Perennial Vegetables are not known by many gardeners even though many already have them in their gardens. Basically, they are crops that can be planted once and harvested continuously for many years.
The best part about perennial vegetables is their low maintenance, which makes them a great choice for new gardeners or those with busy schedules. There are many advantages to planting perennial veggies, besides having a reliable harvest every year.
Why You’ll Love Growing Perennial Vegetables
Perennial vegetables actually fertilize their own soil and the soil surrounding them, providing nutrients to their neighboring plants (although I still feed them this rich organic fertilizer too). They are beautiful to look at and tend to attract beneficial insects and pollinators too.
Some can even grow as hedges, groundcovers and erosion controllers for the soil. Other than providing nutrients to the soil, perennial vegetables actually improve the quality of the soil itself by increasing soil microbe activity. Plus the perennial crops add organic matter to the soil through their decomposing leaves and roots.
Some Things To Keep In Mind
While perennial vegetables seem to be perfect plants, they are not without some flaws. It’s common for these vegetables to be very slow to develop and they may take years to fully grow. If your perennials catch a disease, they often can’t be cured which means that they may eventually need to be removed (in which case, the Root Slayer Shovel is your best bet!)
Perennials need separate care than your annual crops and since they grow all year round, crop rotation is pretty much impossible. Due to their low-maintenance, if not careful, some perennials can turn into weeds that end up harming your garden.
Even though perennials will grow year after year by themselves, some gardeners prefer to grow them as annuals and remove them at the end of each season. Some perennial plants grow better that way and benefit from less pests and diseases.
Where You Should Grow Your Perennial Crops
If you are thinking about integrating perennial plants into an already established garden, then it’s best to plant them around the perimeter. Extend your garden by 3 to 4 feet and plant a perennial border instead of growing them in your main garden beds. Shady and damp spots can be used to grow perennial vegetables such as wild leeks that thrive in these conditions.
If you already have perennials growing in your garden, you should consider using permaculture gardening (Gaia’s Garden is a good intro book). By imitating nature’s ecosystems, this method forms a mutually beneficial relationship between the plants, soil, and wildlife.
For more about planning your vegetable garden read Vegetable Gardening For Beginners: Planning Your First Garden
Here are 21 MUST HAVE perennial vegetables for your vegetable garden:
Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and other berry bushes are considered some of the best perennial crops by gardeners all around the world. Berries are not picky when it comes to the soil, they will grow just fine in average garden soil just as long as they get plenty of sun. Add them to your desserts, make jams or enjoy them freshly picked, they will always add taste and colour to your dinner table!
These Sweetie-Pie Blackberries are a personal favorite of mine for planting around the vegetable garden. They grow thickly with thorns which helps protect my crops from rabbits, plus the berries are incredibly delicious!
Berries are also great for growing in containers along with many other fruits, check out 8 Best Berries to Grow In Containers For Incredible Flavor
Asparagus is one of the most commonly grown perennial vegetables in the world. Though they do take a long time to properly establish, it is well worth the wait. After they are fully matured, they can provide abundant spears for many years to come.
If you are looking for a shortcut, plant the crown of an already developed asparagus; this cuts the development time by at least 1 year. One of the best varieties for backyard gardeners is Mary Washington which comes with semi-mature roots when you buy it online.If you are looking for a shortcut, plant the crown of an already developed asparagus; this cuts the development time by at least 1 year. One of the best varieties for backyard gardeners is Mary WashingtonClick To Tweet
Due to their many shades of colors, rhubarbs are not just edible but are also considered ornamental plants that add to the beauty of the garden. Rhubarbs varieties include shades of red, pink and green. It’s best to let rhubarb plants grow for several years before harvesting. It should be noted that only the stalks of the rhubarb are edible and the leaves are toxic, though they do make for good compost.
Canadian Red Rhubarb has such a stunning deep color and a rich taste that you’ll be hooked after just one bite! You can get mature plants online that are already producing well and will establish in your garden within a few months (instead of several years).
Although kale is usually grown as an annual and is considered as such, it is actually a perennial plant. This leafy, green vegetable can be eaten raw, steamed or sautéed. It is best to plant them in early spring so they can establish themselves before the winter snow and cold temperatures set in.
Toscano Kale, also known as Dinosaur Kale, is the toughest and best Kale to grow for perennial crops. Other Kale varieties will tend to bolt within a year, whereas Dinosaur Kale just keeps on growing without issue.
Kale is one of the easiest vegetables for new gardeners to grow. For more read 17 Incredibly Easy To Grow Vegetable Garden Plants for Beginner Gardeners
Another perennial that is grown as an annual is garlic. Many people are unaware of the fact that garlic only needs to be planted once, and can be harvested every year. Garlic is a self-sustaining crop that, if properly cultivated, can yield 3 to 8 times greater amount then planted. Paying a little attention during cultivation time will reap fruitful results for a long time.
When grown as a perinneal the young stems, flowers and leaves are harvested instead of the bulbs. These can be added to stews and soups instead of the cloves to add a garlic flavor to your meals.
California Soft Neck is my all time favorite.
