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Perennial veggies a beginner should start with.

 
gardener
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Location: N. California
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I have been gardening for years, and have 0 perennials.  I tried to grow potato onions, this year, but not one germinated.  I have thought about asparagus, but it needs space and can't be eaten for 3 years.  I live in N. California zone 9b which means an amazingly long growing season, but very hot dry summers.  
Perennials are a mixed bag.  I love the idea of planting one and done. On the other hand it has to have a dedicated spot in the garden.  I would love some suggestions on a few perennial veggies that will actually grow in my area.  Something my family will enjoy eating.
To be honest I have never even heard of most of the perennial veggies talked about in this forum.  It's a bit scary to send money, time, and work on something I have never tried.  I look forward to your input.  Happy gardening.
 
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I've spent some time at a perennial-focused site in Nepal where they have long, hot summers (albeit with the occasional storm towards the end). They grew the following very successfully:

  • Brazilian potato tree, a bitter but delicious perennial eggplant
  • Pea eggplant, a pea-sized green eggplant relative that forms a low, spiny bush covered in fruit. Used in Tamil (South-Indian) curries. Lasts for 3-5 years.
  • Salad eggplant, an albino egg-shaped fruit that could be eaten raw
  • Sorghum
  • Agave, for high-calorie syrup and tequila
  • Seed and grain amaranths


  • HTH
     
    Posts: 52
    Location: Reeds Spring, MO; zone 6b Ozarks
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    The perennials this beginner started with were garlic and shallots from starts and bunching onions and sorrel from seed. I found them all trouble-free and successful, and though my climate is very different from NorCal, I think all of those plants are widely adapted.
     
    master steward
    Posts: 4041
    Location: USDA Zone 8a
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    I feel the Egyptian Walking Onions would be a good choice.

    They are easy to plant and will replant themselves.

    They tolerate my 8b heat though they do like to be watered. Last year I only watered the rose bushes next to them and they did well.

    https://permies.com/t/82715/perennial-vegetables/Easy-Grow-Perennial-Walking-Onion

     
    pollinator
    Posts: 200
    Location: WNC 6b
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    Walking onions grew great for us in Phoenix. They should do good in your area.  Basil lived for years. kale and swiss chard also lived for us a couple of years. You might try those.

    Are you able to plant strawberries or small berry bushes?
     
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    I love my perennial kales! I planted perennial rocket seeds this year but was told you can grow them perennially anyway.
    Chillis last for years as long as there is enough temperature.
    Other plants are like perennials in that you don't have to plant them each year because they just seed themselves lol!
    eg Aztec broccoli, magentaspreen etc

    That is besides berries and fruit and nut trees ...

    I feel that as much perennial as possible gives you a buffer of production and more time = more security of crop
    Plus the benefits of no dig!

    Lisa
     
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    I have always had a hard time growing perennial vegetables at the right scale for our farm. I have found that in the spaces that they occupy are great sinks for organic matter and food scraps that would otherwise need to be tossed and turned in a compost area. So if you can find a space to dedicate to perennials remember to stack that space's functions. Keeping it functional even in times of low yield tends to make it worthwhile in the end.
     
    Jen Fulkerson
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    Thank you everyone.  Ann I have thought about walking onions.  I'm still not clear on how it works.  Do you eat the little top onions and leave the mother onion in the ground, do you leave some to get heavy and fall over to reseed themselves and eat the mother bulb.  Everything I watched showed eating the whole plant.  If I do that then it wont be perennial.  So I guess the question is what do you leave and what do you eat?
     
    pollinator
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    Jen, I think Eric Toensmeier book "Perennial Vegetables: From Artichoke to Zuiki Taro, a Gardener's Guide to Over 100 Delicious, Easy-to-grow Edibles" would be an excellent place to start. I think Egyptian Walking Onions are an excellent start and maybe some of the greens because many of those are easy enough to incorporate into a stir fry a few leaves here, or a soup with a few leaves there, or if they are a salad green just a bit there. They also tend to offer year-round bounty. So I would highly recommend Sorrel, and a lovely ornamental if it is allowed in your area is the Air Potato, just make sure to get the edible variety -Dioscorea bulbifera- because some varieties are poisonous. I found the plant lovely to look at, it climbs really well so it takes very little space and the tubers were just great in soups and stews. And as someone else mentioned, perennial alliums are always awesome. Very sorry to hear you had bad luck with your potato onions. =(

    So a quick reference list:

    1. Egyptian Walking Onions & other perennial Alliums (There are perennial leeks, bulbing onions, and garlic. My favourite is elephant garlic!)
    2. Sorrel (English and Red veined)
    3. Various Edible Perennial Greens (There are literally oodles of these, it is a matter of finding ones you and your family enjoy that do well in your area)
    4. Air Potato
     
    pollinator
    Posts: 3113
    Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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    All the herbs in the mint/thyme family, onion/chive family and the lovage/celery family.
    Mushrooms such as winecap and oyster that will grow on woodchip and straw, that is just randomly thrown on the ground every couple years.

