Whether it’s fruit trees, berries, rhubarb or herbs, perennials are the plants that just keep giving! In this episode we’ll talk about the numbers, and why it makes so much sense to get your perennials in the ground now. Many perennials all take a number of years to get established such that you can start harvesting them, so some patience is required, but once the plants are mature, you have a free food source for years that only gets bigger and better each year.
What is a Perennial?
Plants are either annual, biennial, or perennial. Annuals live out their entire life-cycle in one season (seed germinates, plant grows, plant flowers and goes to seed, plant dies); biennials complete their life cycle in two years; and, perennials live for multiple years.
Why Grow Perennials?
- Ease of Maintenance: You plant perennials once, and as long as the soil meets their requirements, they just get bigger and better each year with practically no work on your part. I can’t think of an easier way to grow food than in the form of perennials.
- Great Investment: Whatever the perennial costs, you will get far more back over time. You will find few investments that yield the kind of return that perennials will offer. A quick back of the envelope calculation that I did revealed that $12 worth of bare root strawberries (everbearing) will yield $15 of strawberries in the first year, and then $30 worth in every subsequent year, and possibly more if you allow the plants to propagate.
- Some vegetable varieties that grow well in zone 5 are rhubarb, lovage, Jerusalem artichoke, and asparagus.
- Some berry varieties are strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. Many people also grow elderberries, hascap berries (blue honeysuckle) and goose berries. My advice, based on taste, is to at least have the first four I’ve mentioned here. They all are ideal additions to a salad, and they all ripen at different times, so you have a perpetual source of sweetness in your salads while you are waiting for your tomatoes to start ripening.
- Fruit bearing trees are also full-value perennials. Whether you are growing cherries, apples, pears, plums, peaches or apricots, few things will give you more satisfaction than the annual blooming of your trees, and the subsequent harvest that follows.
Totally Ripe, Totally Organic
One final benefit that goes along with perennial plants is that you get to enjoy the benefit of eating them when they are perfectly ripe, and you get the peace of mind knowing that what you are eating is absolutely organic. You will be amazed at the difference in flavour between the plants you have grown, and the poor imitations of fresh fruit that you have been buying at the store. Ripe