Growing Perennial Vegetables Saves Time and Offers Greater Bounty

Most gardeners are familiar with the yearly toil of creating and mending garden beds, starting seedlings, transplanting, watering, and harvesting their favorite vegetables. It’s a lot of work. But unfamiliar to many gardeners are perennial vegetables—vegetables that do not require annual plantings, and provide fruit, leaf, and shoot year after year without constant replanting effort and energy inputs. Most familiar is perhaps asparagus, but there are dozens of other perennial vegetables, and taking advantage of these varieties will save you time and energy throughout the years, in addition to promoting a healthier garden ecology.

Permaculture: less work and more rewards

Permaculture, or ‘permanent agriculture’ is a design methodology (for gardens and even buildings, too) that mimics the patterns, relationships, and balance found in natural ecosystems. Permacultural gardens stress the use of perennial plants because they do not require constant replanting (which can upset soil), and they take less energy to maintain and provide greater bounty for the effort it takes to get them established. Food forests, an extension of permacultural design, are intelligent gardens that group different layers of trees, shrubs, vines, and herbs, designed so that each plant benefits from all of the others.

Gaia’s Garden is an excellent introduction to permaculture theory and gives practical information about how to design your own ecological garden. A more in-depth resource is Edible Forest Gardens by Dave Jacke.

Strawberries, rhubarb, and asparagus are some of the more common perennial plants grown for their edible fruit. However, there are many more than just that. Depending on where you live, you can you grow a bustling array of vegetables that will continue to provide food for your table during their long lifespans. Thankfully, Eric Toensmeier has detailed over 100 different perennial vegetables in his obviously-titled Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, a Gardener’s Guide to Over 100 Delicious, Easy-to-Grow Edibles. This resource gives detailed descriptions of many lesser-known perennials and provides maps for US-based gardeners to determine if their area is appropriate for each variety.

Posted in Natural Living.

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