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Why Not Grow Perennial Salad Leaves This Season?

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on February 21, 2017

Why Not Grow Perennial Salad Leaves This Season?   By Daniel Mowinski

Perennial vegetables are making a comeback. I say comeback because if you were to travel a few centuries into the past you would find plants like Good King Henry and Sorrel in every kitchen garden.

Personally, I’ve always wondered why gardeners are so fixated on annuals. Perennials, particularly salad leaves, have so many benefits!

For one, they require less maintenance. There’s no need to start plants from seed every year, harden them off and provide protection from slugs and birds in the early stages.

Secondly, they will provide consistent harvests of leaves and flowers through the growing season.

Finally, they’re cheaper! You don’t need to buy seeds every year and they’re demand far fewer nutrients.

The list of perennial veggies to try is almost endless. For those who are interested, I would highly recommend the book How to Grow Perennial Vegetables by Martin Crawford. It’s the most comprehensive overview of the topic that I’ve yet come across and includes profiles of over a hundred plants.

What about harvesting?

Don’t take more than ⅓ of fully-grown foliage in one season, leaving the bigger leaves where possible. These are like the main solar panels. Keeping them intact will mean that your plants can generate and store energy for the next season.

Depending on the type of plant, you can usually harvest all the young leaves or shoots in spring. Leave the new growth to flourish, taking leaves occasionally but (following the rule above) never more than one ⅓.

The need to feed

The main annual job for edible perennials is feeding. Once they’re established, perennial plants will benefit from the addition of slow-release fertilizer in spring. Alternatively layer a mulch of compost or manure around the base of the plants.

If you want a quick way of getting started, consider some of my favorite perennials…

Chives

This herbaceous perennial is widely known and grown. Its fine leaves and purple flowers are both edible. It also acts as a pest deterrent and is good for attracting bees.

Because they spread easily, chives are good candidates for containers. If overwintered inside they will keep their leaves. Otherwise they will die back when the cold weather strikes.

Good King Henry

Good King Henry is one of my all-time favorite plants. I love the leaves, which are  spinach-like in taste, and its size means that I get a good harvest every year. It will do well in both sun and shade.

The shoots can be harvested in spring. Pick leaves frugally thereafter.

Yarrow

Yarrow is a fascinating plant, with a folklore nearly as interesting as the flavors of its leaves and flowers, both of which resemble tarragon and licorice. The flowers are lovely when dried and used in tea. Young leaves are best used in salads.

Yarrow is tremendously unfussy – it grows in disparate climates all over the world – and an ideal choice for those shadier spots. Because it can be invasive, particularly when it’s allowed to run to seed (snip off those flowers as soon as they appear), some people prefer to grow it in a pot, for which it’s the ideal size.

Sorrel

There are lots of different types of sorrels. They’re all members of the Rumex genus, which includes docks. My favorite species of sorrel is garden sorrel (R. acetosa). These plants are prone to spreading via sucker roots underground so are, again, a good candidate for containers.

Harvest all of the young leaves in spring, letting the second flush of foliage develop fully, picking as you need to. They have a wonderful lemony flavor which can sometimes be overpowering so only a little is needed for salads.

Perennial Rocket

Once you’ve tasted the spicy scrumptious of rocket it’s difficult to resist the urge to grow it every year. Fortunately, fast-growing wild rocket can provide you with a bountiful harvest. Even the flowers, which I find quite ugly, are edible.

Give it a poor soil. The more stones and rubble the better! When harvesting, treat it as you would a herb – cutting off ⅓ of foliage at any given time. You’ll be amazed at how quickly it regenerates.

Dan lives in London. He writes about his container growing exploits on his blog Urban Turnip

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Dwarf Vegetable Plants Deliver Giant Taste

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on January 30, 2017

Dwarf vegetable plants can produce enough food for several meals during the gardening season.  Many of these new plants can produce great vegetables in as little as an eight inch pot set on the patio or balcony.  These are part of a gardening craze aimed at people who are busy and have very little room in their yard.  Some of them are Millennials and some of them are Boomers who are reducing their living space and no longer have a yard.

picture of pea growing on a vine.

qtree / Pixabay

Park Seed has developed three new 2017 All-American Selection vegetable seed varieties for release this year.  Pea Patio Pride Hybrid seeds are able to deliver peas to your table less than six weeks after sowing.    These peas are compact, growing up to two feet high and spreading out one foot wide.  Pea Patio Pride are cool season plants and can be the first vegetable that reaches edible size each year.  In addition to delivering great food, these peas fix Nitrogen in the soil.  When the plant is through bearing, you can chop it up and work it into the soil in your pot, then plant something else.

