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Add some perennial crops to your garden

February 21, 2018

Traditional backyard gardens tend to be full of annual vegetables that need to be started year after year from seed or plant start, and while those veggies can be well worth the time and labor it takes to grow them, planting some perennial crops in your garden can end up putting food on your plate for far less effort.  

 

Perennial vegetables often have different seasons of availability from annuals, which provides more food throughout the year. While you are transplanting tiny annual seedlings into your vegetable garden or waiting out the mid-summer heat, many perennials are already growing strong or ready to harvest.  Here are some of our favorites:

 

Asparagus: This slender spring beauty is probably the best-known perennial vegetable, and one of the most coveted early spring vegetables. Unlike many annual vegetables, it's not a quick producer, but asparagus provide tasty green treats every year once established. Here's some great information about growing asparagus in Arkansas.  https://www.uaex.edu/publications/PDF/FSA-6002.pdf

 

Horseradish: This perennial plant from the mustard family is a must-grow for those who love spice and sushi. Horseradish's leaves are edible and its strongly flavored root can bring one to tears.  Horseradish can take over the garden with its invasive roots, so when harvesting them in the fall you can remove as much of the root as you like, replanting only what you will need for next year. 

 

Rhubarb: This perennial vegetable is not only edible, but is also a colorful addition to the garden, its stalks are vibrant in varieties of red, pink, and green.  Rhubarb should be allowed to grow for several years before harvesting the stalks for that perennial summer favorite, strawberry rhubarb pie. Only the stalks of the rhubarb are edible; the leaves, which are toxic to humans, make a great addition to the compost pile.

 

Sunchokes: Also known as Jerusalem artichokes, sunchokes are a relative of sunflowers that produce a crisp and sweet edible tuber. This perennial vegetable can be eaten raw or cooked as you would a potato, and is often described as having a nutty flavor.  The sunchoke plant itself can grow rather tall, as a sunflower does, so it's well suited to planting as a border or along an edge of the garden. The tubers are harvested in the fall, with some of them left in the ground (or replanted after harvesting) for next year's plants.

 

Strawberries:  Sweet, juicy strawberries are among the easiest fruits for home gardeners to grow and one of the most productive too.  They just need a spot with good drainage and plenty of sunshine.  Plants fruit well in rows, beds, or even in pots, and make an attractive groundcover when not fruiting.

 

Berries are generally ripe 28 to 30 days after full bloom. 

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