Growing Perennial Veggies

Instead of growing veggies in a patch of straight rows of crops, gardeners can plant a variety of interesting perennial edibles in a relaxed design in the landscape around their home. To grow perennial veggies, check plant labels at the nursery to discover their winter hardiness, as it is important to get the right variety for the climate. Plant their veggies in raised beds that can be filled with rich organic soil and compost, which allows gardeners to reach inside to care for their plants without stepping on the soil. The most popular perennial veggies are artichoke, asparagus, and rhubarb, all cold season crops.

Artichokes are perennial veggies in California and other warm climates, where they grow 3 to 5 feet tall and look lovely in the landscape. Artichokes can be propagated by seed or by slicing a 10” sucker from the parent plant with a section of the root in rich composted soil. Their roots go down 4 feet and they grow well with asparagus, cabbage, beets, and lettuce. In the fall, prune the plants to the ground. When the artichoke head is still closed and about the size of an orange, cut the stem a couple of inches below the head. If the head is not harvested, the bud will blossom into a beautiful purple-blue flower.

Asparagus is hardy in cold climates, especially when gardeners protect the crowns with 6 inches of mulch during the winter. Asparagus needs to grow two to three years before bearing edible spears. When the spears are 6 to 8 inches high, harvest them by cutting ½ inch below the soil surface to prevent disease. Asparagus roots are shallow, extending outward 5 to 6 feet, making them good companions for all deep rooted veggies. Start seeds by soaking them overnight before planting or plant dormant roots by spreading the roots, covering the crowns with compost, and watering well. 

Rhubarb is a hardy perennial, dying down to the ground in winter and regrowing in spring to 3 feet tall and 6 feet wide. When daytime temperatures average above 75°, the plants will go dormant and sprout again in autumn when the temperatures get cooler. Plant dormant roots by digging a hole 2 feet wide and 1 foot deep. Harvest the outer stalks, a few at a time and leave the rest to grow. Rhubarb has very attractive, large, tropical-looking foliage and bright red stalks. They look gorgeous in the landscape with other perennial veggies, flowers, and herbs.

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