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Start Growing Perennials in Your Backyard Garden

Perennial plants are a great addition to your backyard garden. They require little maintenance and come back for several years without needing to be replanted. They are often cold hardy and more drought tolerant as well.

raspberry bush

We have been living in our current house for three years now. It is a beautiful property with a lot of unused land that we have slowly reclaimed a little each year. We are renting this property while we work toward our forever homestead. Unfortunately when you are renting you have a very temporary mindset. We didn’t know if we would be here for one year or five when we moved in. For some reason, we thought it was more likely to be one.

planting strawberries

Because of our temporary mindset, we didn’t make an effort to plant any perennials the first summer here. The second summer I put in a few things and even more the third. Had I followed my intuition the first year we would be eating asparagus and lots of raspberries right from the land we are living on. Thankfully the strawberries I planted a couple of years ago are going gang-busters. I can’t wait to eat them on pancakes this summer!

What are perennials?

There are three types of plants, annual, biannual and perennial. Annuals are plants that need to be planted every year. Plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and most garden vegetables are annuals. Biannual plants have a two-year cycle. Carrots and onions are both biannual. Perennials are so great because you plant them once and then reap the benefits year after year. They rarely need to be replanted because they either spread or reseed themselves. Peppermint, asparagus, and strawberries are all perennials.

Benefits of planting perennials

strawberry flowers

They don’t need replanted year after year

Unlike annuals, which need to be planted each year, perennials will come back at least three years before they need to be replanted. Many perennials will last much longer than that. I have heard that a healthy asparagus crown can produce for 20 years. The longevity of their life cycle reduces the amount of work you have to invest to see a good harvest.

Perennials are generally hardy plants

Many perennial plants can survive through the cold of winter. We have the most beautiful sage bushes in our garden. They amaze me the way the come back bigger and better every year. It is important to know your USDA cold hardiness zones so that you buy plants that can survive your growing conditions. See the map below to find out your hardiness zone.

While sage, strawberries, and chives thrive here in Idaho rosemary and thyme just can’t survive the winter. I am always amazed when I see the gigantic blueberry bushes from the south, another plant that doesn’t do very well here. So make sure to grow what is appropriate for your region.

rhubarb harvest

They multiply without intervention

While the life cycle of a perennial plant can sometimes be a short as three years, they rarely need to be replanted because they multiply through their root system or by reseeding themselves. I get so excited every spring when my chives come back bigger and better than ever. I started with a very small plant and now have several large bunches. I recently harvested a pound of the flowers to put in the dehydrator, and that was not even a quarter of what was on the plants!

chive flowers

Perennials require minimal care to produce a harvest

Perennial plants have a more established root system than an annual plant. Over time they continue to spread their roots and adapt to their environment, often translating into less watering without a loss in yield from the plant. Their deep root system means that they are able to access nutrients further down in the soil than annuals can.

Raspberries are a perennial plant that thrive in our area. You plant one bush, and pretty soon you have a whole patch. They don’t need large amounts of water to bear fruit and only need some pruning in the fall to continue to produce and spread.

picking raspberries

They bear fruit earlier than annuals

Most annuals can’t be planted until the danger of frost has passed while perennials will often leaf out and begin growing before the last few touches of frost. They seem to handle cooler temperatures which mean that you will be able to harvest them earlier than the annuals you plant. It is so refreshing when my chives and strawberries begin to grow after a long cold winter.

choke cherries

Whether you have an established garden or are just getting started on your property, make sure that perennials are a major part of your plan. Include fruit trees, herbs and fruit-bearing bushes in your planning. The sooner you get them in the ground, the sooner you will be enjoying the fruits of your labor!

Your Turn!

  • What perennials do your have growing in your garden?
  • Which perennials do you hope to add to your garden?
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