Finding the right plants
Instead of starting all over with your garden each year, why not plant more perennials and less annuals and make it less work? Perennials only need to be planted once and after that every year they will keep producing, less work and more food! We are including biennials as well which have a 2 year life so are not annuals but do not produce for more than 2 years.
Not only will they produce more food as the years go on (until they hit full maturity), but perennial foods are typically more nutritious, easier to grow, more beneficial for soil and the environment, not to mention usually need less resources such as water.
Perennials are also more resistant to pests, weeds and diseases, especially as they mature and develop underground symbiotic relationships with the other perennial plants around them. Some perennials become so good at producing food that they can require harvesting more often than annuals. You can share your food with your neighbors, friends or family or sell them at a farmers market, not a bad problem to have especially these days.
Perennial foods also extend the harvest window as they are ready to start producing earlier since they are not starting from a seed each growing season.
How do perennials enhance the soil you ask? They improve the quality of the soil as they aren’t ripped out of the ground and keep the relationship going between themselves and the underground network of other plants and microorganisms. They also increase the water holding capacity of your garden at the same time. When the leaves and food (if left) decompose each year they are adding more organic matter into the soil and help build the topsoil.
There are over 100 perennial crops, but here we have listed the most sought after perennials:
Rhubarb – tastes great in baked goods, juiced or raw, just do not eat the leaves they are poisonous
Asparagus – takes patience as it can take up to 3 years to become established but you can buy 2 year old crows and harvest after the first year
Kale – typically grown as an annual, they are actually a biennial plant meaning they have a 2-year life cycle
Garlic – is also a biennial plant so it will grow for 2 harvests
Horseradish – if you love spicy this is the perennial plant to grow, but this is also why you may want to grow this in a container or isolated area
Radicchio – this is a very easy-to-grow biennial that if you harvest in the summer has a nutty bitter flavor, or if you harvest in the fall or winter it will have a more sweet flavor
Globe Artichokes – these are large perennials that have large edible flower buds, they are pretty and tasty at the same time
Jerusalem Artichokes – these are crunchy, sweet, and great when stir-frying
Chives – easy to grow, useful, and can be grown in a small pot indoors in front of a window
Berries – all berry bushes are perennials and prefer cooler temperatures
Watercress – a water-loving plant that tastes peppery and not bitter
Sorrel – a great alternative to spinach in soups or salads
At Food Forest Abundance we plant many perennial plants over annual plants for the reasons given above, less work, more production over time, and healthier soil. If you are interested in having one of our professional permaculture designer work with you to create your own custom edible landscape check out www.foodforestabudance.com.