Saturday, February 06, 2016

(Relatively) quick-yielding perennials

As the new growing season approaches, you may want to plan for some low-maintenance, habitat-building perennial plants to supplement or replace some of your annuals. A friend just asked me, "Do you have any garden plant recommendations for us here in Eugene? We're interested in perennials that establish relatively quickly and provide a good crop in the first year or two." I replied with the following:

Very few perennials will yield much, if at all, in the first year, especially if you're trying to let them establish for a strong future. Some will yield decently in the 2nd year, but for most you'll have to wait til the 3rd year or later. (Assuming from seed - starting with transplants or tubers will speed it up.) That said, I'll include everything below which gives some harvest in the specified time frames, but don't expect huge returns.

First year

  • French sorrel
  • Mallows (Malva sp.)
  • Anise hyssop, lemon balm, peppermint, other mints
  • Fennel
  • Andean tubers (mashua, oca, yacon)
  • Jerusalem artichoke
  • Wapato
  • Salad burnet
  • Alliums
  • Columbine
  • Malabar spinach
  • Comfrey
  • Perennial kale
  • Chicory
  • Perennial arugula (Diplotaxis sp)
  • Sweet potato for greens?
  • Scarlet runner beans
  • Lactuca perennis

Second year

  • Scorzonera leaves & flowers, and maybe roots
  • Fuki
  • Bellflowers (Campanula sp)
  • Strawberries
  • Lovage
  • Dandelion
  • Miner's lettuce
  • Daylily from divisions
  • Sedums
  • Good King Henry
  • Cow parsley
  • Tree collard
  • Turkish rocket
  • Sea kale & giant sea kale
  • Mitsuba
  • Hot tuna
  • Sweet cicely
  • Sorrels (Oxalis sp)
  • Pokeweed
  • Rhubarb & Asparagus (a little bit)
  • New Zealand spinach? (not successful for us)
  • Violets

Self-seeding annuals (such as Amaranthus sp, Chenopodium sp, Calendula, Land cress, and Borage) and biennials (such as Angelica, Burdock, Evening primrose, and Alexanders) are intermediate in investment and return, yielding in the first year yet often persisting in the garden. It's also well worth identifying and researching all your "weeds", since many of them are probably edible and provide an immediate easy yield.