A Few Perennials You Need To Plant Once For Years Of Food

Ditch the yearly seed starting and forget tilling the soil! Imagine a garden overflowing with fresh, delicious vegetables that come back year after year, just like your favorite flowers and shrubs.

Perennial vegetables are like low-maintenance superstars in the garden. Once you plant them in the right spot and climate, they’ll thrive with minimal fuss, even if you forget to water them occasionally.

These tough plants are nature’s champions. They tend to be more resistant to pests, diseases, and even drought compared to their annual counterparts. They can also crowd out weeds, reducing the need for constant weeding. Some perennials are so vigorous that they might even try to take over your garden if you don’t harvest them regularly!

The best part? They’re incredibly rewarding. With minimal effort, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest throughout the season, making them a fantastic choice for busy gardeners or anyone who wants fresh, homegrown food without the hassle.

Perennials are good for your garden

Unlike annual vegetables that come and go in a single season, perennials extend your harvest window. While you’re fussing with delicate seedlings or waiting for summer’s heat to break, your established perennials are already thriving and ready to pick.

But perennials offer so much more than just delicious eats. Many boast stunning flowers or attractive foliage, adding beauty to your garden beyond mealtime. Some even double as functional plants, acting as hedges, ground covers, or natural erosion control on slopes.

Here’s where things get really impressive: certain perennials are like tiny fertilizer factories! They fix nitrogen in the soil, feeding themselves and giving neighboring plants a nutrient boost. Others create a haven for helpful insects and pollinators, promoting a healthy garden ecosystem. Some varieties even become vertical gardens, climbing trellises and providing shade for heat-sensitive plants below.

Perennial vegetables are also champions for healthy soil. They eliminate the need for tilling, which disrupts the delicate balance of underground creatures like worms, insects, and fungi. This intact soil food web plays a vital role in plant health.

Adding a layer of mulch around your perennials gives them another superpower: improved soil health. The mulch helps retain moisture, and as the plants’ leaves and roots decompose naturally, they add organic matter back into the soil, boosting its structure, drainage, and ability to hold water.

Think of perennial vegetable gardens as nature’s way of building healthy soil. They mimic natural ecosystems where plants contribute to the health of the land year after year, creating a sustainable growing environment, and even helping capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Cultivating perennial vegetables

cultivating perennial vegetables

Ready to add some perennial power to your garden? Here are a few clever ways to integrate them:

Expand your existing beds: No need for a complete garden overhaul! Simply widen your current veggie patch by a few feet and create a dedicated zone for perennial vegetables. This border will become a low-maintenance bounty throughout the season.

Double duty in the ornamentals: Got a beautiful flower border or a charming shrub garden? Don’t be afraid to mix things up! Many perennial vegetables, like sorrel, boast attractive foliage or flowers that blend seamlessly with your existing ornamentals, adding beauty and edibles in one place.

Unleash the hidden potential: Look around your landscape! Maybe you have a shady corner or a damp spot that goes unused. This could be the perfect home for shade-loving perennials like ramps. With a bit of research, you can discover surprising edibles that thrive in unexpected locations, transforming wasted areas into productive zones.

Perennials to grow in your garden:

Asparagus

Asparagus isn’t just a treat; it’s a garden investment! Imagine enjoying homegrown spears year after year (for over a decade!) Patience is key – it takes 2 years to mature. But Bucharest gardeners (zones 3-8) can enjoy this reward!

Planting:

  • Get asparagus crowns from a nursery in early spring.
  • Pick a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Raised beds work for heavier soil.
  • Dig a 6-8 inch deep trench, amend with compost, and space crowns 12-18 inches apart.
  • Gradually fill the trench with soil over a few weeks.

The Wait & Harvest:

Year 1: Let the plant establish roots. Water regularly, but don’t harvest any spears.

Year 2: You can try a few spears, but waiting another year is best.

Year 3: Harvest time! Look for thick, 6-8 inch tall spears. Cut them just below the soil with a sharp knife. Harvest lasts 4-6 weeks. Once spears get thin, stop and let the foliage grow back.

