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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Growing Perennial Food

Our grapes and blackberries starting to ripen!

Hi everyone! I've done quite a few posts lately about gardening. I believe that growing your own food--any portion of it that you can--is an absolutely fabulous idea! I love gardening, I love digging in the dirt, I love to eat what I've grown and I love to pull out a jar of home-canned veggies in the middle of winter! But, I wanted to focus on another aspect of food production that we haven't discussed yet: growing perennial food.

A perennial is a plant that comes back year after year. Perennials are reliable, fairly low maintenance, and much less work, generally, than plants that have to be replanted year after year (annuals). There are many different perennial food plants such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, rhubarb, blueberries, grapes, asparagus, fruit and nut trees, elderberries, gooseberries, lingonberries, currants, cranberries, and pawpaws, to name a few. All of these food items are things that you should only need to plant once, with some needing replanting every few years to refresh the bed. (Of course, any plant can die and need to be replanted.) They need some feeding of the soil and weeding, of course, and they will continue to provide you and your family with fresh, delicious food year after year! Some plants perform better when they're sprayed with pesticides/fungicides, so you'll have to decide if that is something you want to get into. Overall, perennial plants give you maximum return for fairly small investment.
We don't have to buy too much fruit during the summer because we're spending weeks at a time eating fresh home-picked berries when they're ripe! Most folks including kids, love to go out back and pick bright red strawberries or raspberries right off the plants and pop them in their mouths! We had a friend come and do some work with hubby once, and when he saw the big bowl of strawberries I was carying to the house he said that that could be his payment!!!

If you're wanting to start with one perennial food plant, I'd recommend strawberries. They're beyond easy to grow! You plant the crowns one year, remove the blossoms to encourage strong root growth, and the next summer you'll be enjoying a strawberry harvest! I feed the soil with some good compost every year or so, pull the weeds, and my berries do great! I'd recommend that you buy your strawberry plants from a reputable mail order catalog instead of your local nursery. I find that the local nurseries ask too much for their plants. I've personally gotten great berries from Miller Nurseries out of New York. (I receive nothing from recommending them. I just have had great products from them.) Through Miller Nurseries I can get 25 plants for $10.00, where most local places sell one plant for more than $1.00! Go with the place that'll give you the most bang for your buck!

With perennial food plants growing on your property, you're one step closer to self-sufficiency, and you're better prepared to face the future!

Prep on!
Gen-IL Homesteader

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