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!!!! Pros and cons of perennial, biennial, and annual plants  RSS feed

 
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Post may contain affiliate links, which allow me to earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

Pros and cons of perennial, biennial, and annual plants

How familiar are you with these 3 plant types: perennial, biennial, and annual plants? Many of you may are likely familiar with the basics:

Annual plants: they come up in the spring and die in the fall/winter after setting seed.

Biennial plants: get established during their 1st year and set seed in the 2nd but die after that.

Perennial plants: live for longer than 2 years and set seed multiple during multiple years while they live.

There are pros and cons to using each of these types of plants on your homestead and in your garden. But really the challenge is knowing when to use each of them since they all have their role in nature.

Understanding when to use each type and how to combine them into an overall system will help you mimic nature and grow more food on your homestead.

In my blog post 3 Plant Types You Need to Know About I cover the pros and cons of each of these plant types and their uses in a garden.

Annual Plants



Annual plants are the mainstay of vegetable gardens but what about their role in nature?

Generally speaking, annual plants can be thought of as nature's cleanup crew. They show up right after a disturbance that leaves open ground.

This makes them great for the garden since you often start each spring with bare ground.

But, they don't make for an established system. Nature shifts from annuals to perennials as the site improves.

Can we do the same in our gardens?

Biennial Plants



In many ways biennial plants are similar to annual plants. In fact you likely grow biennial plants in your garden and just treat them as annuals.

Swish chard for example in warmer temperate climates will often overwinter and continue to produce leaves until setting seed in its 2nd summer.

In nature biennial plants often come in along with annual plants to help repair degraded land. I think biennial plants might be better at repairing extremely degraded lands since they take a bit more time to get established which could give them a heads up over annuals.

Perennial Plants



Our friends the perennial plants - as someone who uses permaculture principles in my designs I just love these plants.

And as a gardener there is also a lot for me to like.

I love that once I plant a perennial plant I will get years of food, enjoyment, etc. out of it without needing to put in much energy or time compared to annual and biennial plants.

In nature perennial plants come in a bit later than annuals and biennial plants. They form the long term foundation for the land with different waves of perennial plants coming in overtime to create a complex and resilient system.

Using them in the garden can be a challenge but there are some great resources out there that can help you.

- I wrote a blog post all about perennial vegetables and how you can use them in your garden.
- Eric Toensmeier’s book Perennial Vegetables is a great resource for finding perennial vegetables that can grow in your region.

Your Thoughts



How are you using perennial, annual and biennial plants on your homestead? Have you started to use perennial vegetables in your garden? Or are you keeping your annual garden separate from your perennial fruit trees and berries?

Please leave a comment in this thread and don't forget to check out my blog post that this thread was based on. If you are one of the first to leave a comment you might even get a surprise in the form of pie or apples

The blog post covers this topic in more detail and there is a cheat-sheet you can signup to get on the site to help you understand and use these 3 plant types on your homestead.

Thank you!
 
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Daron Williams wrote: Our friends the perennial plants - as someone who uses permaculture principles in my designs I just love these plants.

And as a gardener there is also a lot for me to like.

I love that once I plant a perennial plant I will get years of food, enjoyment, etc. out of it without needing to put in much energy or time compared to annual and biennial plants.

In nature perennial plants come in a bit later than annuals and biennial plants. They form the long term foundation for the land with different waves of perennial plants coming in overtime to create a complex and resilient system.



Agreed! Perennials have to be my favorite too! I enjoyed the blog too which detailed some other great information about the pros and cons of each type. What an awesome and beautiful perennial hedge, that is just so cool!

It seems like it's more work for me on the front end planting them and getting through that first year, but after that, the rewards are more than worth it!
 
Daron Williams
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Steve Thorn wrote:Agreed! Perennials have to be my favorite too! I enjoyed the blog too which detailed some other great information about the pros and cons of each type. What an awesome and beautiful perennial hedge, that is just so cool!

It seems like it's more work for me on the front end planting them and getting through that first year, but after that, the rewards are more than worth it!



Thank you for your comment Steve! You're right that it can be a bit more work upfront - especially if you are planting larger perennials like trees and shrubs. But I have found that small non-woody perennials can be just as easy as annuals. I put out a bunch of seed for native perennial lupines last spring and they just came up and are growing great. Planting them was really no different than planting a bunch of vegetables. Plus, the lupines fix nitrogen

Really appreciate your comments about the blog and thank you for checking it out! I will have a new thread up with another blog post tomorrow about perennial vegetables. Each day through Friday I will create a new thread to go with a blog post. After this week I will be doing 1 a week. Hope you enjoy the new ones too!

Thanks again!
 
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At our last property, and in the new one we're working on, I use perennial vegetables, berries and herbs as anchor points in the garden then every spring I plant annuals in between the perennials. Every year the landscape changes slightly as the perennials thrive (or not) and spread. There are usually larger areas for planting corn in blocks for good germination. Even in these "open" areas there was dandelion and purslane in abundance, both of which I harvest as wild greens and in the case of the dandelion, dry for winter teas.

I have found that having the annuals scattered a little throughout the garden reduces the pest load since the little buggers have to travel further from plant to plant. I've made it too easy for them in the past putting all the kale in one section then watching all the plants get destroyed in short order. I noticed a rogue kale in another bed was unaffected, so I realized that being a somewhat haphazard gardener has its benefits.
 