Care:

  • After harvest, cut down and remove the asparagus ferns.
  • Mulch around the base in fall for weed control and winter protection.
  • Top dress the bed with compost in spring for nutrients.

With this care, your asparagus patch can thrive for 15-20 years, rewarding you with delicious spring bounty!

Artichokes

Forget thistles, artichokes are the delicious reward for your garden. These sunshine-loving perennials (zones 7-11) thrive in mild winters and well-drained soil, offering tasty harvests for up to 5 years. In cooler zones (5-6), grow them as an annual.

Planting:

  • Look for artichoke tubers (not seeds) from a nursery in early spring.
  • Choose a sunny location with plenty of space for the plants to grow (around 4-5 feet apart).
  • Ensure the soil drains well. Raised beds are a good option if your soil is heavy.

Growing:

  • Water regularly, especially during dry periods.
  • Artichokes don’t need much feeding, but a light application of compost in spring can be beneficial.

Harvesting:

  • You can harvest artichokes once the buds are firm and about 2-3 inches in diameter.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut the bud just below the stem, leaving about an inch of stem attached.
  • With a little care, your artichoke plants will reward you with delicious flower buds for years to come.

Jerusalem Artichoke

Sunchoke (Helianthus tuberosus), a relative of the sunflower, offers a surprising harvest underground. These vigorous perennials (zones 4-9) produce delicious, potato-like tubers that you can peel and enjoy raw or cooked. But beware, their enthusiasm can spread!

Planting:

  • Look for Jerusalem artichoke tubers from a nursery in early spring.
  • Plant them in full sun, spacing them 2-3 feet apart.

Growing:

  • Sunchoke thrives with minimal care. Water regularly during dry spells, but they’re quite drought-tolerant.
  • Their bright yellow flowers attract helpful pollinators to your garden.

Harvesting:

  • You can dig up the tubers any time after the first frost, but fall is the prime harvest window.

Taming the Spread:

Jerusalem artichokes spread quickly through underground runners. To prevent them from becoming invasive:

  • Grow them in containers.
  • Plant them in a designated bed with a barrier (like buried metal sheeting) to restrict their spread.

With a little planning, sunchoke will reward you with delicious tubers and a vibrant addition to your garden!

Rhubarb

perennial vegetables rhubarb

Rhubarb isn’t just for fancy pies – a single mature plant can churn out enough stalks for a neighborhood block party’s worth of crumbles every year. (Zones 3-8). Rhubarb is all about those delicious, tart stalks – perfect for pies, crisps, and jams. But remember, the leaves are toxic, so enjoy the stalks only!

Planting:

  • Look for rhubarb crowns from a reputable nursery in early spring.
  • Choose a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Rhubarb likes its space – give it at least 3-4 feet between plants.

Growing:

  • Mulch around the plant in fall for winter protection.
  • In spring, you can add a light layer of compost around the base for a nutrient boost.

Harvesting:

  • Wait until the second year for harvest. In spring, once the stalks reach about 12-18 inches tall, you can start picking.
  • Only harvest the thickest stalks, leaving the thinner ones to grow.
  • The harvest window typically lasts 4-6 weeks.

Horseradish

Horseradish isn’t your average root vegetable. This powerhouse perennial (zones 3-9) thrives in cold winters and offers a spicy kick for years to come. Plus, you only need one plant – its potency packs a punch! Horseradish is all about the pungent taproot. Unlike other vegetables, you don’t harvest the main root itself. Instead, you harvest the side shoots that grow off the main root. This allows the plant to keep producing year after year.

Planting:

  • Look for horseradish root pieces (not seeds) from a nursery in early spring.
  • Choose a sunny location with well-drained soil. Give it some space – around 2-3 feet between plants.

Growing:

  • Horseradish requires minimal care. Water regularly during dry spells, but it’s quite drought-tolerant.
  • A light layer of mulch in fall helps protect the roots over winter.

Harvesting:

  • Wait at least a year or two before your first harvest. Then, dig up the plant and carefully remove the thickest side roots, leaving the main taproot intact.
  • The main root will continue to produce new side shoots for future harvests.

