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!!!! Planting Perennial Vegetables on Your Homestead  RSS feed

 
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Planting Perennial Vegetables on Your Homestead

When I talk to people about perennial plants the ones that come up the most are fruit trees, berry bushes, herbs, and ornamental shrubs/trees. The words vegetable and perennial just don't seem to go together.

The exception to this are rhubarb and asparagus. These 2 plants seem to be the limit of most people's use of perennial vegetables in my experience.

But there are a ton of perennial vegetables that can be grown on your homestead.

In my blog post Perennial Vegetables: How to Use Them to Save Time and Energy I cover:

- What Does “perennial” and “annual” even mean?
- Trade-offs with perennial vegetables
- Examples of perennial vegetables and where you can learn more
- 3 strategies for gardening with perennial vegetables

Example of a Trade-off of Using Perennial Vegetables


Image by Walter Siegmund CC BY 2.5

I think everyone could benefit from growing more perennial vegetables. But there are some trade-offs that you should be aware of.

If you try to use perennial vegetables to substitute for traditional vegetables you will need to adjust your cooking a bit and the taste/texture is likely to be a bit different.

I have been wanting to replace as many of my annual greens with perennial greens. I just love the idea of a perennial lettuce or spinach that I never need to replant...

But so far the ones I have tried just can't match both flavor and texture.

My favorite so far is a native Pacific Northwest perennial called Pacific waterleaf. It has a great mild taste that fits with spinach and can be used as a pot herb. The rhizomes can also be eaten and taste similar to Chinese bean sprouts.

Did I also mention that Pacific waterleaf is very happy in full shade and that it spreads easily? It even grows great under conifers. Ya, I love this Pacific Northwest native plant.

But it does have fuzzy leaves... not a big deal but eating a fuzzy salad did take a little bit to get used to. I just don't eat many fuzzy plants raw.

Next spring (2019) I'm going to try planting perennial kale and perennial collards. I have high hopes that these plants along with waterleaf and a few others will provide most of my greens.

What about you? Do you have a favorite perennial green?

Perennial Vegetables in the Garden



The above video is from a YouTube channel called One Yard Revolution that I just love. Patrick has an awesome vegetable garden in a small Chicago backyard that has a great mix of annual and perennial vegetables.

When you start growing perennial vegetables in your garden one thing you quickly learn is that your garden does not reset every spring. It turns out that can be a huge advantage of gardening with annuals - winter just resets things for you.

Make a mistake with your spacing or plant choices? Just wait till the first frost and it all resets - even without tilling! The mistake is gone!

But once you add perennial vegetables you are making a choice to have the same plants year after year. Sure you can change it up but you lose some of the benefits of perennial vegetables if you dig them up and replace them on a regular basis.

This means you need to plan a bit more and take into account that perennial vegetables will likely get bigger for a few years as they become established. Plus, some perennial vegetables may take a few years to get established (asparagus) so you have to give up space in your garden for a future harvest.

We are not all good at delayed gratification!

I think these reasons are part of why people tend to have a vegetable garden with annuals and biennial plants and then a separate perennial area. It can just be easier.

What about you? What is your experience including perennial vegetables in your garden?

3 Strategies for Gardening with Perennial Vegetables



My blog post Perennial Vegetables: How to Use Them to Save Time and Energy covers 3 strategies that I think you will find helpful. Here is a summary of 1 of them and if you like it you can check out my post for the other 2.

One strategy is to add perennial vegetables to the ends or edges of your existing garden beds. You could plant a rhubarb at both ends of a bed and then just plant like normal in the rest of the bed.

If you have a raised bed you could plant a shade loving perennial vegetable like Pacific waterleaf (got to push my favorite!) at the base of the north facing (or other shady side depending on the orientation of your garden) side of the raised bed.

Sure this would be next to the path and you might walk on it occasionally if your not careful but this would give you a harvest from an area you might otherwise not even plant.

The advantage of this strategy is that you can plant most of your garden the same way you always do. But you won't get the full benefits of perennial vegetables since you will mostly be planting annuals and biennials.

Do you have any advice for people new to gardening with perennial vegetables?

What About You?



I would love to hear from you! 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 perennial vegetables on your homestead.

