Anyone who has ever grown their own fruits, vegetables, and herbs knows how rewarding and delectable of an experience it is. Want a tomato? Go pick a ripe one fresh out of the garden. Sauce missing a little something extra? Clip a couple basil leaves to toss in for an extra punch of flavor. The produce is fresher, cheaper, and you know exactly where it comes from and what was and wasn’t used to grow it.
The downside to growing your own vegetable garden however, is the amount of work it takes at the beginning and end of each growing season. You often have to dig up or replace the soil and plant everything, only to then rip it out in the fall and do it all again next spring. Thankfully, with a little planning and know-how, you can cut your work load in half and enjoy fresh, home grown produce each year without having to re-plant your entire garden! Enter: Perennials.
How to Plant a Perennial Vegetable Garden
Perennial plants are those that you plant once and will come up all on their own year after year. They’re typically much heartier than annual plant varieties, allowing them to stay dormant under the soil and withstand winter’s harsh conditions. Before you just go ahead and start filling your vegetable garden with perennials, however, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
Tips for Planting a Perennial Home Vegetable Garden
Choose plants that are guaranteed to do well in your zone and the microclimate of your garden. For America, check out this interactive USDA planting zones map, and for Canada check out this plant hardiness map. For all other countries, search “[name of country] planting zones” for information on what’s best for your soil and climate. (1)
To test the soil of your garden, you can purchase a pH testing kit, or send your soil into your local extension services center for testing and information on what nutrients/fertilizer your soil needs. (1)
Don’t plant all of your annuals in one spot and perennials in another. It’s best to inter-disperse them to avoid depleting the soil and ensure your garden is uniformly filled year-round. (1)
Take the time to prepare your planting space properly to ensure healthy plants every year. This involves taking the time to test and balance the soil and buying new soil, if necessary. (1)
Perennials tend to multiply, expand, and quickly take over a space, so make sure you plant them with plenty of room between each plant. Most seeds and plants come with directions on their packaging, but if you are unsure ask someone from you local garden shop for assistance. (1)
Start small and only plant a couple new ones each year. This gives you a chance to respond if they fail to grow or grow to the point of becoming invasive. (1)
Armed with your new knowledge on how to start a perennial vegetable garden, now it’s time to get planting!
Best Perennial Vegetables for Your Home Garden
These are just a few excellent options for growing healthy produce every year without doing a thing. Just remember to check your local planting zone to be sure they match your soil and climate.
Provided you don’t mind the odd-smelling urine that asparagus tends to cause, this is a fantastic vegetable that’s easy to grow. They can be planted almost anywhere in your garden, won’t crowd out other plants or flowers, and will come up every year for a very long time. (1)
Making sure you have the best quality soil possible before planting is crucial, because the asparagus will be growing there for a very long time. If you are planting seeds, it will take about 4 years before you have a really good asparagus crop, and you absolutely should not pick any asparagus that comes up that first season or you risk severely damaging the plant. If you don’t feel like waiting, you can get 1, 2, and even 3 year old plants to cut down on the lag time. (1)
For additional information on growing asparagus, read here.
2. Jerusalem Artichokes
Also known as sunchokes, Jerusalem artichokes are not actually artichokes at all, but instead are part of the sunflower family. They form yellow flowers on the surface and grow odd-shaped tubers underneath. The tubers are crunchy and slightly sweet, and can be eaten cooked or raw. When harvesting in the fall, you want to dig out the larger tubers and leave behind the smaller ones to grow a new crop the next year. If you want to plant more in another section of the garden, simply remove some of the smaller tubers and relocate them. (1, 2)
Read here for more information on how to grow Jerusalem artichokes.
Now this is an unstoppable herb! Once planted, mint will come up again and again, with more and more mint each year. Your best bet when planting mint is to plant it in a pot or a bottomless container embedded into the ground in an attempt to contain it, as it can become highly invasive. (2)
For more information on growing mint, read here.
Don’t be fooled by their delicate appearance, chives are quite hearty and can grow almost anywhere! They can even be brought inside for continued harvest year-round. Wait until the green, tubular leaves of the plant are 4 inches tall before clipping them. To allow them to come up again the following year, allow some of your chives to grow till they flower (when left un-clipped, the plants grow beautiful purple flowers) and leave the short clippings from you last harvest in the fall to decompose and nourish the soil for next year’s plants. (1)
For more information on growing chives, read here.
Rhubarb, though technically a vegetable, is used most often in pies and jams for its tart taste. Rhubarb is hearty and can grow without much human intervention, and can easily be divided and shared with friends once you’ve grown your first crop. Be aware, though, only the stalks of the rhubarb plant are edible, the leaves themselves are poisonous. If you have outdoor cats or a particularly curious or hungry dog, rhubarb may not be feasible for your home garden. (1)
For more information on growing rhubarb, read here.
While many onions are annual plants, potato onions and multiplier onions are perennial vegetables and are quite hearty. The most common perennial onions are known as “walker onions” or “tree onions”. They form a cluster of bulbs on a seed stalk in the summer, then in the fall, the stalk bends over and the bulbs touch the soil. They start a new plant a little ways away from the parent plant, and as the seasons go by it travels across the garden. (1)
For more information on how to grow perennial onions, read here.
There are plenty more perennial herbs and vegetables that you can grow in your home garden, provided you have the right climate and soil type. By growing perennial plants along side your annual ones, you can reduce the amount of work you have to do every spring and fall, and be guaranteed to have fresh, home grown produce for years to come!