With a little patience, your horseradish plant will become a spicy staple in your kitchen for years to come. Just remember, a little goes a long way with this fiery flavor.

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Lovage

This easy-to-grow perennial (zones 3-9) is a close relative of celery, but with way less work. Lovage thrives in most climates and soil conditions, requires minimal care, and rarely has pest or disease problems. Bonus: you can use the leaves, roots, and even seeds just like you would celery. Lovage offers a delicious celery-like flavor in its leaves, roots, and seeds. Use them to add a savory touch to soups, stews, salads, or even as a seasoning.

Planting:

  • You can start lovage from seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before planting outdoors after the last frost, or buy transplants from a nursery in spring.
  • Choose a spot with full sun to light shade and well-drained soil. Lovage can grow quite large, so give it some space – around 3 feet.

Growing:

  • Lovage is a low-maintenance superstar. Water regularly, especially during dry periods, but it’s quite drought-tolerant once established.
  • Adding a layer of mulch around the base helps retain moisture and suppress weeds.

Harvesting:

  • You can start harvesting leaves after the plant reaches a good size, typically in the first year.
  • Just snip what you need throughout the season, and the plant will keep producing new growth.
  • Roots and seeds can be harvested after a few years, but the leaves are the most commonly used part.

With a little TLC, your lovage plant will reward you with delicious, celery-like flavor for years to come. It’s the perfect low-maintenance addition to any herb garden!

Watercress

Craving a peppery salad green that practically grows itself? Well, here comes the watercress! This sun-loving perennial (zones 3-11) thrives in cool climates and damp environments, naturally found along streams and waterways. But you don’t need a babbling brook – watercress can be a delightful addition to your garden even without one!

Watercress boasts a delicious, slightly spicy flavor that adds a delightful kick to salads, sandwiches, or even soups. Plus, it’s packed with nutrients!

Planting:

  • You can find watercress seeds or young plants from a nursery in spring.
  • If you have a pond or water feature, plant it right next to it for easy access and ideal moisture.
  • Alternatively, choose a sunny spot with consistently damp soil. Raised beds with a water reservoir can be a good option.

Growing:

  • Watercress loves moisture! Keep the soil consistently wet, especially during hot weather.
  • You can even let it grow partially submerged in shallow water.
  • Watercress requires minimal additional care.

Harvesting:

  • You can start harvesting leaves once the plant reaches a good size, typically in a few weeks.
  • Simply snip what you need throughout the season, and the plant will keep producing new growth.

While watercress technically grows in zones 3-11, it thrives in cooler temperatures. If you live in a hot climate, consider providing extra shade or planting it in containers that can be moved to cooler areas during scorching summers.

With a little attention to moisture, your watercress plant will reward you with delicious, peppery greens throughout the season. It’s a unique and easy-to-grow addition to your garden, especially if you have a damp corner or a water feature begging for a touch of life!

Groundnut

Groundnuts (Apios americana) are unique, protein-packed additions to your garden. This native North American wonder (zones 3-9) is a triple threat. It’s a vigorous, 6-foot vine with lovely flowers that attract pollinators. It produces both delicious, nutty-flavored tubers and protein-rich beans. It helps improve your soil fertility!

Planting:

  • You can find groundnut tubers or seeds from specialty nurseries in early spring.
  • Choose a spot with full sun or partial shade and moist soil. Groundnuts love a good drink!
  • Since they’re vines, provide some support like a trellis, fence, or a sturdy shrub. Space them about 2-3 feet apart.

Growing:

  • Water regularly, especially during dry spells. Groundnuts thrive in consistently moist soil.
  • A layer of mulch around the base helps retain moisture and suppress weeds.

Harvesting:

  • Wait until fall to harvest the bounty!
  • You can dig up the tubers – they resemble small potatoes with a nutty flavor.
  • The bean pods will also be mature by fall. Harvest them and enjoy the protein-rich beans inside.

