I am a new gardener and have a few questions about perennial vegetables in a smaller scale kitchen garden. I am in the southeast, hot and humid 7b, with a long cool fall. I plan to start with two 8x4 beds. I have mainly been researching annual plants but am very interested in (but new to) the idea of perennial vegetables. Modifying diet and cooking are the least of my worries, we are open to anything. My dream would be to have productive early spring to late fall harvests.
What veggies have you all had success with in similar climates? Are there any fool-proof staple plants I should include?
How do I go about choosing varieties that not only produce, but look good while doing it? This garden will be just off my back patio. What’s a good framework to start from as far as design goes?
How do you actually make it work with the seasons? Our summers are very intense while our long fall and early spring are conducive to many cool weather crops. How do you balance the garden to maintain yields during the long & varied growing season (early spring through late fall) & not suffer or die in the intense summers?
An added challenge is that these two beds receive 4 of sun on one end, and mostly shade (some evening sun) on the other. Is this site even worth the effort of trying to make it work? I also have two beds that get full sun at the front of the house I could also use (though not 100% for veggies.)
I am early on in my research and would love to have a framework to move forward in. I’d love to hear any thoughts or advice you all have to get me started!
So why are you interested in perennial vegetables? In a 7b zone wouldn't you need a greenhouse to get through the winter? Most of the commonly grown foods are annuals, and maybe a few are biennials, two years, like some cherry tomatoes, but they would need an extremely mild winter in a greenhouse.
In general, if we are going to grow a lot of food, we need some way to store it. We can can it/freeze it/dry it. So whatever method of storage you prefer needs to be taken into consideration.
Grow what you love. 50 pounds of yams doesn't do much good if you don't like them.
My favorites as far as perennials, are green onions, garlic (which can only be harvested in the summer), Italian single-leaf parsley (great for pesto which can be frozen), perennial spinach, but it might need protection (long days in summer usually causes spinach problems), some chards are at least biennial as long as you cut off the flower stem when it shows up, dinosaur kale can go a couple of years without getting weird and have small leaves.
Don't forget about day length. Day length influences greens to the point where long days can send some of them straight to flowering and seeds. So if you plan on giant mustard in the summer, it may not be possible.
Your local nurseries will sell the best types of plants for your location. Be careful when buying seeds to check for how long it takes, say, a squash to form. Some are 100 days, some are 35. If you don't have 100 days (most likely 120 days to get a 100-day squash) of a growing season, then squash/pumpkin seeds should be the type to grow in fewer days. If the seed package says, "Start in the fall or early spring," that means that that plant won't do well in the long days of summer.
Shade isn't really helpful for vegetables, although morning sun is the most helpful.
Don't fall for the My-Place-Is-Special, It-Won't-Happen-Here Syndrome.
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
posted 3 months ago
There is also a trifecta of plants that help each other, planted in threes, one vegetable, one herb, one flower. in a group That would look good, and they would be companion plants and help each other as well.
Don't fall for the My-Place-Is-Special, It-Won't-Happen-Here Syndrome.
I don't eat Scorzonera much now but it is a very nice perennial root vegetable. Parboil to solidify the rubbery white juice then scrape off the black skin, slice up and finish cooking. Lovely flavour. How is it perennial?, Just leave about an inch of root under the green top when you harvest it replant that little thing and the root will regrow! If you don't get round to harvesting this year, there is always next year. Ideally on sandy soil because the roots are very long. Good king henry is a superior spinach substitute. Has to be cooked and Tastes similar to nettles or to New Zealand spinach. Welsh onions are a non bulbing onion. great for green salads or soups, cut them about an inch above the ground every 2 weeks in summer and they regrow and multiply. I grow them under my runner beans in the shade in my "bean boat". Prolific! and sometimes in mild winters they provide greens late on and earlier in spring. In the dry climate here in Victorian summers, watering is key.
I am gardening in Zone 5 (a, b, depending on where on my property), so I can't speak to your climate. But I applaud you on wanting perennial vegetables. It's something I've been working on this year, and finding challenging.
Sea Kale (crambe) is a beautiful plant, more at home in the ornamental than the vegetable garden. It has lovely white flowers. The shoots can be harvested like asparagus, and later the leaves are reportedly very good greens.
Speaking of asparagus, can you grow it down there? It's a little unruly later in the summer, but it has tall, lovely, very fine ferns.
I'm also working on Caucasian Mountain Spinach, which was imported to Sweden as an ornamental! It has pretty leaves and climbs a trellis beautifully. I'm struggling to get it started. There's a whole thread devoted to it!
I also live within USDA zone 7. This places us in the temperate growing region. We don't want to learn all the wonderful attributes of (insert random tropical plant here) just to discover it won't survive a light frost. I've gotten excited about so many plants, just to find out they won't survive here. Sigh.
