I love growing perennials! Perennials are plants that can grow for 3 years or longer with proper care. They are time savers, money savers and allow you to share plants in most cases. Perennials are soft greens not woody and flower.
Some examples you should be familiar with are;
– Water Cress
– Lemon balm
– Jerusalem Artichokes
– Sweet Potatoes
This should give you a good idea of the types of perennial plants. I just can’t get over the importance of raising as many perennials as you can.
Some important considerations when planting perennials is to put them in the right place. Since these plants will produce for so many years they can be hard to move. Horseradish will regrow with the smallest of roots left in the ground. When you have the patch started it’s probably just going to stay there. Some people may find this to be bad, but I really like it. Not only can you have a good crop, but you can give away or even sell to others wanting these plants.
Strawberries are also perennials, and come back year after year. They produce best on the second year, so you want to remove those plants at the end of the second year. Meanwhile, the first 2 years those strawberry plants will be producing baby plants by sending out a vine with new babies. I find that it’s best to limit each plant to 4-5 baby plants. Any more than this and the plants all seem to suffer.
To share some strawberry plants, just get small planters with compost and put a baby strawberry plant in the planter with a small stone or weight on the vine. In just a few weeks the plant will grow strong enough that the vine connecting it to its mother will shrivel up and break. You can cut the vine yourself, but I find that your percentage of success is much greater when you let nature decide when to separate.
Every year I perpetuate my sweet potatoes by bringing the best sweet potato I can find and putting it in water. My wife likes this one because it makes for such a beautiful vining plant. To make your own starters, just poke 3 tooth picks into the middle of the plant so that it can balance in a mason jar with the stem end down. Fill the mason jar with water so the bottom of the sweet potato is submerged and place it in a sunny windowsill. It may take a few weeks to start growing, but when it does, the growth is fast.
You will get vines that grow off the side with the roots attached. Carefully pull them off the sweet potato keeping the roots attached to the vine when they are about 6” long. Put these in another mason jar with water and keep in the sun until your soil hits 60°F. Plant them in good soil with plenty of compost or a good mound of soil with plenty of mulch.
Garlic is my all-time favorite perennial! Not only is it easy to plant, it’s a miracle plant with so many uses. It seems like no matter how much I plant I never have enough. Grandma really likes my garlic, so she gets a good supply from me. Garlic helps me plant more because it grows right through the fall and winter. When it comes out of the ground, I still have plenty of time to plant another crop.
Growing garlic starts with a good soil/compost mix. Find a garlic seed that is suited to your area of the country. Place garlic seed orders early because it can run out quickly and become hard to get. If you can find a local farmer, buy the seed from them because it will be accustomed to your area. Don’t break the bulbs apart until you are ready to plant.
In the fall (for Pennsylvania that means October) plant your garlic. Push your garlic seed root down until it’s just under the soil. Spacing should be 4”-6” apart and in rows of 8”-12.” I toss a mulch of straw over the garlic loosely 6” thick.
When garlic scapes (garlic flower buds) start to form, eat them like onion tops. Soon after, the tops will dry up (about July), and this signals that they are ready. Pull the garlic out of the ground and them tie in bundles to hang. Cure the garlic in a shady and drafty area for 2 weeks. It’s ready to use, but pick your best heads to save for next fall’s seed.
Perennials are easy to grow, but some may take some time to be harvestable like Asparagus. Asparagus is a perennial that should not be harvested the first year it grows. You should not even harvest on the second year. The third-year harvest is ready to harvest! This waiting period is to let the plant spread and mature.
Asparagus is really special to the Northern gardeners as its one of the first crops you can pick. After a long cold winter, having these sweet tasting asparagus shoot up from the soil like little rockets is a treat.
Find out what sort of perennials you can plant in your area and get as many of them as you can. Do the world a favor and share any extra plants you may have and let’s fill this world with food!