I have been experimenting with perennial vegetables for a few years now. I started growing them mainly because I was fascinated by the idea of having plants that I could eat that would potentially remain in the garden for years.
For non gardeners “perennial” means a plant that lives for more than two years. It may die back during the winter but will return to life and growth come the spring. Many flowering garden plants are perennial, but most of the vegetables we are used to eating are annuals.
Much of my garden is shady and damp and this means there are just too many slugs and insufficient sunshine to get much success with conventional annual vegetables.
I have found that perennial vegetables are pretty tolerant of these conditions. Some, particularly those in the brassica (cabbage) family, are targeted by slugs when they are young, but by starting them in pots and planting out when the central stem has hardened up means they manage to avoid too much damage.
Many perennials come into growth early in the season and by the time annual vegetables are sown and grown the perennials have already been providing pickings for some time.
The perennial vegetables that can be grown in the UK tend to be either leaves, shoots, flowers or roots. Our climate is too cold and sunless to be able to grow fruiting vegetables perennially; you need to be a good deal nearer the equator for that! Nevertheless the range of possibilities is wider than you might expect.
Over the coming months I will be sowing and planting up a revamped perennial patch and will be putting posts on here about what is going in and how it is doing. At the moment I am at the browsing stage, looking at catalogues and websites, placing orders and looking forward to the joys to come.
One of the most rewarding of the perennial vegetables is Daubenton’s Kale as in the picture below. It is hardy, attractive, grows for a long season, tastes good and has coped with a relatively shady situation in my garden.