Perennials are a Must

During my later years as a gardener, I’ve come to enjoy cultivating perennials. Perhaps my perennial list is not extensive, however, I believe you’ll enjoy adding one or two of these to your garden. Keep in mind, that your planting zone or hardiness zone may call for a somewhat different all-star lineup of select perennials based on the severity of your area’s winter temps. These days, my gardening activities take place in Central Missouri (Hardiness Zone 6) so what I can get away with as a perennial may not work for gardeners in Zones 2, 3, 4, or 5 (Zone 1 is near the Canadian border).

Please keep in mind that the following is general information on each perennial. For more detailed guidance on seed rates, fertility, etc., it will be necessary to consult with local publications and/or garden books. Our goal is simply to point you in the direction of what is possible.

Asparagus

One commonly grown perennial, which can tolerate most U.S. hardiness zones (Zones 2 – 8), is asparagus. This is an excellent veggie to grow as the benefits of cooking freshly harvested spears for dinner will amaze you. Establishing a bed of asparagus may seem daunting but well worth the effort. You can purchase seed or elect to plant rootstocks (aka, crowns). Your rate of success will likely be higher by establishing your bed with crowns.

One thing to consider is, Asparagus takes a couple of years to establish before it can be harvested. However, once it’s established, it remains productive for sime 15 – 20 years. With such a long commitment, make sure to do your homework and select the best variety for your location.

Chives

This is perhaps the easiest plant to grow in your garden or in pots. As well, and unless you have big plans for using this herb, a few bunches tucked away in your garden is all you need. From my experience, chives typically last for 8 to 10 years.

You can seed chives or divide an existing clump to get your own plants started without difficulty. If a neighbor has some chives, which you really like, then ask if you can divide a few clumps for your garden. This ensures that you’ll end up with what they have! I like to also start chives from seed if I’m interested in making sure of the purity of my new crop. For example, we grow both green chives and garlic chives in our garden. The green chives were started from seed and the garlic chives were dug from an existing bed. Both are doing well and provide us with an excellent garnish.

Rhubarb

Before I get started, I need to inform the reader that my only reason for growing rhubarb is because I love rhubarb and rhubarb/strawberry pie. As far as growing rhubarb, it is perhaps the easiest to propagate by using rootstalks from an existing plant. Every few years, during late winter, you can dig up plants and select the healthiest rootstalks for planting in a new location. You can certainly try to grow rhubarb from seed however not everyone is successful.

Rhubarb is super easy to cultivate so success is pretty certain. However, please keep in mind that the foliage of one plant may take up 4′ to 6′ across. Usually, a family of three will have 2 to 3 plants in their garden.

CAUTION: When you harvest rhubarb only use the stalks for cooking. The leaves are poisonous and should not be consumed.

Rhubarb

Jerusalem Artichoke

Here’s one I haven’t grown yet. Many say that this veggie can be cooked like a potato so I’m anxious to validate this. Because our community garden (St. Joseph Street Community Garden) has a mission to feed others, I’m always interested in producing a bountiful harvest from the majority of our veggies. It seems that the Jerusalem Artichoke (JA) may fit this bill. However, don’t get me wrong, there’s always room for early red potatoes. The JA is related to the sunflower however its bounty comes from underground tubers. The tubers can be eaten raw or cooked.

To secure tubers, check with friends to request that they save a few tubers from their next harvest. Of course, you can always search the internet for a reputable source. Once you’ve established JA in your garden you can select some choice tubers from your harvest to plant next spring. Of course, if you leave any tubers in the ground, they will likely grow (duh, JA is a perennial) and provide you with another great harvest in the following season.

Jerusalem Artichoke

Berries and Fruit

Fall is also an opportunity to establish a new bed of strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc. At St. Joseph Street Community Garden, we are establishing two separate beds of strawberries (summer and everbearing types). This past Fall, we planted a 15 ft. row of an erect-thornless-everbearing blackberry. They are doing fine and will be a great addition to our garden! On the fruit side of things, we planted two peach trees and plan to plant two apple and two pear trees in Spring 2022. All are dwarf varieties. However, and because our community garden is relatively small, the tress will be planted around the perimeter of our vegetable beds.

Although perennials will typically occupy the same spot in your garden for 3 to many years, it is always wise to rotate them when the time comes. With strawberries, we plan to maintain each bed in the same spot for 5 years. in year 4, we will plant a new bed of strawberries with purchased plants from a reputable nursery.

I hope this post was useful and has encouraged you to add a few perennials to your garden. Should you have any comments or questions, please contact me at:

thegardenalchemist@thegardendreamer.com

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