluth MN). Officially, this is zone 2b and is not quite a pure Boreal environment (we have some maple and elm and other species not entirely Boreal).
Anyway, I have a real interest in forest gardens. We have lots of forest but not a lot of edible perennials. Aside from the native berries and other small fruits and nuts the list is short: Asparagus, rhubarb, sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes)... and horse radish.
My question is: Does anyone know of any other edibles I could try growing as perennials? Our particular property has good potential to provide more protected micro-climates that might allow say zone 3ish growing conditions...
This is just off the top of my head:
Perennial Kale aka Sea Kale
Komatsuna Tendergreen (roots and leaves are edible, William Dam seeds has them)
Scarlet Runner Bean (I'm told this can be perennial but I've never tested that)
If you leave garlic in the ground it'll split off from itself and produce new plants, though don't expect giant heads. Shallots and multiplier onions work similarily.
Walking onion aka egyptian onion
Groundnut (apios americana is the scientific name)
if you have not tried lambsquarters..you should try it, it is a selfseeding annual "weed" that is a wonderful spinach tasting vegetable that i use heavily here in the early summer and late spring.
you also might be able to get away with overwintering some cole typ crops under a mulch over the winter for some early spring greens while you are waiting for new things to sprout..i had swiss chard and a few cabages overwinter and there are others that might do well if they are mulched well or put under coldframes to protect them.
unfortunately you are in an amazingly difficult zone to grow perennials. but don't give up..
one thing to try is a fall garden, by planting cold weather crops in July and shading them or starting them in the house and transplanting them out into a shaded area for a fall garden..i'm doing that here..and it works well..you get a better growing of crops that sometimes our springs are just too cold to grow here.
some of these if mulched well will also overwinter and grow again in the early spring giving you a jump start on edibles for spring.
there are a lot of things that are looked on as only ornamentals that are perennial and that are edible and grow in your area..one of them is violets, they are every tasty in a salad and are perfectly perennial and will grow in early spring. Dame rocket has edible leaves in the spring and daylilies have edible roots and flowers and they are perfectly hardy. many herbals are also edibles that are very hardy and can be used as a food, salad, although stronger flavored than the greens. I would suggest that you find a copy of an edible wild plant book and go from there, as i find that the more hardy greens that are perennial as well as other foods in our area..are not necessarily considered a "cultivated" plant but are considered a wild plant, but that doesn't mean that you can't domesticate them into your garden..i have a list here that i might be able to go over and find the zones on some of them..
myt book is called Edible wild plants, a north american field guid..and it would include your area..you might be able to still find it somewhere..
hope this was helpful
Brenda Groth wrote:
perennial kale and broccoli are only hardy to zone 6 so they won't work for you and likely the yam wouldn't either but i'm not sure of it's zone.
If sepp holzer is doing the things he's doing in the austrian mountains, its likely that perennial kale and broccoli could work out in Old hammy's situation with the right tweaking of microclimate. I've been told that globe artichoke wouldn't overwinter in my area but I proved that wrong. I could see the kale and broccoli working out if they were planted in raised beds next to a building, or brick/stone wall, and/or pond, and/or surrounded with stones around the base of the plants. Failing that, there's always cold/hot frames.
Brenda Groth wrote:
wow Travis that is great to know, as I wanted to try them here but figured with all the info i'd seen they wouldn't grow here..do you happen to have a source for the ones that you have tried that have grown well in your zone 5, my zones are 4/5 here and i'm sure that if you can get them to grow in zone 5b it would be worth a try in mine..can't hurt
All I did to overwinter it was cut the leaves down to 1 inch above the soil level, and placed a bucket over the stem with a rock on top to keep the bucket in place. There was an inch or two of hay or straw mulch around the stems but not touching them.
The ground was fairly flat, and the bed was only raised about 2-3 inches above the existing soil level. The soil in the area is sandy.
I've listed a couple of perennial species below that jump to mind for your situation. I'm from the UK though, so i'm well out of my depth!
Siberian pea tree, zone 2: http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Caragana+arborescens
Ostrich fern, zone 2: http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Matteuccia+struthiopteris
American Ground nut, zone 3: http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Apios+americana
Chicory, zone3: http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Cichorium+intybus
Autumn Olive, zone 3: http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Elaeagnus+umbellata
Sea Buckthorn, zone 3: http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Hippophae+rhamnoides
i'm just about getting to a maxed out planting on my land but i usually can fit in something new somewhere, squeeze and keep my plants on wheels and move them around..everytime i hear about a new food crop hardy in my zone that i think might work, if i can afford it, i buy it..i'm really bad shopaholic when it comes to plants and trees.
Im pretty sure Eric Toensmeier posts on this forum, but just incase he is above shameless self-promotion, please consider this excellent book and website:
Yes, that's an excellent book. I checked it out from the library, renewed it, and realized that it was something I need to have on hand all the time so I ordered a copy. I would highly recommend it to any gardener that wants to move in a permaculture direction.
I counted approximately 35 plants in the book that are listed as a perennial to zone 4-5-ish. And only about 3 of them would be hardy enough to come back after a winter in zone 2 where Hammy is located. That being said, several of them are listed as being able to be grown as an annual in Hammy's zone, so with some microclimate tweaking, they very well could be 'perennialized'.
I am new to this forum and I realize this thread hasn't been updated in awhile but I thought I would add my two cents' worth. (After all I found it from google so others may be doing the same!) I'm in Edmonton, AB which is Zone 3a, so I almost feel your pain, although I imagine the difficulty I have in finding hardy perennials for z3 is probably multiplied many times for z2
I've only had my garden for a few years but I am in the process of trying to win a new section of it back from the weeds to develop an edible perennial garden. I also have lots of edible perennials growing elsewhere in my garden but I really want to focus on them for this new area (not as ambitious as it sounds - it's about 8 feet square)
I thought I might as well share my research, so here it is in a google doc if anyone is interested. I'm still working on it but the link will update automatically.
If anyone has any other suggestions, I would be happy to hear them!
I would love some seeds if your Caucasian Spinach ever produces any. I've done a quick look online and it looks like there are lots of people looking for seeds, but no one who knows where to get any
And I am definitely considering goumi now. I'll have to see if there's anywhere that's likely to stay warm enough.
One very cool thing that Mother Nature showed us this year. We piled black walnuts in our driveway and drove over them to remove the outer shell. In the process the red squirrels made off with maybe 30% of them. Well now towards the end of June we have black walnut trees sprouting all over the place. Same thing for the hazelnuts. We even have some in the pots for our meyer lemon trees. I figure if I try planting nuts everywhere this fall that it won't work but I'm going to do it anyway.
All the best,
A word of caution though it is spreading quite well in my climate. One pass through the chickens is an effective seeder. It is working as a good cover crop and chop and drop mulch before they go to seed.
The berries start ripening about mid August.