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Beyond Annuals – Planting Perennials for Food

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When people think about growing their own food at home, most people's minds will immediately jump to growing annual crops, in vegetable beds, raised beds or containers. But growing your own food in a sustainable way often means looking beyond annuals and planting perennials for food.


What are Perennials?

If you are unfamiliar with the term, a perennial is simply a plant that won't complete its lifecycle in a single year, but which will remain in your garden over a number of years. Plants can either be annual (living over a single growing season), biennial (growing over two years) or perennial. We should embrace perennial plants for a truly eco-friendly and sustainable garden. 

Perennial plants include trees, shrubs, but also a range of herbaceous perennials, which can die back in winter before returning again into new growth the following year.


Why Grow Perennials?

Growing perennial plants is a great choice for those of us with busy lives. No matter how much you love gardening, your time will always be in limited supply. 

Growing perennial plants in your garden is one of the very best ways to cut down on the time and effort it takes to maintain it. You won't have to plant or sow anew each year when growing these options. 

Incorporating plenty of trees, shrubs and other perennial plants in your garden will not just make your life easier. It can also allow you to do good. Since perennial plants remain in place, they help store carbon in your garden. Storing (sequestering) more carbon in your garden means that you are doing your bit to help fight climate change. 

Creating perennial gardens with a wide variety of plants also means that you are helping promote, protect and secure biodiversity. Biodiversity is important for the healthy functioning in an organic garden. But it can also help combat biodiversity loss on a wider scale.


Perennial Plants for Food

Fruit and nut trees, trees with edible leaves, fruiting shrubs, canes and vines are all important perennial plants to grow for food in your garden. But you can also explore many other perennial plants for food production, including a wide range of perennial vegetables, herbs and flowers. 

As well as the most obvious trees and shrubs that you might grow – both native species and common non-natives that grow well where you live - you might also grow a range of perennial members of the cabbage family (Brassicas) , perennial onions (Alliums), strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus, artichokes, and a whole host of more unusual options from around the globe. 

Native edible perennials include warringal greens, scrub nettle, wild parsley, sea celery, scurvy weed, scrambling lily and native yams, for example. Though there is plenty of perennial bush tucker to explore. 

Exploring perennial plants for food rather than just growing typical crops as annuals can turn your garden into a beautiful and productive space filled with food for you to forage with far less work long term. So growing perennials as well as annual crops is important if you want to sustainably feed yourself and your family long term.



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