Planting a food garden is a money wise way to save on the grocery budget. While the annual vegetable garden helps in spring through fall, it will die back when winter’s freeze comes into the area. That is why planting edible perennials is a smart part of food gardening. Perennials come back year after year, saving you money on seeds or transplants. Plus, many perennials live for decades, keeping food on your table for an extended period of time.
Developing a Perennial Food Garden
Annual plants live for only a short time, usually just part of the year. Perennials live much longer, dependent upon species. Many provide food year round, while others spring back when warm temperatures start to appear. There are numerous perennial food crops that can help slash your grocery budget. If you live in a warm region there are more plants than northern gardeners can grow, but cool region growers can still keep many edible perennial plants.
Before choosing perennials, be aware of your growing zone. Some plants labeled as perennials may not survive hard freezes and are then grown as annuals. In warm climates, these tender edible perennials will survive and thrive. Make sure your perennial food crops have room in which to grow. Most of us can’t afford to purchase mature plants and will instead get juvenile species. They will get bigger, so plan for a large enough space to accommodate full sized plants. Don’t crowd plants but do provide those that need it, a pollinating partner.
Selecting Edible Perennial Plants
There are both vegetables like artichokes, and fruits, such as apple trees, that can be part of your perennial food garden. As you choose plants, ensure you have the right soil and lighting conditions. Few things are as dismal as purchasing a plant but placing it in the wrong site where it won’t grow and thrive. Your perennial food garden can be intermixed with flowers and ornamental plants. Adding in some evergreens will ensure winter texture and color when perennial plants have dropped leaves or died back.
Possible Edible Perennial Plants
Obvious choices are fruit trees that are hardy to your zone, but there is much more to choose from that will come back year after year:
- Wild Leek
- Sweet Potato (dependent upon zone)
- Perennial Spinach
- Ground Nut
- Chayote (dependent upon zone)
- Water Cress
There are many herbs that are perennial even in colder regions:
And let’s talk fruit trees:
There may be many more edible perennials for your zone, including native plants like persimmon and mayhaws. Don’t forget to plan for some nut trees as well. Try black walnuts or hazelnuts. With a little effort, your landscape will be filling your larder in just a couple of years.
Since you’ve worked so hard in the garden this summer we want to show off the fruits (and veggies) of your labor! We invite you to join the Gardening Know How Virtual Harvest Show by submitting photos of your harvest!