If you have enough space for them, and for winter and summer favorites and staples as well, they are just the ticket! Save time. No replanting because a perennial is a plant that grows year after year. Lucky for us coastal SoCal gardeners, lots of plants act as perennials here since we have such a temperate climate. As a system that more closely mimics nature, and gives a longer growing season, expect higher yields! One of the beauties of perennial garden plants is they usually only need to be split to start a new plant! Another saving. Pick hardy varieties right for your climate and soil. These days, SoCal gardeners, give special consideration to drought tolerant perennials.
Mediterranean Favorites All those wonderful herbs – marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, winter savory.
There are many edible perennials! Alpine strawberries, asparagus, chives, French sorrel, lavender, lemon grass, peppermint, various peppers, rhubarb, society garlic.
Would you believe, Artichoke?!
A type of thistle. Depending on the plant’s vitality, commercial growers let them grow 5 to 10 seasons! Full sun, grows well in all soils with compost. Lots of water is required, as well, so water deeply every 2-3 days, but they are drought tolerant once established. They produce about mid-summer, often sending up a second crop in fall. In the very best growing conditions you may be able to harvest artichokes throughout the year. From a well loved 3-5 year old plant you can get dozens and dozens! Gophers do love them, so please protect them – plant in a large basket or do what you do, ‘k? When they get big and happy, simply split off the new pups for new plants. The Green Globe cultivar is the variety of choice of California commercial growers, and California produces 100% of all commercially grown artichokes in the United States. We know how to do ‘chokes!
Tree Collards, affectionately called TCs
‘We’re thankful for caritas seeds donators, whose collective action to provide sustainable solutions to hunger serves as a constant blessing for countless families in Kenya!’ Women Farmers
It’s a full circle. Reputed to come from Africa, and have been propagated and passed on by cuttings within African American communities in this country, especially the Los Angeles area, we are now sending them back to Africa! Ask for cuttings at your local Farmers Market.
They are also called tree cabbages. There are a few varieties, collards, cabbage, kale, that grow slowly on an upright husky central stem. TCs grow 6′ tall average, but up to 11 feet! They withstand light frosts, and like some other Brassicas, are reputed to taste sweeter after the frost!
Brassica family, Tree Collards can thrive for four to five years (and possibly 20 years), it is probably better to rotate them after three years, since they remove so much calcium from the soil. Get new cuttings well started before you remove an old bed. They need full sun and rich, moist soil. See a LOT more about them at http://treecollards.blogspot.com/ Also, Richards Farms has a great info sheet.
Know this: TCs are high in Calcium, and unlike spinach, chard, and beet greens, collard greens don’t contain high amounts of oxalic acid, an anti-nutrient that can deplete your body of important minerals like Iron. Eat them fine chopped in your frittata/quiche, as wraps, steamed over rice, in your tasty bean soup, as a pretty stir fried bed of greens under your protein slices! Finely shredded raw leaves may be added to salads, sandwiches and tacos.
Dragon Fruit Cactus Dessert!
May 2012, 66-year-old mother of four, Edita Dacuycuy, was in Malacanang, Philippines, to receive her presidential award as the year’s most outstanding high-value commercial crop farmer. There’s more to her Story, about her daughter.
You have to love cacti to appreciate how this plant looks. But the FRUIT! An amazing array of different colors, a delicate taste, textures from creamy to crunchy, a shape that will never bore you! Easy to grow from seeds or starts right here in Santa Barbara CA! Just stuff a segment in the ground, water, and it will grow. Put it near your fence and tie it along the way. True to its cactus forebears, little space, care or water needed.
The Ultimate – Perennial Tree Crops
Four excerpts from Mother Earth News, A Permaculture Farm: The Perennial Revolution of Oikos Tree Crops. A Michigan permaculture farm defies the agricultural status quo by growing in harmony with nature as told by Eran Rhodes:
The Oikos Tree Crops landscape is, in a sense, complete. There are a plethora of nut trees: pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, hickories, buckeyes and, of course, oaks. There is just about every fruit or berry tree, shrub, vine or crawling groundcover imaginable: nannyberry, bearberry, buffaloberry, snowberry, thimbleberry, and berry much more! And for every type of tree or bush or vine, numerous varieties. The main food staple that has been missing from the food forest is perennial vegetables.
Besides all the wild edibles that grow as weeds around the property, such as dandelions, clover, plantain, nettles, asparagus, among many others, we are now propagating dozens of other edible plants that can become like weeds, and grow on their own, either as perennials, or by self-seeding. Ken does not follow the general public’s fear of weeds — utilizing and working with nature’s abundant diversity, he has never had one weed take over completely.
Wild varieties of squashes and melons are growing on their own out in the fields, and will hopefully spread on their own in the coming years. Earth peas with their exploding pods will become a permanent edible legume. Perennial wheat and other grasses with edible seeds will slowly replace the aggressive bindweed. Tubers, such as Jerusalem artichokes, groundnuts, chufa, oca, wild mountain yams and others are all thriving. We even have a wild variety of crabgrass that originates in Russia, and we cultivate the seeds for food. We have dozens of perennial salad greens, quinoa (a close relative of the common weed lamb’s-quarters), rhubarb, and even tomatoes and peppers.
Our model would be the perfect homestead system for anyone interested in truly living off the land with minimal tilling.
This brief write-up is meant as a teaser to intrigue you, disturb some of your thinking! If Perennial Gardening really makes you happy, see Eric Toensmeier’s list of all lists of edible perennial plants. Peruse his website for valuable tips!
May it go well with you and your new Food Forest!