With minimal care, your groundnut vine will reward you with delicious tubers, nutritious beans, and beautiful flowers for years to come. It’s a unique and sustainable addition to your garden, especially if you’re looking for a nitrogen-fixing plant that thrives in moist environments.

Ramps or Wild Leeks

Craving the taste of spring every year? Look no further than ramps (Allium tricoccum)! These delightful onion relatives are a cherished local delicacy, but foraging for wild ramps can threaten their natural populations. The good news? You can easily cultivate your own sustainable supply at home!

Ramps offer a unique, garlicky flavor that elevates spring dishes. Both the vibrant green leaves and the mild-flavored bulbs are edible, making them a versatile addition to your culinary creations.

Planting:

  • Patience is key with ramps! It can take a few years to establish a good patch, but the reward is worth the wait.
  • You can find ramp bulbs from reputable online nurseries in late summer or early fall.
  • Choose a shady spot with moist, well-drained soil that mimics their natural forest habitat. A spot under established trees can be perfect.

Growing:

  • Ramps are low-maintenance superstars. They require minimal care once established.
  • Keep the soil moist, especially during dry periods. A layer of mulch around the plants helps retain moisture and suppress weeds.

Harvesting:

  • Resist the urge to overharvest! Allow your ramp patch to mature for at least 2-3 years before harvesting.
  • Once established, you can carefully dig up a few bulbs or snip some leaves in early spring without harming the plant’s ability to spread.

By growing your own ramps, you can enjoy this delicious and unique spring treat year after year, all while protecting wild populations. With a little patience and the right shady spot, your ramp patch will become a cherished part of your sustainable garden.

Sorrel

perennial vegetables common sorrel

Looking to add a burst of bright, lemony flavor to your spring dishes? Then, sorrel is the right choice for your garden. This easy-to-grow perennial herb (zones 5-6, with winter mulching in colder climates) offers a delicious alternative to citrus and is a true garden gem.

Sorrel’s claim to fame is its vibrant, tart, lemon-like flavor. The leaves are perfect for adding a zingy touch to soups, stews, salads, and sauces.

pocketfarm1Planting:

  • There are two main sorrel varieties: common sorrel (Rumex acetosa) and French sorrel (Rumex scutatus). Both offer a similar flavor, but French sorrel tends to be milder with a lower oxalic acid content (a natural compound found in some plants).
  • You can find sorrel seeds or young plants at most nurseries in early spring.
  • Choose a sunny location with well-drained soil. Sorrel doesn’t tolerate soggy conditions.

Growing:

  • Sorrel is a low-maintenance superstar! Water regularly, especially during dry spells, but it’s quite drought-tolerant once established.
  • A light layer of mulch around the base helps retain moisture and suppress weeds.
  • Remember, sorrel prefers cooler weather. If you live in a hot climate, consider providing some afternoon shade during the hottest part of the summer.

Harvesting:

  • Sorrel tastes best when the weather is cool. Aim to harvest the leaves in early spring when they are young and tender.
  • You can harvest throughout the season, but the flavor will become more bitter as the weather warms.
  • Simply snip what you need throughout the spring, and the plant will keep producing new leaves.

Sorrel is a delightful seasonal treat that’s hard to find fresh in stores due to its delicate nature. By growing your own, you can enjoy this refreshing, lemony flavor at its peak in every spring dish. With a little care, your sorrel plant will reward you with tangy goodness for years to come!

Concluding

So, as you can see perennial vegetables offer a multitude of benefits for your garden and your plate. They provide a steady stream of fresh, delicious produce year after year, with minimal maintenance compared to annual vegetables.

Beyond tasty harvests, many perennials boast beautiful flowers, attractive foliage, and even act as natural fertilizers or beneficial insect havens. So, consider replacing some of your garden space with these hardworking perennials, and unlock a world of flavor, beauty, and sustainability in your own backyard!

Useful resources you may like:

How to grow wheat in your garden

A DIY Project to Generate Clean Water Anywhere

How to make perfect whole wheat bread

The vital self-sufficiency lessons our great grand-fathers left us

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