Perennial Vegetables: Grow More Food With Less Work

Combine permaculture gardening techniques and edible landscaping ingenuity in your garden by growing perennial vegetables. You’ll be surprised by how little work garden perennials require when compared with the work you expend growing annuals. Plus, our list of best perennials and resources guide will get you started with this sustainable, practical gardening technique.


| April/May 2012



Perennial Garden

Growing edible perennials along with annuals in your garden adds diversity and beauty.


PHOTO: BETHANN WEICK

Suppose a new agricultural breakthrough promised higher yields, a longer growing season and much less work. These claims can become real benefits for those willing to make a change to a way of gardening that more closely mimics nature.

Nature’s ecosystems always include not only annual vegetables, but also perennials — edible roots, shoots, leaves, flowers and fruits that produce year after year. Besides fruit-bearing trees and shrubs, more than 100 species of perennial vegetables grow well in North America.

By growing perennials, you’ll create a more diverse garden that ultimately needs less from you: You’ll spend less time working and more time harvesting.

“It’s as close to zero-work gardening as you can get,” says Eric Toensmeier, author of Perennial Vegetables. “Our perennial vegetable beds planted 11 years ago still bear food, and all we do is add compost and mulch once a year.”

What’s more, growing perennials extends the harvest season without a greenhouse, cold frame or other device. You can harvest Jerusalem artichokes all winter as long as you mulch enough to keep the ground from freezing.

“Some perennial crops, such as sorrel, are up and ready to eat in March when the snow is melting,” says Toensmeier, who gardens in Massachusetts. “Most of our springtime food harvest comes from perennials. By the time they’re finished, the annual vegetables are coming in.”

survivalgardener
11/6/2014 2:32:34 PM

I've been working on compiling a survival plant database that's comprised of mostly perennial vegetables. We've been doing it in Costa Rica for a couple years not and learning a lot. It's crazy how productive you can be with such little input in a tropical area! These amazing perennial crops in addition to our aquaponics system have made the homestead really productive. Moringa, Katuk, cuadrados, camotes and Sisoo spinach some of our most useful producers. http://survivalgardener.com


susandonb
2/15/2014 4:08:17 PM

Started an organic plant business by growing asparagus for the first time 12 years ago. We raise asparagus crowns from seed organically on our farm and sell to home gardeners when the crowns are three years old. Also raspberry and strawberry plants. We ship to zones 3-8. Love perennial veggies and fruits. www.itzybitzyfarm.com/store http://itzybitzyfarm.com/all-about-gus/


michael
10/17/2013 8:18:30 PM

Jerusalem Artichokes will take over a garden and almost impossible to get rid of. I'll never do that again unless it's on some out of the way spot.


wigles1
6/26/2013 1:10:01 PM

Perennial fruits and vegetables have a huge part in my garden. I'll continue to add more until most of my space is an edible landscape. It's also very pretty to look at. Some of the perennial veggies in the article I have nver heard of before, so I will give them a try too!


veggieman
6/25/2013 11:43:16 AM

I've grown many of thos perernnial vegetables myself, and I love both the idea and the result.  Some of them can be hard to find, but a number of online nurseries sell them in the US and Canada (where I live).






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