Take a peek at the below site, John has written articles about numerous perineals for our areas. In the herb and ground cover layers, he has included some easily self seeding annuals. http://tcpermaculture.com/site/plant-index/
Hi Cassie. For good looks in a shady garden one classic (in Asia) perennial vegetable is Hosta. In the spring when Hosta leaves first shoot up they are still quite tender and make a great cooked green. You can also cook and eat the flower shoots when they first shoot up and are still tender. I first learned about eating Hosta from an article by Stephen Barstow and I would very highly recommend his amazing book "Around the World in 80 Plants". He actually discusses over 200 perennial vegetables in that book....he can't help himself. Stephen likes to describe the ornamental edibles as "edimentals" and he talks about quite a few good options that are both good landscape and kitchen wonders.
I applaud you highly for your interest in perennial vegetables. They truly make the garden a place of abundance for both the gardener and the garden. I've always thought that we kind of lost our way with the emphasis on annuals and learning to find our way back to perennials is an adventure. There are 1000s of perennial edibles to choose from as you design your gardens....plenty that will work well in sun and plenty that will work well in shade. Designing for a diverse system will be great for that system, your eyes and your stomach.
Stephen runs an inspiring website that you might want to check out, edimentals.com
Cassie, welcome to Permies! I'm in the southeast as well, zone 7b, so I understand the challenges you are facing. I think you are so wise to be asking about perennial vegetables in your planning stages. I struggled for years (still do) trying to grow annual veggies with our unbearably hot, often droughty summers. It's a challenge! I've only recently been turning my attention to growing more perennial foods.
Here's what I'm having success with so far:
multiplier onions (potato onions)
There are lots of wild greens (weeds) that are reliable as either perennials or reseeding:
Forage edibles will vary depending on your own yard, so having a good edible weed ID book is invaluable.
Ramps are considered native to the area, although so far, I haven't had success establishing t hem.
Bamboo shoots are edible and it grows well in the southeast. It can become invasive, however, so care should be taken in planting location.
Kudzu is edible (young leaves, shoots, flowers, and roots) although I haven't tried it yet (I mostly feed it to my goats). I understand it's a staple in Japan.
The biggest challenge to my perennial food areas is wiregrass! Cynodon dactylon aka Bermuda grass. It's choked out my strawberry and asparagus beds more than once! People suggest mulch and raised beds, but practically, neither of these deter it.
Good questions, Cassie! I'm still researching and experimenting as well, so I appreciate this thread.
Perennial vegetables are a blessing for those of us who are busy. They take a bit of extra time to get established but once they are, they typically require minimum care. You can put them into the beds or you could reserve the beds for annuals and put the perennial vegetables into your landscaping. I had gardens in zones 6b and 9a in the US and I can tell you which perennial vegetables were most successful for me. (Though many have already been mentioned, and excluding those everyone knows of for sure.)
1. Jerusalem artichoke (Once I got them established, it seems many critters find them to be a tasty treat. I first established them by putting them in a gopher proof bulb cage)
2. Great Solomons Seal
3. Egyptian walking onions (everyone loved these so much that even now with my being gone all my friends and family have their own patches!)
4. Air potato (I kept these in their own wicking tubs because they can be invasive but these were one of my absolute favourites)
5. Arrowroot (though I did have a very convenient pond)
6. Tiger lilys (Very pretty!)
9. Sea kale
Though, my gardening style lent itself most strongly to a Spring, Summer, and Autumn of salads and stir fries and a winter of soups, stews, and curries. I considered these and some of the common weeds to be my most valuable plants. Other than comfrey which I would dry and offer to my critters free choice for extra vitamins and minerals. It also came in handy for all the bumps and bruises that come with owning a farm. lol. Best of luck!
If someone ever makes the Avengers of gardeners, my goal is to make that team!
I'm in a 7b patch that is surrounded by 90' yellow pines and dotted with mature tulip poplars. I understand the shade concern. This year, with the warm spell in March, the leaves came out early and i think the early shade made even more prominent the uncommon coolness of May.
Similar in height to Jerusalem Artichoke is sochan (Rudbeckia laciniata), another member of the vast asteraceae family in the same sunflower tribe. This thrives in light shade, so i'd give it a strong recommendation. I haven't eaten any yet: i transplanted a volunteer plant from a spot to my garden and wanted to give it a year to establish.
On the other end of the height spectrum, violets -- the leaves make great additions to salads -- and sorrel have worked for me. I'm looking into Virgina waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum) both as an aggressive native for understory planting and as an edible.
Egyptian walking onions have worked wonderfully for me: it's taken some time to get used to using them, but their ruggedness is good.
I'm not crazy about chickweed and bittercress, edible winter annuals that will show up in my yard without invitation. I'm not brave enough for poke: i do grow it in my fenced area for the birds, because the deer eat down it everywhere else. I've been reading about how edible milkweed (particularly butterfly weed) is and i wonder i'f i'll brave that. As a perennial, butterfly weed's bright orange flowers might be welcome in your garden. I spent some time reading about the poisonous characteristics of potatoes just to try and put the risk in context.
I'm giving Scarlet Runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) a try as a perennial. They're another attractive plant. 7b might be too warm, but i'm hoping they might be productive in the long autumn, and, as a perennial, get a jump in the spring.
Living in Piedmont NC, attempting restoration of four acres
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