    Now for actual vegetables
    Root: Sunroot
    Leaves: Dandelion (lettuce family), Kale & SeaKale, SeaBeet and swiss chard, garden violet
     
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    Location: RV'ing across the western US currently
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    Even though I have had to move around a lot and not keep a permanent garden.  Perennial vegetables that I have had good success with are:  green onions and Jerusalem artichokes.  I dug them up and brought them with me, along with herbs:  thyme, oregano, sage, comfrey, etc.
     
    pollinator
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    How about parsley?  It's technically only a biennial or something like that, but it lasted for years of neglect in my Seattle garden.  And seeds are cheap.  I know, it's an herb not a vegetable, but the Italian flat-leaf style grows big and is fine as a generic green leaf vegetable.

    Here in N Germany, the most enthusiastic perennial is rhubarb.  I inherited a dedicated patch with my Kleingarten, but when it needed dividing I threw it all over the yard and it looooooves it.  (I should probably fertilize the dedicated patch, which is apparently depleted and produces sad little plants now.)  Most often used as a fruit, but it's really good in middle eastern dishes with meat.

    The other one kind of scares me:  Perennial buckwheat.  Cute little heart-shaped leaves on a stalk about a yard high, the taste is nothing to write home about but an acceptable green.  It's... enthusiastic.  And closely enough related to Japanese Knotweed that it makes me nervous.  But it hasn't moved out of its bed or tried holding me hostage or anything, so I'll save my worries for the JK that *is* in the neighborhood a scant few blocks away.

    Walking onions and other top-bulb onions seem to do pretty well here too.

    I've killed a looooot of other perennials, so I understand the worry.  Do you have a local permie-ish garden center you could visit?  They might have specific suggestions for your area.
     
    pollinator
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    After the spring I am often impatient with the asparagus bed, as it is 1/6 of my garden (and before was 1/3), and still needs watering in the drought.  But wow, it's delicious.  I do plant annual flowers in there and some basil.

    If you like rhubarb, it's a good one.  Berry bushes?  Strawberries.  Living in Zone 5, I'm always amazed that greens and artichokes can be perennial.  Wow.
     
    Morfydd St. Clair
    pollinator
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    I've always wondered about interplanting rhubarb and asparagus, as the asparagus comes up early and then is tall (but doesn't block the sun) where the rhubarb is lower for the summer.  I suspect asparagus wouldn't like the regular digging up needed for rhubarb, though.
     
    Author
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    I think planting any herb in a well drained and sunny area is the best beginner plant. I also think walking onions are a great idea too! I love how my "creep" around the garden and regrow from fallen seeds
     
    Jen Fulkerson
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    What is your favorite place to order Egyptian walking onions?  I'm not thrilled ordering stuff like this because you never know what you are going to get.  I must though because it's something I have never seen in the local nursery's.  Thanks
     
    Aimee Hall
    pollinator
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    I have had really good luck in the past with Oikos Tree Crops, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Stark Bros and MIgardener
     
    Acadia Tucker
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    It can be a little tricky finding a good source of seed for some of the stranger perennial foods. I've found good success with Territorial Seeds. You can purchase walking onions here: https://territorialseed.com/products/onion-egyptian-walking?variant=12786191106147  
     
    Jen Fulkerson
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    I ordered Egyptian walking onion sets and potato onion sets it cost me more then I like, for not very many, but I hope to have better success with the little bulbs then seeds.  Thanks everyone.
     
    Aimee Hall
    pollinator
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    Good luck Jen! To make those few perennial bulbs go further I have found it best to plant them in different places/situations to give the best chance of at least one surviving. Once I have one established many of my perennials seem unstoppable.

    Though I did just find out from my father that many of the perennial vegetables I left on my farm on Missouri are gone because the previous renters whipper snipped them repeatedly until they quit coming back, as many of the perennial support species like comfrey. I am a bit heart broken.
     
    Jen Fulkerson
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    I know how you feel Aimee the first house my husband and I bought had several fruit trees. The peach was the best peach I have ever eaten.
    We sold the house for a bit more room.  I drove by a year or so later. I was truly horrified, and angry to see everyone of the trees replaced with palm trees. I know it's there house, and usually live with the "to each his own" attitude, but palm trees? Wish I could have saved those trees. Oh well.
    Thanks for your input, sounds like a good idea to me.  Thanks again.
     
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    Thank you everybody  good tips for perréials for those of us struggling gardeners in cal desert Mojave’s!!
    Challenges with wind and small critters!!
     
    Aimee Hall
    pollinator
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    No worries! Keep us up to date on how your new veggies do and share any you find that work well.

    Here in Melbourne it is Spring and I just got my potato onions for the year in as well as many new strawberries, passion fruit vines, and the like. It was a beautiful day here for us! Cleaning up my perennials is probably one of my favourite parts of every Spring no matter where I live. lol!
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