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Planting once and reaping harvests year after year is my kind of gardening. There are more perennials to grow in the garden than you might think. Growing perennials is a great thing for beginning gardeners and seasoned gardeners alike.
Perennial food plants
What’s the difference between annuals and perennials? Annuals are short-lived and have to be replanted each year. Perennial crops are planted once and continue to regrow year after year. Many times perennials are more expensive to buy, but they are worth it in the long run. Perennials are less work, less expense over time, and less worry.
Perennial crops are generally planted in early summer or early spring. They produce flower buds later in the season and either reproduce from the seed heads, or their roots remain alive when the tops die back in winter. Most of the time, you can trim them back once they die off and they regrow again in early spring.
What is a perennial
There are several pros to finding perennial vegetables to grow in your vegetable garden. Not disturbing the soil yearly for planting helps build the soil and makes it healthier for growing. Perennial plants cost less over time because you only have to buy them once. And obviously, growing perennials is less labor intensive as you don’t have to work at replanting.
There are also several cons to growing perennial foods. They may be hard to establish and get started in the beginning, but once you do, you are set. The plants usually cost more initially. Most perennials, but not all, take a few years to start producing, so sometimes you have to be patient.
Perennials can be difficult to grow in certain zones, so check the information on each one that you might be thinking of growing to see if it’s suitable to grow in your gardening zone. If you try to grow one that’s not suited for your area, you’ll likely be disappointed.
If you can find out what grows naturally in your area already, you’ll find yourself with far more success. Another thing to consider when deciding on perennials to grow is if they are invasive. Many types are and you’ll need to make sure you take measures to prevent them from taking over your entire garden or yard. They might just turn out to be a weed to you.
Perennial crops are easy to grow. Just purchase your garden plants, get them planted in full sun before it’s too hot, and make sure they get plenty of water the first season. Once established, they usually perform fine on their own and don’t need a lot of attention. If you make sure there is plenty of organic matter in the soil before you plant them, they’ll be happy.
Many perennial flowers and crops grow wild so you can definitely forage for them or even dig up the plants in some places to replant in your garden.
Perennial fruits to grow
- Strawberries are super easy to grow and produce sweet, tasty fruit either all at once or several times per year depending on what type you get. They come in Junebearing or everbearing varieties.
- Blueberries produce in early summer and their stems and leaves turn a bright red color in fall and winter, so they look gorgeous all year round.
- Honeyberries are fruiting honeysuckle flowers. They are beautiful, smell great, AND you get fruit.
- Fruit trees-Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, avocados, apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, cherries, plums, and more.
- Grapevines are gorgeous in the landscape as well as produce some of the most amazing flavored fruits. There’s a reason why grapes are popular in the produce market.
- Fig bushes regrow every year. They generally grow in the south, but we are pushing the boundaries and growing them in Oklahoma. The bush dies back every year, but then it regrows in spring.
- Raspberry canes are super easy to grow. This perennial fruit can even be invasive. But you can train them and make them easier to harvest and containable.
- Blackberry canes are similar to grow to raspberries.
- Mulberries grow on trees and many people consider them a weed, but they actually taste really good and produce a lot of berries.
- Rhubarb is a perennial fruit that grows in warmer climates. It’s super sour so is usually only cooked with sweeter fruit and lots of sugar. It tastes wonderful when mixed with other fruits though. It grows as stalks similar to celery. It’s a very interesting perennial crop.
Perennial Vegetables to grow
- Capers are actually a seed. They are usually pickled in brine and sold in jars. They are delicious, similar to a pickle.
- Artichokes are a very interesting perennial flower. The part of the artichoke that’s edible is actually the flower itself. It has a choke inside that should be removed before the vegetable is eaten. The leaves are edible, but the heart of the artichoke, just beyond the choke, it what is most prized about an artichoke.
- Jerusalem Artichokes (starchy like potatoes) also called sunchokes, are crunchy. They grow perennial flowers that look similar to sunflower and smell a little like chocolate.
- Good King Henry (tastes kind of like spinach) is a perennial leafy green.
- Sorrel is another leafy green that grows back year after year.
- Chayote (gourd) is a tender perennial vine. It produces a pale green to white pear shaped fruit that is a little bit flat. It tastes similar to squash with a little bit of a nutty flavor.
- Tree Collards are really interesting. They actually grow like a tree, but produce greens all up the very large stem.
- Radicchio is a cabbage-like purple leafy vegetable that grows in a sort of pointy cabbage-like head. It’s a little spicier in flavor than cabbage but it’s reddish-purple color brightens up a plate of food.
- Asparagus is a delicious perennial that grows spears you can break off and eat. It’s delicious raw or cooked. It’s very delicious grilled. If you leave the spears, they fern out and produce energy for the following year’s asparagus.
- Egyptian walking onions (like scallions) are a very easy to grow perennial crop. In fact, it’s difficult to stop them from growing. They produce a small cluster of seeds on top that fall off and produce more onions. You can harvest them at any season for onion flavor in your meal.
- Ramps are another green with a slight onion flavor that grow wild in many places.
Perennial herbs to grow
There are a ton of herbs that grow back every year. Most of them grow similarly in a bushy small plant.
- Parsley, Sage, Mint, Lemon Balm, Oregano, and Rosemary
- Ginger is a spicy tasting tuber that grows on gorgeous stems. I have tried to grow it many times and have not found success yet. I’m not sure if it can be grown in my climate.
- Lavender is a fragrant herb that is good for a ton of medicinal and culinary purposes like this yummy cake.
- Lovage grows in a small bushy mound on stalks like celery and tastes a little like soap. It is used in stir fry and Asian dishes.
- Garlic Grows under the ground in bulbs. Each bulb breaks apart into multiple cloves.
- Horseradish is a spicy herb that grows underground as well.
- Chives are an onion-flavored herb that grows in a long, thin tube-like stem. You just cut it with scissors and it regrows itself.
More easy perennials to grow
- Nut trees-Pecan, almond, walnut, chestnut, hazelnut, hickory
- Chocolate tree (really, you can actually grow them indoors!)
There are so many delicious and nutritious edible perennials to grow. Try some in your garden today.
There are some crops that are easier to grow and are more nutrient and calorie dense that will save you the most money on your food budget as money gets tighter and tighter. Check out the essential crops to grow for a survival garden here. And how to start a survival garden here.