Perennial Foods

Edible Perennials That Will Bear Year After Year

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Want to enjoy home-grown food year after year without having to start your garden from scratch each spring? Then, it's time to discover the perennial food garden. All of the following herbs, vegetables, fruits and legumes can be planted once and enjoyed for many seasons to come.

What Is a Perennial?

A perennial is a plant that comes back year after year. This differentiates it from annuals, which must be planted each year and biennials, which only live for two years.

The key here is that you won't have to reseed or replant these plants each year to enjoy a harvest of food. Just plant your garden or orchard once, and your plantings should last for several years, maybe even several decades.

While all plants listed below are perennials, they may not grow perennially in all locations. In your local climate, plants that come back year after year may not be able to survive over a more extreme winter or summer. Check for compatibility with your region before you buy anything.

Perennial Herbs

Basil (Not all basil is perennial. Try African Blue or East Indian for a perennial variety)
Chives
Fennel
Garlic
Ginger
Horseradish
Lavender (often takes several seasons to establish)
Lemon Balm
Mint
Onions (Potato onions, Shallots, Egyptian onions, Japanese bunching onions, Welsh onions, Chinese leeks)
Oregano
Parsley
Rosemary (can be difficult to grow in some zones)
Sage
Thyme

    Perennial Vegetables

    Artichoke (Jerusalem, also known as sunchokes)
    Asparagus (keep the bed weed-free, and they'll produce for 20 years or more. You can take your first harvest in the third growing season)
    Broccoli (Not all varieties are perennial. Try perennial varieties Nine Star or Purple Cape)
    Radicchio
    Rhubarb
    Spinach (Not all varieties are perennial.

    Try perennial varieties Ceylon, Sissoo or New Zeland)
    Sweet Potato
    Tree cabbages/tree collards
    Water Cress
    Yams

    Perennial Fruits

    Apples
    Apricots
    Avocado
    Blackberries
    Cherries
    Currants
    Dates
    Fig
    Goji Berries
    Huckleberries
    Grapes
    Kiwi
    Lemons (must be brought indoors in the winter in colder climates)
    Limes
    Nectarines
    Olives
    Oranges (must be brought indoors in the winter in colder climates)
    Peaches
    Pears
    Persimmon
    Plums
    Raspberries
    Strawberries (replant every three years to maintain vigor and cut down on disease)

    Perennial Legumes

    Beans (Try perennial varieties Winged bean and Scarlet Runner)

    Perennial Nuts

    Almond
    Chestnut
    Hazelnut
    Macadamia
    Pecan
    Pistachio
    Walnut

    Tips for Growing Perennials In Your Garden

    Incorporating more perennial foods into your garden is a smart way to save time and money. You won't have to prepare the planting area or spend money on seeds or seedlings at the start of each growing season, and once your plans are established, they'll be less susceptible to drought or other unfavorable growing conditions.

    Find Companion Plants for Your Perennials

    That's not to say that perennials are maintenance free because they aren't, not by a long shot. To thrive perennials require regular fertilizing, and many perennial edibles also require a fair amount of pest control.

    You also won't get the same instant gratification that you may be used to with annual foods. Most perennials don't produce food for the first three to five years.

    And it bears mentioning that some perennials can spread to the point of becoming invasive. Blackberries, mint, chives and horseradish are just a few examples of plants that you'll need to keep an eye on. In fact, you may want to plant these known spreaders in containers, so you can keep their growth in check.

    Take time to chat with a local garden expert before you plant your perennial food garden, so you can find out what works best in your climate, what precautions you need to take, and what sorts of pests and problems you can expect over the course of the growing season. If you don't know anyone with a green thumb that you can talk to, try a Master Gardener program, your local county extension office or tap someone at a nearby garden center.

    Gardeners usually enjoy sharing their knowledge with others, so don't hesitate to reach out.

    How to Landscape With Edibles

    Tip: If you are going to have both perennials and annuals in your garden, consider keeping them in separate areas, so it'll be easier to plant your annuals and clean up at the end of the growing season.