If you are really excited about perennial vegetables and want to learn more I also recommend checking out Eric Toensmeier’s book Perennial Vegetables. His website also has a great list of perennial vegetables broken up by climate that you can get for free.

Thank you!
 
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What an informative post - thank you!

I’m interested in ‘forgotten’ vegetables that have fallen from our palate and these seem to mostly be perennial.

In truth I have only played with growing perennials - enough for the odd meal here and there just to taste food I can’t try anywhere else but here is my limited experience of the less usual perennials:

Good king Henry - really slow to germinate. I sowed it and waited and waited - nothing happened. Months later I was lucky enough to source a plant so threw the contents of the seed trays in the compost pile. The following year my compost pile was full of GKH seedlings. It took 2-3 years to get sizeable crops but now 5 years later 2 plants provide more than enough. It dies down to the ground every year to regrow in the spring a full month before any of my early leafy annuals are ready and seems to thrive on neglect. Use the leaves in place of spinach. When cooking it helps to soak in salt water then rinse before cooking like spinach as it can be quite bitter without doing so.

Daubentons kale - grows and cooked much like regular kale.

Skirret - a root vegetable allegedly favoured by the Tudors. The closest thing in taste is parsnip but the roots are much more spindly - like fingers which can make it fiddly to clean. Very frost tolerant and you can harvest throughout the winter.

Lovage - the first one died.....and the second one but third times a charm. It grows well over summer and makes a good celery substitute but i’ve never managed to get it through the winter.

Sorrel - easy to grow and lots of fresh lemony salad leaves

Samphire - really tasty. Although it grows naturally on salt marsh it doesn’t need salt marsh to grow. I had to make several sowings before I finally got one to grow but it’s now made it through 3 winters in an unheated greenhouse.

Wild garlic - my favourite. Grows wild in many places but for ease I potted some up. It spreads like wildfire so unless you want it everywhere keep it in pots. Use it raw in salads and dressings or cook it into dishes.

Bunching onions - grows like chives. Use in place of spring onions.

Seakale - I find it to be quite tough but I might be doing something wrong. Same growing conditions as brassicas.

Cardoons - a globe artichoke plant cultivated for the stems rather than the bud.

Dandelions - it may sound weird but I really like young dandelion leaves in salads. After the first few weeks of spring they are way too bitter. I tried roasting some fat roots once as well (apparently it was a coffee substitute during rationing in WW2) but they were disgusting.

I look forward to seeing others suggestions.




 
Daron Williams
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Thank you Laura for your comment! That is a great list of perennial veggies and I like to eat dandelions too. Good king Henry is on my list to try out. Seems like a great one and I'm excited to give it a go.

I have one small sea kale plant growing but I want to try it again once I get a few new beds setup that I think sea kale will like more.

Thanks again!
 
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I do love perennials. I'm in the process of moving, so digging up asparagus to bring with, but otherwise I will be starting fresh in southern Oregon. I really like artichokes, asparagus, tree collards, and perennial herbs like rosemary, sage, thyme, chives etc. I tried lovage, didn't care for it, very strong flavor. I currently have rhubarb, but don't think that I will plant it at the next place, I don't much care for it now that I can't have sugar. Sorrel is nice but very sour, and hard to get rid of once established.

While I know that having certain root vegetables and bulbing vegetables, like potatoes, garlic and onions in the same place every year, I can't seem to keep them from popping up everywhere that I've once planted them.
 
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I have some perennials and some annuals that are coming back from seeds. These are
Marjorana hortensis
Mentha spicata
Centella asiatica
Comfrey
Oregano
Parsley
Hop
Perennial Basil
Dill
Allium schoenoprasum
Rumex acetosella
Valeriana officinalis
Tanacetum vulgare
Melissa officinalis
Asparagus
Rosemary
Malva sylvestris
Sage
Santolina rosmarinifolia
Scented geranium
Wild leek
Walking onion
Alpine strawberry

I also have elderberry, jostaberry, black currant, aronia melanocarpa, red currant bushes.
 
Daron Williams
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Stacy Witscher wrote:I do love perennials. I'm in the process of moving, so digging up asparagus to bring with, but otherwise I will be starting fresh in southern Oregon. I really like artichokes, asparagus, tree collards, and perennial herbs like rosemary, sage, thyme, chives etc. I tried lovage, didn't care for it, very strong flavor. I currently have rhubarb, but don't think that I will plant it at the next place, I don't much care for it now that I can't have sugar. Sorrel is nice but very sour, and hard to get rid of once established.

