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
  • Groundnut Plants
    Groundnut plants will vine and flower aboveground while growing round, tasty tubers beneath the soil.
    ERIC TOENSMEIER
  • Crosnes
    Crosnes produce these odd, edible tubers.
    FOTOLIA/CHANELLE
  • Tubers
    Groundnut tubers are high in protein and grow to about the size of walnuts.
    ERIC TOENSMEIER
  • Sunchokes
    The bright blooms of sunchokes are as beautiful as the plant's edible tubers are delicious.
    ISTOCKPHOTO/NIVELLEN77
  • Asparagus
    Asparagus is a perennial spring treat.
    DWIGHT KUHN
  • Good King Henry Plant
    Good king Henry forms tasty leaves and stems.
    ERIC TOENSMEIER
  • Perennial Veggies
    Layering shade-tolerant veggies under taller plants is a permaculture technique.
    JUDY WHITE/GARDENPHOTOS.COM
  • Ramps
    Ramps pop out of the ground year after year.
    OTTMAR BIERWAGEN

  • Perennial Garden
  • Groundnut Plants
  • Crosnes
  • Tubers
  • Sunchokes
  • Asparagus
  • Good King Henry Plant
  • Perennial Veggies
  • Ramps

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.”

fpayton
10/18/2017 11:58:41 AM

We're new to this gardening thing. Our 6 heirloom strawberry plant went happily crazy creating dozens of new plants after we kept nipping the buds back, so no fruit this first year. But how to save the plants over winter? We're in the Pacific NW.


paytonplace1225
10/18/2017 11:58:39 AM

We're new to this gardening thing. Our 6 heirloom strawberry plants grew wonderfully into dozens after nipping the buds back so no fruit this first year. Now what? How do we save the plants for next year? We're in the Pacific NW. Next year we'll add some of the veggies mentioned here, too.


halinrobert1
8/5/2017 2:13:18 PM

We started gardening and we were gone wrong. We could not figure out why we were not getting the beautiful vegetables we were hoping for. People suggest to spray chemicals for vegetables and fruits but is poison and it is not organic vegetables. My lab professor referred a guide it helps me to grow my gardening as what we like, you can get the guide from here >> ( http://go2l.ink/plants ) <<. I have recommended this system to all of my friends and family. We got good organic natural vegetables and fruits in the next harvest, one of the beautiful products in the market.







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