In fact, you can grow the second of Park Seed’s newly released All-American Selection varieties of vegetables in the same pot you grew your peas in.  Mini Love Hybrid Watermelons spread just three feet from their pot but produce several seven to nine pound striped melons.  In face, if you have space to grow a rose, you can grow this melon.  The vines will appreciate the Nitrogen they receive from the peas that were grown in their pot earlier in the season.  The watermelons take 80 days from sowing to ripening into a mouth watering eating melon.

In autumn, you can enjoy compact, single serving size butternut squash.  This Honeybee Hybrid produces lots of butternut squash that can be eaten immediately or saved for the winter.  Honeybee hybrid butternut squash are so light they can be grown on a trellis set into the pot you plant your seeds in.  The squash take three months from sowing the seeds to eating the squash.

Park Seed is not the only company with compact vegetable varieties for sale.  Burpee has a new eggplant called the Patio Baby Eggplant for sale.  This eggplant will produce twenty-five to fifty eggplants during the summer season.  The vegetables are two to three inch, purple-black, and ready for the kitchen.  There the eggplant can be baked, roasted, or sautéed (don’t eat them raw.)

Burpee also offers a set of four container garden seed packets for $19.95.   You will receive seed packets for ‘Moscotte’ beans,   ‘spacemaster’ cucumbers, ‘salad bowl’ leaf lettuce, and ‘Patio Princess” tomatoes.  All of these seeds will grow well in containers and deliver a bonanza of fresh vegetables to your kitchen.

Other seed and plant houses offer other vegetables that are dwarf and will grow into ideal container plants.  Containers give you the opportunity to grow vegetables in small spaces even if you only have a balcony or deck to put them on.  You can select the optimal soil to grow your vegetables and may get bigger yields than people who plant a backyard garden.  As long as you have a patch of balcony or sun room that gets at least six hours of sun a day, you are good to grow your container garden.

 

 

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Update on Rose Rosette Disease

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Time to Plant for Fall

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Growing Coriander

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The Coriander plant produces two different kinds of herbs with different uses.  The greens, or cilantro, are used in Middle Eastern, Asian, and Latin American cuisine.  The coriander seed is used as a spice in whole or ground form.  It has been used since ancient times for its medicinal qualities and as an important ingredient […]

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Anthracnose in Tomatoes

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Take Care of Your Gardening Tools

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As garden season winds down, it is a good idea to take some time to maintain your garden tools before you put them away for the winter. Remove all dirt and debris from them with a garden hose and a stiff brush. Sharpen all the tools that cut and cultivate in your garden.  A metal […]

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Growing Fall Asters

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Fall asters are a delightful addition to your garden.  Their startling lavender petals with gold centers provide welcome color at a time when many flowers are done blooming. They are good to plant around your fall garden to attract beneficial insects. Fall asters is native from Texas and New Mexico  all the way north to […]

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Attracting Toads to Your Garden

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For those of you who wish to use fewer and less toxic pesticides in the garden, you should attract toads to your garden.  A single adult toad can eat 10,000 insect pests in a single summer.  Toads eat most insects, including slugs, gypsy moths, and earwigs.  In the United States, we have 21 different species […]

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Time to Clean Your Fruit Orchards

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How a Tree Dies

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Home owners are frequently stunned when a tree that appeared to make it through the drought last year “suddenly” dies.  Actually, trees take a long time to die.  Many trees that appear to be dying now have been dying all year from the drought.  It wasn’t just the drought that killed them, but the high […]

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Fall Gardening in Full Swing

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Growing Cilantro

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Cilantro is a Greek herb that is in the same family as parsley.  It is used in a variety of dishes in cuisines as varied as Mexican and Thai.  Coriander, the seed of the cilantro plant, is also used to flavor a wide variety of dishes.   Cilantro prefers light, well-drained sandy loam soil, but […]

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Growing Dill

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Hand Pollinating Squash and Cucumbers

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Spider mites

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Haiku Day on the Blogathon

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