Are you tired of replanting your vegetable garden every year? Do you want to save time, money, and effort while still enjoying fresh and nutritious produce? If so, it's time to consider planting perennial vegetables. Unlike annuals, which require replanting every season, perennial vegetables come back year after year, providing a low-maintenance and sustainable source of food. Here are some popular perennial vegetables that will grow in most regions of the United States.
Growing asparagus from seed is an investment in the future of your garden. Typically, asparagus takes about 3 years to produce a full harvest. It’s worth the wait, though; it will continue to provide a bountiful harvest for at least 15 years or more. Asparagus is hardy in USDA zones 2 through 9.
Asparagus spears are a valuable source of potassium and vitamins A and C. Once established, you can harvest asparagus for several weeks in the early spring by cutting off the spears at the soil level with a sharp knife. Stop harvesting when the spears produced are about the diameter of a pencil or smaller. Once harvest is over, asparagus plants will “fern out” and you’ll have beautiful, delicate plants that can get up to 7 feet tall. The asparagus “ferns” will help feed the roots. They can be cut back to the ground at the end of the season when the foliage turns dry and brown.
Globe artichokes are another vegetable worth the wait. They probably will not produce a harvest in the first year. They do well in zones 7 through 10. Artichokes will produce for about 5 to 6 years before needing to be replaced. In addition to the bulbs being high in antioxidants, fiber, potassium, and magnesium, they produce gorgeous large purple flowers if left to bloom.
Globe artichokes are easy to grow as long as you provide them with plenty of sunshine and water deeply a few times a week. Harvest when the bulbs are still tight and before the center opens up. If you miss the harvest window, you can still enjoy the blooms and the pollinators they will attract to your garden.
Although often treated as a fruit for use in pies and desserts, rhubarb is actually a perennial vegetable that thrives in USDA zones 4 through 7. It may also take a couple of years to reach its full production potential. Mature plants will provide thick stalks that can be harvested for one to two months in the Spring. After harvest, it’s best to allow the plants to grow uncut. It’s also important to know that the actual leaves of the rhubarb plant are toxic and should not be consumed by humans or pets.
Rhubarb is another easy-to-grow vegetable that thrives in cooler climates as long as it has soil that is moist, but not saturated.
Sorrel is a leafy green that is valued for its tart, lemony flavor. It is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 7. Unlike asparagus and artichokes, you will probably have to replace your plants every few years. Sorrel prefers the cool seasons of spring and fall. If planted from seed, it will be ready to harvest within a couple of months once the leaves have reached about 4 inches long. If you gather a few leaves at a time from each plant, you’ll have an endless supply of sorrel.
Sorrel is an excellent vegetable to grow in containers. It will do well in as small as a 6-inch pot as long as the soil is well-drained. Unless you want to save seed, you should cut the flower stalks down to the ground and remove any browning or dry leaves. You can propagate sorrel by separating the plants at the roots in the fall.
Leeks are the milder, sweeter members of the onion family and grow best in cooler climates. They are hardy in zones 2 through 9 (depending on the variety). Leeks are versatile whether eaten raw or cooked and are an excellent source of vitamins A and C. Leeks can be harvested in about 4 to 5 months from planting, once the stalks grow at least 3 inches long. It’s best to wait until the plants are taller for higher yields. Because of the layered nature of the stalks, they do collect a lot of dirt. Cut them apart and soak them well to remove the soil before eating.
Leeks like full sun and well-drained soil. They need a lot of water, up to an inch of water per week. They also require lots of nitrogen, so fertilize them every three weeks or so during the growing season. Leeks need a lot of space as well. They should be planted 6-8 inches apart in rows 1-3 feet apart. To have more leeks next season, do not harvest your entire leek bed. Cut the stalks back and continue to water until the first frost and they will grow again next year.
Planting perennial vegetables is an excellent idea for any gardener who wants to save time and hassle while still enjoying a bountiful harvest. By choosing the right varieties, planting them correctly, and caring for them properly, you can create a sustainable and low-maintenance garden that provides fresh and nutritious produce year after year.