Have your garden’s perennial vegetables raised themselves from the depths of the earth yet this spring? Rhubarb and asparagus are likely breaking through the soil this month. Strawberry plants will begin to green up and grow new leaves soon. Maybe your sunchokes are on the horizon and your perennial herbs are pushing green shoots and buds.
Or, quite possibly, you never knew that anything other than fruit trees and bushes could give you years of successive harvests. We’ll forgive you for not thinking about sunchokes—not a lot of people do—but the others listed above should be familiar, if not already growing in your garden. No? You need convincing, I get that. Let the convincing begin with a quick story.
Why Grow Perennial Vegetables?
Why should you grow perennial vegetables? It’s clear, really: Plant rhubarb and asparagus, for example, just once and you’ll reap a predictable harvest for years to come. Gardeners will need to plant fresh strawberry runners every few years, but plants do produce for several years. Herbs have the added bonus of living a double life as both indoor and outdoor plants.
A major reason why many gardeners don’t grow perennial vegetables is because of “perennial” part of the crop. The aboveground portion of the plant my die away, but the living roots remain. That means making special accommodations in the garden for those unseen roots; i.e. not running amok in the garden beds with a shovel. But this problem is easily solved by reserving a perennials-only section of the garden and, if need be, flagging the individual plants as they begin to fade in fall. Alternatively, create a perennials-only garden separate from the annual crops. Another solution? Planting your perennial veg in fabric grow bags such as the ones from Smart Pots or Root Pouch. The bonus here is you can move them throughout the garden during the growing season and afterward gather them into one condensed spot.
Try These Perennial Vegetables
Now that you’re convinced, here are a few perennial vegetables to try.
Rhubarb. There are two general kinds—green stalks and red/pink stalks. The red hues do make for a more attractive final dish. The leaves are poisonous but the stems are fine—sour, but fine. Remove the flower stems when they emerge to keep new leaves coming. My tip is to harvest only during the month of June (okay, maybe through July 4 so you can make a pie for the holiday). It’ll take a year for the plant to really establish itself, but once they do they’ll eventually take off.
Asparagus. While growing asparagus from seeds is possible, it’s a three-year process to a harvestable crop. Purchase asparagus crowns or roots and shave one year off that timeline. Plant in full sun and in soils that are light and well-draining. Pick a spot that’s convenient—your asparagus patch will last up to 20 years!
Sunchokes. Go big and go beautiful with sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes. They aren’t artichokes at all but are members of the sunflower family, hence the “go beautiful” part. And they’re big, growing up to 10 ft. tall, so give them plenty of room or even their own bed. Plant sunchoke tubers two to three weeks before last frost in loose, well-draining soil in a full sun location. Once you lay down a 1-in. layer of mulch after planting, these babies only need regular watering. Plan to harvest in late fall after the first killing frost of the season. That’s when they’re tastiest.
There are a ton more perennial vegetables available out there—fiddleheads, ramps, chicory, chives, horseradish, sea kale—many of which sound exotic and scary all at the same time (tree collards, what?). You won’t know what you’ll get until you give it a go. Maybe give one of them a try this year.
Tips for Success
The best path to success with new-to-you perennial vegetables is to follow the packaging directions or the instructions from your garden center. They are the experts, after all.
We do have one specific suggestion, however: Start your perennial vegetables off on the right foot with our Fuhgeddaboudit Root Zone Feeder Packs. Each packet contains a measured dose of a 4-2-2 fertilizer, mycorrhizae, softwood biochar, azomite (a.k.a. volcanic ash deposit) and micronized oyster shells. Just add the whole packet into the planting hole beside or underneath the root ball. For tubers such as those sunchokes, lay the packet about an inch from the tuber and fill in the space between with some soil. Nothing to mix or measure. It’s all right there—a 100% organic dose of nutrition and energy as the just-planted perennials begin to grow. (Pro tip: Fuhgeddaboudit Root Zone Feeder Packs are great for all types of plants—annuals, perennials, woody plants, tubers, you name it!).
We’d love to know what perennial vegetables you’re planning on growing this year or what you made from your delectable perennial vegetables. Drop us a note and a pic about it on Facebook and Instagram. This is the stuff that gets us really excited!
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