The past few years I have been researching perennial edibles to add to our Urban Potager. I do not have a lot of space to work with which means I have to be very selective about what I place on our property. There are a lot of productive perennial edibles that come back each year to provide food for your daily eating but if they are not ones you will eat then why bother growing them.Don’t you agree? I am not going to just add perennial edibles to my property because they come back. The plants I add must earn their space to keep their place in Palm Rae Potager! I am not afraid to pull a plant and compost it if it is not serving my goals in trying to grow as much food possible on our city lot. A long time ago, I got over the fear of pulling plants from my garden beds. It comes from not having a lot of space.
I feel each person needs to find those plants that are ones they will use on a daily basis in their home. If someone tells you to grow something due to it being a perennial, but you just don’t have the space to commit to the edible or enjoy eating it then you need to move on. I really enjoyed starting a small purple asparagus bed a few years ago. Delicious too! It was in a far corner of my yard. It was growing in an out-of-the-way spot that had partial sunshine initially. It was the only place I could grow asparagus. I put in two medium-sized beds, and due to lack of sunlight, it just did not produce a big enough crop to dedicate that much ground to each season. I enjoyed a few asparagus spears the second year but sometimes you just have to make an executive decision!
I live on the border of Iowa and Illinois, and if you go to the outskirts of the Quad Cities, you will see miles and miles of farmland all through Illinois and Iowa. If you are on the expressway going a few hours away during the growing season, you will see planes spraying all the crops as you drive along. A person may be growing out in the country but unless they create some buffer zones for their farms; I don’t see how it is organic since they know the pesticides travel through the air and water. It is even questionable with buffer zones.I know on our city lot, I would love to grow food in my front yard but most of my neighbors like to spray their grassy lawns with chemicals. The trucks stop by monthly or weekly sometimes, and you can definitely smell the chemicals when they spray. I have my native plants up front since food growing near the road is not a possibility. I do have a herb garden up near my front door which is buffered by an arched wall which makes it easier for them to be protected.
Today there is so much chemical use it is very hard to get food that does not have a trace of chemicals on it, even Organic foods. According to an article written in Forbes ” tax-payer-supported research indicates is that 40 different synthetic pesticide residues were detected in organic food samples at levels similar to what was seen for the comparable conventional food samples.” They did find that the pesticide residues were amounts too small to be a health/safety concern, but if anyone thinks that even organic foods will not be contaminated by old and new chemicals that have and are presently being used in farming practices, is a bit naive. I use to believe if I purchased a USDA organic product it would not have any residue at all from any pesticides.
If it was not for being dx with indolent cancer back in 2000, I don’t know if I would have paid attention to my food supply as much as I do now. I am ashamed to even admit that for it is sad that it took getting sick for me to pay more attention to my food quality. I am excited about adding more perennial edibles to our Urban Potager since it makes growing food a bit easier. I can count on my perennial vegetables to be up and going while I have many of my annual edibles still under lights.My quest for perennial edibles is an ongoing project. My goal is to integrate more perennial edibles into our Urban Potager over the years. Each year, I find a new one to trial and look forward to new ways to find a seasonal rhythm that will provide productive food throughout the year from both annual and perennial edibles.
I will be creating more beds this year of some new perennial edibles.There are some that are new to me, and if they don’t impress me with their production and usefulness in our organic living, as you know, I am not afraid to pull them and compost them to give back to the earth!
Here are some new ones I will be exploring this year and some that I have grown for the past few years
- Bloody Dock
- Good King Henry
- Caucasian Spinach
- Arugula ( perennial)
- Corn Mache
- Alpine Strawberries
- Sunset hibiscus
- Leaf Celery
- High Bush Cranberry
I live on a traditional city lot which many of my neighbors do not grow food on their city lots. Their backyards are mostly wall to wall grass and a few perennial non-edible plants. I need to blend into the neighborhood and make our food growing look attractive. If I can show them it is attractive and encourage them to grow more food or native plants in the city than I have made a difference in our urban life. This means I have to add these perennial vegetables in mixed beds with other attractive annual or perennial plants. Some of these plants are not always beautiful plants. They are useful in an edible landscape, but one has to be careful to not place them in a location where they do not look their best or produce their best.
I look forward to sharing some of my perennial edibles this summer. Next week, I plan on sharing the herb Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) we have been eating since March. Trust me you will want to grow this little beauty in your garden!