Let’s Talk: Perennial Veg

Alas, here we are at the end of the series. Just in time to place your seed and plant orders (if you haven’t already)!

The last topic is perennial veggies. There aren’t many where I grown and a few I’ve already covered (bunching onions and chives, kale where it is warm enough). I’ll leave this to the veg that are considered perennial in my neck of the woods (zone 4b).

Asparagus:

So delicious! Of course you must plan accordingly because it will be at least 3 years before you can harvest a new patch, but once you do? AMAZING. I think that purchasing your crowns locally is best as I’d be worried they would dry out in shipping (though I have heard that some folks will soak them in compost tea before planting? Just follow any instructions sent along with them from the grower!). But if you can’t get them locally, find a reputable nursery to purchase from.

There are a few different varieties available, but I just took what my nursery had. They tend to be mostly male plants as they produce more stalks, but I have quite a few females and they still give a great harvest. You will need to make sure your soil is well amended and that you top the crowns up with compost every spring. They are heavy feeders and will need all the goodness you can give them. The wait for a good harvest was very long, but well worth it. If you have the space to dedicate to a permanent crop, this is the one.

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Rhubarb:

I adore rhubarb. It is one of my favorite flavors and it is blasphemy in our house to mix this bit of perfection with any other fruit. Strawberries need not apply! I don’t advise growing yours from seed- mostly because it will add an unnecessary couple of years to your wait to harvest. Interminable!

Buy healthy looking, good sized plants and get them into the ground early. Give them loads of room and full sun. Mulch well and fertilize in late fall (after a hard frost) or in very early spring with good compost. These too are heavy feeders so prep the bed well and don’t skimp on the compost. Give them a few years to get established before you harvest. And, when you do harvest, pull the stalks out- don’t cut them!

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I’ve never grown Walking Onions or Artichokes (it would take a Herculean effort to get one to overwinter here), but those are two more to consider.

The other perennials I have in our Veg garden are raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries (or your favorite berry- we also have Serviceberries and they are amazing but aren’t in the Veg garden). They aren’t technically veggies, but the fruit is a) amazingly better than store-bought and b) so much tastier warmed in the sun and eaten outside in the garden.

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These plants will need a good bit of room and bramble-type plants (blackberries, raspberries, currants) will need structure and support. Strawberries will need a patch of their own, though mine is currently plopped in the middle of our longest veg bed as rotating them every few years

For raspberries do check the label of the plants and figure out if you want Summer Bearing or Everbearing- this will impact how you prune, when you get fruit, and how soon you can harvest. Here is a link to a great resource (far better than I would be able to compile) on growing raspberries.

Strawberries are the easiest to grow and don’t require much for support other than some clean hay or straw to keep the berries clean. There are loads of varieties to choose from and few delights are as great as sun-warmed strawberries. Here is the link to a great guide for growing them.

Blueberries will need ericacious (acidic) soil to fruit well, so growing them in containers or raised beds will be necessary for most gardens. Here is a link to another great article from the University of Minnesota about blueberry growing.

I will get into other fruit another time but for now, I’ll just say that if you have the space to grow any or all of these things, they are well worth it. The flavor is better, the price is significantly lower than purchasing them in the store, and the satisfaction from growing these far outpaces other annual veg. Win, win, win!

What perennial veg (and or fruit) do you grow in your gardens? What did I miss and what do I need to consider for next year?

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