Lazy Vegetable Gardening-Perennial Plants for your Herb, Fruit and Veggie Garden for Zones 4-7
In the spring, it is a relief to have plants you can eat or harvest early with no work in the veggie garden. They are just growing out of the ground after being covered with snow all winter. I am a pretty lazy veggie gardener and believe with a little work up front, years of harvesting where the only real work is harvesting is great!
These are often the plants that you can harvest earliest in the season because they are already established in the garden. Here are some ideas and you can pick your favourites for your yard.
Ways to make sure harvest is the only work!
Mulch blocks weeds all year. It can be landscape cloth or a thick mulch of shredded bark or leaves. Often straw and hay is full of weed seeds and makes more work. It is definitely easier to place this where the plant is a large single item like a Rhubarb. A little trickier or Raspberries and asparagus where individual shoots come up, so mulch should be further from the plant with these types of plants or moved or thinned in spring so as not to smother the new shoots.
Also this will the reduce water loss and the amount of watering the plants may need in the summer.
Raised beds with weed barrier in the base
This will do away with the perennial weeds and make any weeding of tiny seeded weeds way easier. Also maintaining your plants, keeping grass from growing and mowing of borders will be eliminated.
Adequate Feed (manure) under the Roots
Asparagus and Rhubarb are heavy feeders and will love the more manure the better. Herbs actually have a better taste and more essential oils on poorer soil. The more stony, barren and poor and well drained the soil the better.
Plant in full Sunshine
Plants will store nutrients better and be stronger in the spring if they are getting over 5 hours of full sun each day-year round. The more the better!
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Often a stone or gravel mulch works best with no nutrients or manure added to the soil.
Sage - A wonderful aromatic poultry herb. We find in Zone 5 the tricoloured is sometimes less hardy than the purple and the traditional green sage the most resistsant to cold.
Thyme -This pungent herb can often be harvested midwinter provided the snow is not too deep. It self seeds too and can grow to a good sized patch. You can cover or line your pathways between raised beds with it.
Oregano - This favourite is also a hardy herb that comes back up every year. It will run along the ground a little around the edges of an established plant to make a nice big clump.
Parsley - A little cheat here, this is a biennial plant and will often bolt-go to seed in the second summer before it dies. It is a tasty bright green herb you will find flourishing in April, May and June. Keep harvesting, before it can flower and you will get a better yield.
Chives - These are welcome addition to kitchen the year-round to add flavour to potato dishes. They are lush and vigorous early on when in a sheltered spot.
Mint - Plant this fresh herb that is ideal for herbal teas and Mediterranean lamb dishes. Make sure you have it where you want it forever as it spreads quickly by runners. It can be contained in a container or raised bed but keep the edges trimmed so any runners cannot take root outside the pot.
Asparagus - The tender green tips of asparagus coming through the dry earth are a sure sign of Spring in our Climate. Asparagus take a few years to establish, and there is no such thing as too much cow manure for it. We dig a trough, fill the base 6 inches deep with manure. Lay the roots on it and fill with soil. The spears get thicker each year. Start roots if you can get them rather than seeds, they will establish quicker.
Horseradish - You can carefully dig this pungent hot plant up to harvest the powerful taproot for Horseradish sauce. It will re-grow from the little bits of root you missed. Never rototill it unless you want acres of it. It is a very long-lived perennial and can often be found on old homesteads along with asparagus.
Egyptian Walking Onions - These tasty top-setting onions grow this bulb on the end of the stem, this bends over and the bulb grows where they fall. They generally stay close to the parent plant. They can be used for delicious salads early in the year and come up soon after the snow is gone.
Rhubarb - Another sign of spring is the uncurling of the rhubarb leaves. The stems cut and stewed with a little sugar this make a wonderful topping for toast. These long lived and incredibly hardy plants love as much manure as you can plant them in and mulch them with. It's easy to expand the bed or have some plants to sell by splitting the roots with a knife or spade.
Soft Fruit Canes and Bushes. Raspberries, Blueberries, Gooseberries, Black Red and White Currants, Grape vines will all produce wonderful fruit for your own pies, jellies and wines and jams year after year. If you are planting shrubs around your yard, you may as well have edible fruit on them! These are readily bought from garden centres, hardware stores and even more selection and better price by mail order!
Strawberries - These are technically a biennial but are coming up here right now with the promise of flowers and succulent fruit. They can be complicated to grow if you follow the old ways. We leave them to run riot and produce fruit in a raised bed and move the new plants that have run to a new bed after 3 years or so to keep pests at bay.
Orchard Fruit Trees - Apples, Pears, Cherries. Well worth the 3-5 year wait and if you are planting a tree why not a fruit tree. Make sure you get the correct number for pollination and that depends on the variety. Your garden centre can help there. You will have extra to can, jam, make pies and even cider and wine from. And have lots left to give or trade with the neighbours!
Make this year the year you plant perennial Fruits, Veggies and Herbs so you can enjoy them for free next spring! If you make vegetable gardening easy, you will enjoy it a lot more and have time to enjoy the fruits or vegetables of your labour! Spend more time preserving the harvest than planting and weeding it!
There is a ton of specific information on the fruit, veggie and herb plants mentioned here, vegetable gardening and herb books and online too. I wanted to share the simple and effective idea of perennial harvests that anyone can have with little effort, and some patience if they have a sunny garden.