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When you’re thinking about your garden this year, you might want to lean towards perennials to save yourself a lot of time and frustration from failed seedlings. What is a perennial? Perennials are plants that come back every year. You probably have perennial flowers, why not boost your food stores by having perennial fruits and vegetables?
Perennials save you the trouble of starting seeds and babying them through the sprouting stage. You don’t have to worry about when it’s safe to put them outside. Perennials will come out of their dormancy when they are supposed to. The plants know. Yes, there might be some severe weather events that require a little extra care, but for the most part, they are very hardy.
Many of the perennials will come back every year without a lot of effort on your part. There are some things you’ll need to do to make sure the plants are healthy and thriving but typically, these plants are pretty self-sustainable. They just need a little care and a good home in your garden or yard.
Gardeners often prefer perennials because not only does it save time and money buying new seeds, but the plants also improve the soil. They have deep roots that spread out and bring in the healthy, desirable nutrients you want in your garden soil. You will have less work to do in the spring when you have a variety of perennials. Remove the mulch, do a little inspection and let the plants thrive.
Because perennials are established, you don’t have to worry as much about drought and unfavorable weather. Think of them as the adults in the garden. They can withstand a lot more than a sensitive seedling that doesn’t really have a healthy, established root system developed.
Check out some of the options you have for planting perennials in your landscape.
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1. Jerusalem Artichokes
Jerusalem artichokes are great for warm climates. Warm and wet. You’ll start your artichoke as a seed, but you can propagate new plants. These aren’t the easiest perennial but if you figure it out, you are going to be rewarded with fresh artichoke year after year.
Asparagus is one of the plants that will keep giving for decades if you treat them right. They are slow to get started. You won’t be able to harvest until the third year. To winter the asparagus, you’ll need to cut the plants down to the ground. In the spring, new shoots will spring to life.
Blueberries are similar to raspberries. They will thrive in similar soil, but also do well in pots if you live in an area that isn’t ideal for blueberries. Blueberries can be a little more difficult than raspberries because they don’t fully produce in the first few years. In the winter, blueberry bushes go dormant. The branches are very fragile and can snap off in heavy snow. Protect them to keep them healthy for the spring.
Broccoli can be a perennial if you buy the right variety. Nine Star is a great option. It will come back year after year with
Chives, another onion variety will grow and grow and grow. You can harvest what you need for a recipe and still have more to harvest the next week. They have beautiful purple flowers near the end of their growing season. They will come back year after year with no real help needed by you. Be careful because they can quickly overtake a space.
6. Citrus Trees
Citrus trees are great in pots. Limes, lemons and oranges love the heat but if you can’t provide a tropical environment outside, these dwarf trees are beautiful in front of a window that gets plenty of sunlight. You’ll need to make sure they have good soil with various additives to feed the plant and ensure the best fruit production.
7. Fruit Trees
Fruit trees, i.e. apple, pear, peach and so on are always good bets. Keeping an orchard can be a lot of trial and error. If you live in an area with ideal weather, an orchard is going to leave you flush with fruit. If you’re able to have a full orchard, there are plenty of dwarf varieties that can be kept in large pots.
Garlic is another easy plant to grow. Plant a few bulbs in the fall and in the spring, you’ll see the sprouts. Each garlic clove with send up sprouts. You can separate and replant these sprouts to keep a steady supply of garlic hitting the kitchen.
Grapes aren’t just for Napa Valley. Yes, they love a nice warm climate, but people have figured out how to cultivate grapes in greenhouses. They will come back every year with the proper pruning techniques.
Oregano, parsley, sage and most herbs are perennials. Herbs do not generally take up a lot of space if you keep them trimmed back. They are excellent pest repellants and can be used fresh, dried or even frozen.
Horseradish might not be the kind of thing you harvest and eat as is, but a couple of plants are all you need to keep a healthy supply of spicy goodness. And when they are in bloom, they are very pretty and could add to the landscape.
Mint is an amazing perennial herb that will come back year after year. It does spread and will need to be managed. Mint is a great addition to a garden because it acts as a pest repellant—and it smells great. You can harvest the leaves and dry them to use in tea.
Many onion varieties are perennial, but not all. The green shoots are the part you harvest and eat throughout the summer. You can harvest the onions in the fall and you’ll get small shallots.
Radicchio looks a lot like cabbage. It will act as a perennial in the right climates. It doesn’t like it too hot or too cold.
Raspberries are another bush that will thrive year after year. They will send up shoots, although some are fondly known as suckers and are just space eaters. There is some yearly pruning needed to keep them from overtaking an area, but other than that, they are pretty easy to grow. They prefer slightly cooler climates and soil that is slightly acidic.
Rhubarb is one of those plants you couldn’t kill if you wanted to. it will keep coming back and growing larger and larger. The trick is not to harvest the first year. You want it to establish itself before you start harvesting. In the fall, the rhubarb stems will naturally die off. Putting some mulch over the top of the plant will ensure it comes back in the spring.
17. Scarlet Runner Beans
Scarlet runner beans are a new addition to the perennial family. With proper wintering, they will come back another year. Some people have been using the scarlet runner in landscaping because of the beautiful, flowering vines, but the bean pods are edible.
Sorrel is a leafy green that will keep coming back. It can be a wild one and you will need to keep it in check. It’s a nice addition to a salad for a little citrusy kick.
Strawberries are a fan fave! They are very easy to grow and can even get out of control if not trimmed back. Every year, one strawberry plant sends out runners. Those runners send out runners. Every runner will produce fruit. Your job will be keeping the plants thinned down to keep mold and bacteria growth from growing.
It’s important to make sure no other crawling weeds make their home in the strawberry bed. Strawberry plants can easily be overtaken by aggressive weeds. Before winter, it’s a good idea to cover the strawberry beds with straw or pine needles to protect them from heavy snow.
20. Tree Nuts
Tree nuts are typically perennials. However, they are not the kind of plant for the faint of heart. They don’t like the cold—period. They like warmth and low humidity. Nut trees can take years to reach maturity before they will produce.
Watercress is another salad addition that adds a spicy, peppery kick. Watercress loves wet soil. If you have a spot in your garden that doesn’t have great drainage, plant some watercress to take advantage of every inch of space you have available.
Yams aka sweet potatoes can be called a perennial for those that live in warm areas. If you’re in one of the colder growing zones, they won’t come back. However, you could try some container gardening in a greenhouse or sunroom that will keep the plants warm throughout the winter.
Having a garden or landscape filled with perennial plants is like having a grocery store right outside your door with very little effort. It’s always a good idea to propagate new plants every few years to keep the garden going strong.
Wintering techniques will give your perennials the best shot at a long, healthy life. Cut away leaves and stems before winter to avoid creating a warm hideout for bugs that will feed on the roots through the winter and destroy the plants.
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