Daron Williams
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Robin Katz wrote:At our last property, and in the new one we're working on, I use perennial vegetables, berries and herbs as anchor points in the garden then every spring I plant annuals in between the perennials. Every year the landscape changes slightly as the perennials thrive (or not) and spread. There are usually larger areas for planting corn in blocks for good germination. Even in these "open" areas there was dandelion and purslane in abundance, both of which I harvest as wild greens and in the case of the dandelion, dry for winter teas.

I have found that having the annuals scattered a little throughout the garden reduces the pest load since the little buggers have to travel further from plant to plant. I've made it too easy for them in the past putting all the kale in one section then watching all the plants get destroyed in short order. I noticed a rogue kale in another bed was unaffected, so I realized that being a somewhat haphazard gardener has its benefits.



Your use of perennial vegetables, berries and herbs as anchor points is great. I think they really work well for that and I agree that having annuals scatter throughout is a great way to mix and match. If you have not seen it yet you might like this post I made on perennial vegetables.

Thank you for your comment!
 
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I like having the odd stray biennial or perennial left growing over winter so that mycelium and bacteria have living roots to live with. If all the annuals winter kill then you end up with nothing growing in a big garden bed regardless if you have mulched the heck out of it. Also earthworms love to hang around dandelion roots over winter like it’s an oasis for them, if nothing else is growing nearby. I do not always have cover crops like fall rye overwintering.
 
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Talk about a timely post! We've recently bought some acreage, and are in the process of moving to that state - and it's warmer 6b (From our current 5a/b) , and trying to plan where we want to put which gardens (& hugels!). We know we want to go as perennial as possible, but figuring out the morass is overwhelming. Thank you for helping clear up the chaos, for us!
 
Daron Williams
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Cameron Whyte wrote:I like having the odd stray biennial or perennial left growing over winter so that mycelium and bacteria have living roots to live with. If all the annuals winter kill then you end up with nothing growing in a big garden bed regardless if you have mulched the heck out of it. Also earthworms love to hang around dandelion roots over winter like it’s an oasis for them, if nothing else is growing nearby. I do not always have cover crops like fall rye overwintering.



Good point about having something living in the garden over the winter. I have also noticed earthworms hanging around dandelion roots.

Thanks for your comment!
 
Daron Williams
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Carla Burke wrote:Talk about a timely post! We've recently bought some acreage, and are in the process of moving to that state - and it's warmer 6b (From our current 5a/b) , and trying to plan where we want to put which gardens (& hugels!). We know we want to go as perennial as possible, but figuring out the morass is overwhelming. Thank you for helping clear up the chaos, for us!



You're welcome! I'm happy that the post helped you :) The Perennial Vegetable book by Eric Toensmeier really helped me learn about all the different types of perennial vegetables that are out there. The link is to Amazon but you might be able to find it from your local library. If they don't have it they might be able to get it in from another library using what is called the inter library loan program. I have gotten a lot of permaculture and homesteading books that way.

Thanks for your comment and good luck with  your new property!
 
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I am including many more perennial plants in my Kitchen Garden.  This season my focus is on ornamentals, which I am giving large areas of this protected space.  I might not have much time for food gardening in the near future because of multiple serious illness problems in the family, but I don't want the garden to be barren, so I have planted many flowering ornamentals amongst the beds in which I plan to plant both perennials and annual food plants.

 
Steve Thorn
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Daron Williams wrote:I put out a bunch of seed for native perennial lupines last spring and they just came up and are growing great. Planting them was really no different than planting a bunch of vegetables. Plus, the lupines fix nitrogen



That is really neat! I had never heard of lupines before, such a beautiful and helpful plant.

Daron Williams wrote:Really appreciate your comments about the blog and thank you for checking it out! I will have a new thread up with another blog post tomorrow about perennial vegetables. Each day through Friday I will create a new thread to go with a blog post. After this week I will be doing 1 a week. Hope you enjoy the new ones too!

Thanks again!


Awesome, looking forward to it!
 
Daron Williams
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I am including many more perennial plants in my Kitchen Garden.  This season my focus is on ornamentals, which I am giving large areas of this protected space.  I might not have much time for food gardening in the near future because of multiple serious illness problems in the family, but I don't want the garden to be barren, so I have planted many flowering ornamentals amongst the beds in which I plan to plant both perennials and annual food plants.



Sorry to hear about the illness problems - my thoughts are with you and your family.

I think the flowers are great - they should support a lot of beneficial insects. You could try focusing on self-seeding annuals too. They could be a great way to get a harvest with minimal effort. I'm making a post tomorrow (Nov 28th) that talks a bit about mixing flowers in and the benefits of that - you might be interested.

Thanks for your comment!
 
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Steve - Ya, I really like lupines. They are a great plant and in my area there are at least 5 native types that I'm playing around with. My favorite so far is the riverbank lupine - Lupinus rivularis. I'm testing chopping and dropping it this fall/winter to see how it rebounds in the spring. If it works I plan to chop and drop it every fall and potentially again in mid-spring to help build soil.

If you missed it this was my post today: Planting Perennial Vegetables on Your Homestead. Tomorrow (Nov 28th) will be a new one on controlling garden pests by working with nature.
 
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