3 easy edible spring harvest perennial delights
This year is going to be a bit of an experiment as what works in the Northeast may shirk from the heat several USDA Hardiness Zones away in Roanoke. One thing is for sure – I’m loving spring with outdoor harvests already happening earlier than I’m used to preparing for indoor seed starts.
3 fun, yummy and low-maintenance early bloomers
Strawberries are a favorite of Halcyon Acres clients because of the intense, sweet flavor that is devoid in grocery store fare. If strawberries are in your garden (or on your homegrown wish list), consider planting some early loose leaf lettuce (mesclun mix is a good one) and radishes then grab some herbs from your indoor planter or outdoor perennial garden for a salad that will delight your palate.
Two downsides come when you choose home grown strawberries – you won’t be able to stomach standard commercial product after experiencing picked fresh taste and the shelf life is much shorter. That means your season for strawberry enjoyment will be rather short.
I planted eight different varieties and will report back on what works best in Roanoke. Usually, I don’t expect any harvest off the first year, but plants are already producing fruit – at least those the deer didn’t ravage.
I’m enacting counter-measures for the latest plants, including seed starts on black-eyed Susans (have not seen plants for sale around here – probably not a good sign for region hardiness) as deer repellent. Inviting my mutt into the garden area proved immediately effective at keeping these voracious critters at bay.
Strawberry plants have about a 3-year life-span. Pros say remove all the runners for the first two years to produce bigger fruit, but I prefer to let them live for great ground cover. Plus, I don’t have to remember what year I’m supposed to let the young ‘uns stay. Watch for water needs the first year. Otherwise, these plants are pretty hearty with little care.
Asparagus is more tender and sweet than you could imagine when harvested and eaten fresh. There’s a long wait (at least a year, sometimes three) before the roots you plant produce edible crops. Don’t try from seed. I couldn’t find purple asparagus locally (so tender and tasty raw) so went mail order grudgingly.
This is a crop stated to be good for about 10 years, but my experience has been it lasts a lot longer. When I needed to move plants in New York they had passed the decade mark. I couldn’t fit a single root ball in a 6 cubic foot wheelbarrow (nor lift it) so had to cut roots to fit. Even so, these reestablished to prior year productivity immediately even after a traumatic transplant.
You can harvest asparagus for a good long time, but it’s important to let it go to seed before it stops trying to reproduce for a good next-year crop.
Strawberries and asparagus work well together. Asparagus relies on soil temperature, not sunlight, to start growing and the strawberry ground cover prevents weeds. It’s easy to harvest both together then let the two happily coexist to recharge. Strawberry roots are shallow and asparagus runs deeper, so they don’t compete much for nutrients. Since both crops are early producers if you’re limited on full sunlight space partial shade come summer should work.
Rhubarb is a crop I’m dubious about in Roanoke as I suspect it may be too hot, but decided to give it a shot. While full sun is prescribed, I’ve found this plant thrives in spots with a good deal of shade during the day. I planted it an area intended to extend the season for lettuce and radish crops.
Don’t eat rhubarb leaves. They’re toxic. It’s the stalks you want. Also, pull, don’t cut the harvest. You’ll know stalks are ready when they’re a bright red color and come out relatively easily.
I prefer perennials over annuals on so many fronts. There’s something so satisfying about planting once to enjoy fruitful returns year-after-year. These crops take time to get established, but once you’ve pampered early starts, you’ll see returns every year with little additional effort. How much fun is that?