While I know that having certain root vegetables and bulbing vegetables, like potatoes, garlic and onions in the same place every year, I can't seem to keep them from popping up everywhere that I've once planted them.



I have some artichokes growing at my place and my wife is very excited for our first harvest - hopefully next year? This is their first year in the ground but they are growing and doing great.

I think plants like sorrel that spread easily could be good around fruit trees or berries. At my place I can let those areas go a bit more wild and don't need to tend them as much as a regular garden bed.

Thanks for the comment and good luck with your move!
 
Daron Williams
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Gurkan Yeniceri wrote:I have some perennials and some annuals that are coming back from seeds. These are
Marjorana hortensis
Mentha spicata
Centella asiatica
Comfrey

...

I also have elderberry, jostaberry, black currant, aronia melanocarpa, red currant bushes.



Really great list and thank you for sharing!

Self seeding annuals and biennials are awesome and I really like using them on my homestead. The more harvest I can get from those and from perennials the better in my view

Thanks for your comment!
 
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Daron, your first picture of the flowers reminded me that biennials like collards, chard, etc. have abundant flowers in the second year that the beneficial insects in my garden love. In the past I've harvested the leaves but left the plant intact and many would survive the harsh/dry Denver winter to bloom in the spring. It was a great way to support insect life and get free seed. Of course if I'd left all the biennials to bloom there wouldn't be much space for the new annuals so I'd leave select plants to bloom and plant annuals around them.

I really like the idea of mixing perennials, biennials (including a few the second year), and annuals. Every year the garden looked different and I could see what worked in combination, and what didn't. I found this to be fun and reduced the stress of trying to get the garden right. Every year there were successes and failures, but nature still provided an abundant harvest.

This is a great discussion. Thanks for starting it!
 
Daron Williams
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Robin Katz wrote:Daron, your first picture of the flowers reminded me that biennials like collards, chard, etc. have abundant flowers in the second year that the beneficial insects in my garden love. In the past I've harvested the leaves but left the plant intact and many would survive the harsh/dry Denver winter to bloom in the spring. It was a great way to support insect life and get free seed. Of course if I'd left all the biennials to bloom there wouldn't be much space for the new annuals so I'd leave select plants to bloom and plant annuals around them.

I really like the idea of mixing perennials, biennials (including a few the second year), and annuals. Every year the garden looked different and I could see what worked in combination, and what didn't. I found this to be fun and reduced the stress of trying to get the garden right. Every year there were successes and failures, but nature still provided an abundant harvest.

This is a great discussion. Thanks for starting it!



Thank you and you're welcomed!

That is a very good point about the flowers from biennials. I left some carrots from last year and they got some really nice flower heads this year that insects just loved. Plus as you said - free seed is awesome!

It is nice to sometimes just relax a bit and let things change on its own from year to year. I think the softer touch we can give our gardens the better we will all feel.

I'm planning on making some new beds that I will let go a bit wild. Just let things flower and self-seed. I still plan on getting a harvest from them but I want to just let them do their thing and see how it changes from year to year. Just a fun experiment and there are some plants that just don't play nice in a vegetable garden but would do great in this setup.

Thanks for your comment!
 
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Stacy Witscher wrote:. I currently have rhubarb, but don't think that I will plant it at the next place, I don't much care for it now that I can't have sugar. Sorrel is nice but very sour, and hard to get rid of once established.

While I know that having certain root vegetables and bulbing vegetables, like potatoes, garlic and onions in the same place every year, I can't seem to keep them from popping up everywhere that I've once planted them.


To cook rhubarb without sugar add only enough water to the pan to start simmering and put raisins on top of the rhubarb.  As the rhubarb breaks down and releases liquid the raisins absorb the acid and impart sweetness to the rhubarb.
My last potato harvest from my raspberry patch originated from potato peelings in my sisters compost 10 years ago. I just transplanted 2 potato plants from pea sized tubers that came up in my greenhouse winter greens. So yes in our climate potatoes are a perennial.  
 
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I added Turkish Rocket and Sea Kale this year. No harvest yet but they sound good.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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