All About Edible Perennials (Interview)

Please excuse the rescheduling of topics today. We were planning on hearing from an Heirloom Tomato expert, but unfortunately her child is sick. That’s definitely something I can relate to! Instead today, I’m sharing an interview I did with Burpee’s lead horticulturalist, Grace, and Burpee garden expert, Dave. (I had several questions pertaining to the edible perennials that we have planted in our garden. Hope you enjoy the interview and learn something! Don’t forget to link up your garden posts below. Thanks Grace and Dave!


Interview with Burpee Garden Experts

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1. Knowing that edible perennials often don’t have a harvest until their second or third year, I think it is safe to say that they are a bit of investment. Starting something now for what it will yield later. With that in mind, what are the best edible perennials to invest in? (i.e. the most bang for your buck/time)

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Certain vegetables have a better return on investment than others when compared to the cost of store-bought veggies. A few examples of such vegetables are tomatoes, red and yellow bell peppers, habanero peppers and peas…these are annual edibles. It is important to remember that the taste of homegrown produce is priceless.

Also, vegetable varieties that produce heavy yields are also a better investment. Heirloom varieties are trendy right now, but in general tend to be less productive than hybrid varieties.

Examples of perennial edibles with bang for the buck are certain herbs, asparagus, leeks, onions and garlic and vegetables planted in the fall that can overwinter.

2. Let’s talk about rhubarb. Are there different varieties, and if so is there a difference? Mine is pretty green, but the rhubarb I see in stores is often solid red.

rhubarb

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Yes. There are different varieties. Sometimes called hothouse rhubarb, the red colored rhubarb found commonly at grocery stores tends to be a bit tart. Rhubarb varieties with a greener stalk tend to have a balanced, less intense flavor.

Do rhubarb plants need to be divided over time to prevent them from taking over the garden?

You need to divide rhubarb every 4 years because the stalks will become thinner and will become overcrowded.

What sort of care is required post-season to prepare rhubarb for winter?

Rhubarb should be covered with hay over the winter months for protection.

3. We planted grapes at the end of the growing season last year when they were all on sale. My kids love grapes, so I am hoping that they will be a success for us. Their leaves have returned and the plants are filling out. What are the best varieties for the home gardener?

grapes

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Grape cultivars may be of the American, European, or French hybrid types. European types are not recommended for home gardeners. The best grape variety to grow depends on where the garden is located. American and French hybrid types are good for gardens in cooler climates (zone 5 and up) because they tend to be winter hardy.

Grapes Marquette Table are a customer favorite and they are cold hardy. Grape Marquis Seedless are also a Burpee customer favorite. They produce a large cluster of grapes.

Do the vines need to be pruned? If so, is it to prevent overgrowth or does it serve some other purpose?

Pruning grape vines will help to ensure that the plant grows sturdy and strong. See this article for instructions on pruning grapes.

We have a trellis for each of our grape plants. Do you need to tie the grapes to the trellis once it is large enough or will it climb on its own?

Eventually it will climb on its own.

4. This is our second year for strawberries. We didn’t get a harvest last year, but the plants are looking pretty good already and have a lot of flowers and tiny green strawberries.Can you share some tips for a successful strawberry patch?

strawberry

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(1) Strawberry plants do best in sandy/well-drained soil. (2) They require 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight. (3) Strawberries require lots of watering, particularly during fruit bearing season. However, they are prone to root rot. This should not be an issue if they are grown in sandy, well-drained soil. (4) Only feed strawberry plants once a year with a balanced fertilizer just after the harvest (5) Clear away dead steams and keep plants protected over the winter with mulch.

5. Asparagus is one of our favorites, so we planted some of the roots last year. The stalks were tiny and I hear that you aren’t supposed to harvest for a few years. How long before we can expect to reap the rewards of our planting?

asparagus

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It can be harvested in the second year after planting crowns. In the third year it can be harvested up to mid-June.

6. What herbs can be over-wintered? Are there any that ar
e considered perennials?

herb

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Yes. Herbs can fall into the category of annuals, perennials or bi-annuals. In general, depending on your USDA hardiness zone, a few examples of perennial herbs include: catnip, chives, lavender, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and thyme.

7. Do you have any other tips for beginner gardeners on edible perennials?

(1) Be sure to plant in good soil. You’ll want to make sure there is a good consistency…not too much sand….not too much clay. You can also have your soil tested by a local extension office or use a soil test kit to check nutrient levels.

(2) Make sure that your plants are planted in an area where that meet their light requirements needs.

(3) Don’t forget about pre-winter preparations. At the end of the season, follow your plants’ care instructions closely to ensure it is capable of surviving the winter.

(4) Be patient.


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