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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


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)

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.

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?

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?

(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?

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?

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.

Want to link up your GrowCookEat post?:

  1. Write a post about gardening on your own blog, don’t forget to mention www.goodlifeeats and GrowCookEat so that your readers know where they can learn more about GrowCookEat and gardening. Then, come back here to add the link to your post to the SimplyLinked form below.
  2. Don’t have a blog? Tell us about your garden in comments section of each post so we can all see what you’re up to.
  3. Let’s stay on topic, this isn’t an invitation to spam everyone with your blog. If your post doesn’t somehow relate to gardening, it will be deleted. Thanks for understanding.

I’ve set up a GrowCookEat flickr group for those of you who want to upload and share all the photos of your gardens with each other. You can join the group here.

Pasta Alfredo with Broccoli and Mushrooms
Pasta Alfredo with Broccoli and Mushrooms
Lemon Cloud Tart with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
Lemon Cloud Tart with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote


Monday 24th of May 2010

I would love to ask him about letting herbs flower? I see pictures of flowering sage all the time, and am right now, as we speak, checking into whether that's okay. I know that's a no-no where basil is concerned and also cilantro, which NEVER grows well for me here.Katie

Meal Makeover Mom Janice

Sunday 23rd of May 2010

Love the tips and the photography! We're going to expand our garden this year- would love to plant some strawberries and raspberries! We used to get rhubarb but it hasn't come up for a few years so I guess it's time to replant.

Katie @ Frugal Femina

Saturday 22nd of May 2010

Loved hearing these tips. I'm soaking up all the info. and hope to have my own garden next year. My mom has lots of grapes, and we make grape jelly every year.


Friday 21st of May 2010

Asparagus - We have a local farm that has been growing asparagus for years (so they know their stuff). We bought some from him last year and the farmer said that this year to only harvest a few from each plant. Let the really skinny ones grow/flower and only pick the thick ones. We have harvested maybe 30 total this season and then next season he said it would be much more. Hope this helps!


Friday 21st of May 2010

We rent right now and it was just too much work to overhaul the backyard when we might move in the Fall. But, I'm looking forward to using the Bio Planter I ordered from Burpee. Can't wait until it comes!