Radicchio, once planted, comes back every year and can grow in most climates if they are not dug up. Though the quality of a regrown radicchio will slowly decrease over time unless your soil is well fertilized.
The main edible part of a horseradish is its large roots which bring with it a strong and spicy flavor. One of the problems encountered with horseradish is that their roots tend to be aggressive in their growth.
Horseradish roots grow quickly and spread out wide. This can create some problems for other crops and the horseradish may become a bit weedy if left unchecked. When you harvest, you should make sure to remove as much root possible. Leave just enough in the ground for the next years crop to grow properly.
Globe artichokes grow in the form of a large, tasty flower bud. Before you think about growing artichokes, make sure that your garden has room because these perennial vegetables can grow up to 6 feet or more in height! Like most perennial vegetables, they need a couple of years to mature before they are ready for harvesting.
Although the purple artichoke looks nicer, the green globe variety tends to be more tender and better eating.
Lovage is a very low maintenance perennial herb that can add a lot of flavor to meals. They come up every year and require very little attention and can grow in partly shaded areas. try to keep their roots damp so they grow to their full potential. Lovage requires a couple of years of growth and can grow up to 6 feet tall once it is established.
A watercress is easily identifiable by its hollow stems and small heart-shaped leaves. It grows best in cool but sunny places. As the name suggests, Watercress is usually found beside a creek or a lake as it requires a lot of water to grow. This makes it great for gardens with heavy wet soil.
Alternatively, you can also grow it in a pot filled with water or a fish tank. To harvest, just cut the leaves a few inches above the ground and it will regrow year after year.
Since Egyptian onions are perennial they will continue to grow from the same bulbs every year. Once established these plants can produce a consistent and abundant supply of small pickling onions every year. They are usually planted in the fall, and are capable of surviving harsh winters.
You won’t find Egyptian Onions at the store and they are exceptionally hard to find even online. If they are available at the link then get them (fast) before they sell out!
Due to the daylilies’ beauty, they are usually grown for ornamental purposes but they can also be eaten as a vegetable. They do not require any attention to grow well, in fact, they are famous for growing even when neglected.
The young flower buds are harvested and can be used in salads or lightly steamed as green beans. They are sweet and very tender.
The good king henry is known for its tasty shoots, leaves and flower buds. It belongs to the spinach family and can grow in partial shade. It is best to harvested in spring and will continue to sprout up every year thereafter.
Good King Henry leaves are used in the same way as a spinach though its shoots are eaten like asparagus, while the flower buds are akin to broccoli and the seeds are used as a grain.
Groundnut, also known as the Indian potato, is basically a 6-foot long vine that that hangs on a trellis and produces edible beans and large edible tubers. They are harvested in the fall, and some are left in the ground so that they can regrow. The taste has been described as “nutty flavored potatoes”.
Jerusalem Artichokes are also known as Sunchokes. They are related to the sunflower and produce edible underground tubers that can be eaten either raw or cooked. Just like a sunflower, the sunchoke can grow rather tall so it’s best to plant them at the edges of your garden.
The tubers are harvested in fall with some being left in the ground so that they grow again next year. The bright yellow flowers also attract beneficial insects and will help protect your crops from pests.
Ostrich ferns are long, elegant and curving plants that are named due to their resemblance to ostrich plumes. They are low maintenance, pest and disease free, and change their shape based on the season.
In summer they unfurl their leaves and in winter they go dormant. They can grow in full shade and in moist areas. Their early spring fiddleheads are often used as vegetables.
Tip: Buy these ferns as Rhizomes (fern rootballs) rather than spores (fern seeds). The spores can be hard to germinate, whereas the Rhizomes are very hardy and will regrow easily.
Ramps, also known as wild leeks, are native to eastern North America. They grow in partially shaded and moist areas such as underneath trees. Ramps are most commonly found in moist deciduous forests. Considered a delicacy, Ramps are eaten in salads.
Very few varieties of beans will re-sprout from their roots year after year which makes the scarlet runner very special. Runner beans can yield a harvest every year, and some have been known to live up to 20 years. Each plant can yield a startling amount of edibles.
Sea kale is usually planted to provide beauty to the garden because of its unique gray-blue leaves and white flowers. Its massive leaves are edible and it has a broccoli-like top. It usually grows in the winter and is a relative to the cabbage family.
The leaves can be steamed and are a good source of vitamin C. Besides the leaves, the stalk and roots are also edible. The oil can also be extracted from its seeds.
Another very hard to find crop, so if this seed is in stock make sure you buy it straight away!
Sorrel is a perennial herb that is mostly grown for the lemony taste that it provides to food, mostly sauces, and soups. They are very low maintenance and have almost the same requirements as Lovage. Just like spinach, cooking sorrel can be a bit tricky. It shrinks when cooked, which means that you will need a lot if you require it for something other than a fresh salad.
Even though sorrel is perennial herb, it is hard to properly divide and regrow it as its heavy root system makes it very hard to do so. It tastes best in early spring as later its taste can become bitter. It wilts shortly after harvest so it is best to use it up, fast.
The perennial crops can be quite hard to find in garden centers so it is best to acquire them online from specialist suppliers. There are also some books on perennial vegetables which are well worth a read such as, Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier.