Perennial Edibles For The Northern Garden

What could be better than edible treats that come back every year for your culinary pleasure? This week we are going through a list of edible perennial favorites to make your property more sustainable. You may even already have a few of these in your garden. There also may be a few perennial edibles that you’ll want to try this spring! These selections are suited for the Northern gardens of New England.


Sometimes considered a challenge to grow, asparagus can be a reliable plant for years to come. If you have the garden space, try putting in an asparagus bed. Asparagus can be a bit of an investment at first. You must obtain the plants, prepare the bed and then wait some three years to harvest. Choose a sunny spot in the garden. You will probably want 25-50 plants. These deep rooted plants need well drained soil. The asparagus will cast shade so situate your bed so it will not shade your vegetable garden.

Give this perennial a good start from the beginning. Remove all grass and roots from the area. Asparagus can be a heavy feeder so mix plenty of compost into the new garden bed. Purchase plants locally in spring from a nursery or mail order them. Make sure you do thorough research on asparagus growing before you start. Asparagus is a spring delicacy worth waiting for!


The pungent flavor of horseradish root is a favorite for flavoring recipes and making horseradish sauce. Be cautious where you plant this tenacious root. It spreads easily and is all but impossible to remove from a garden. Believe me, I know! Tender, young leaves are edible and used as a green. The root can be selectively dug and used in many recipes.


Several members of the onion family will come back every year. Most gardeners are familiar with chives. Chives send their onion flavored green shoots up every spring to be used in so many ways. Their spiky purple flowers feed the bees and add color to the spring garden. Use chives in salads, in baked dishes and as a garnish. When cared for, a bunch of chives can last forever. If you don’t remove the flowers before they set seeds, they will grow everywhere. Chives have a place in almost every garden!
Tasty garlic chives ready to garnish a salad.

Garlic chives sport a flatter green leaf. They have a garlicky flavor that is fabulous in just about anything you put them in. They have delicate white flowers that bloom later in the summer. Now that I grow garlic chives, I’m not sure that I could go without them.
Walking onions!

Egyptian walking onions are a new addition to my garden. With their small bulbs and top-setting bulb-lets, these members of the onion family will provide years of tiny onions. They are also called ‘tree onion’ or ‘top-setting onion’. They appear to ‘walk’ when they topple over and set seed in the ground again. It can be a slow process but they are very worthy of a spot in your garden. Once established, these little bulbs can be used in place of shallots or anywhere you want onion flavor. I’m still waiting for our walking onions to get established.

Small Fruits

Do you have room for blueberries, elderberries, raspberries or strawberries? A small bed of a few blueberry bushes could provide your family with fresh breakfast berries. Small fruits are terrific to make so many luscious desserts with. A raspberry bed would be a nice perennial addition to your list of homegrown edibles. Have you been dreaming of a strawberry bed of your own? Why not plant a border of alpine strawberries. They are tasty and beautiful in a flower bed. There are so many ways to add edibles to your existing landscape. Look around to see where you might be able to put in an extra bed.
Ripe, juicy strawberries!


Ever heard of lovage? It is a lovely, towering herb that rises from the ground every year. This plant has a comforting celery scent and flavor. Once planted, lovage will be hard to get rid of, so make sure you really love lovage! The first time I encountered this showy perennial, I could only think of chicken soup! This plant can be started from seed or from one purchased plant. Stems can be used like celery and the leaves are great in soups or stews.
Lovage seeds!

Jerusalem Artichoke 

A native to North America, Jerusalem artichokes can just keep going. Prized for their golden yellow flowers in late summer and for the starchy root down below the soil. Other names for the plant are sunchoke, earth apple and sunroot. If you want a showy late summer flower and some backup survival food, plant a clump of yummy Jerusalem artichokes!


Rhubarb may be an obvious choice for the perennial edibles list. You either love it or hate it. Rhubarb has long been a staple on Northern farms. This reliable plant can be used in jams, jellies, pies and other countless desserts. Rhubarb will bring you endless years of free food. It requires little attention. Just a sunny, well drained spot and maybe a yearly application of manure. Remove any seed heads for a longer harvest period. Using rhubarb is so versatile, you are only limited to your imagination!
Look at that gorgeous rhubarb!

Salad Fixings 

Few greens come back yearly in Northern climates. There are a few that’s could provide reliable eating. Dandelion greens appeal to some. We have seeds for sea kale, sorrel and salad burnet. I’m anxious to try these in our garden. Claytonia or ‘miner’s lettuce’ is not a perennial but can return for years in a cold frame because it sets seeds readily.
Seeds to try…

Planting some perennial edibles on your land can be a great investment. There are even more than I mentioned here. You might even get some free plants from friends. Planting edibles can be a very budget friendly way to add homegrown goodness to your diet! Ask around, someone may be willing to give you a few of these plants from their own garden plot!


Winter Composting Solutions

In the throes of winter, it can be tough to keep on composting all of that precious kitchen waste. Unless you have a great setup, winter composting can be quite a challenge to keep up with. Whether it’s an accessibility issue or that it’s just too inconvenient, composting may come to a screeching halt once cooler weather comes. This week we will check out 4 simple winter composting solutions that may solve your composting problems!

What could be putting the freeze on your winter composting efforts? Most compost ingredients break down very slowly this time of year. Shear volume of the stuff could make composting all non-animal food waste nearly impossible. High amounts of snow and slippery conditions could make it hard to even get to the compost area. Unwanted wild animals may be attracted to food scraps. In our case, our young dog was try to get in to eat just about anything he could get his paws on which would then proceed to make him sick. Not a pretty picture! What can be done? Here are a few ideas.
Can I eat some rotten veggies please?

Fenced Area Within Reach

One of the simplest compost structures, (besides having an open pile) is to use fencing to contain the waste. This could be made from metal fencing or chicken wire. Make it free form or use 4 corner stakes. Fencing can be 3-4 feet high. If positioned on the edge of the driveway, access will be easy.
Two bin ideas that you can build!

Above I have sketched a three bin system made from pallets. In this system, fresh kitchen scraps and plant matter from outdoors can be added to the first bin. As time passes, the contents of the first bin can be turned and moved to the middle bin. Start adding new materials to the first bin. After a few months, the middle bin contents can be moved to the last bin to finish composting. It’s literally one big cycle that just keeps going. The bottom sketch shows an example of a log bin. To build this bin, cut some young trees in the woods and construct it like a log cabin. Layer ingredients and then turn with a garden fork occasionally. In the fall you can sift out the finished compost and add it to your garden beds. Place unfinished items back in the bin and continue to build up the pile.

A Metal Trash Can

If animals such as coons, rats and skunks are always on the prowl for tasty tidbits in your compost, purchase a large trash can. Start your bin by adding a mixture of green and brown compost items, then layer more as the winter goes on. If the weather warms up, roll the can around or use a fork to stir contents.  In the spring, the contents can be emptied into your usual compost bin.
Use a trash can!

Start A Worm Bin

This could be the perfect time to set up that worm composting bin that you’ve been dreaming of! I know you want to. It’s every gardeners dream right? Well, maybe not. Once you have all of the components of a worm bin, assembly is easy and it’s an educational project too. Kids love worm bins and adore having ‘pet’ worms. Click on the blue links for precise instructions on getting worms and materials.
A baby red wiggler and finished castings!

A home system is rarely large enough to accommodate all of your kitchen waste but it can certainly help the situation. I feed my worms about every other week and follow this with a layer of shredded newspaper. They love paper towels, toilet paper tubes and brown cardboard. Worms devour fruit and veggie scraps while reproducing and making worm castings. This is some of the best stuff for your plants. If you have a cool area such as an attached garage, a worm bin may be a good fit for your family.

A Compost Tumbler

A purchased or homemade compost tumbler could be just the right thing for containing all of those veggie peelings. With holes for aeration and a handle for turning, a compost tumbler certainly will contain your waste. They are usually fairly animal proof too, at least puppy proof. Most hardcore gardeners have far too much waste for a tumbler but it could be what allows you to compost during winter.
A compost tumbler!

What to Compost?

Composting works best when the pile consists of proportionate amounts of ‘greens and browns’. Greens are nitrogen suppliers such as plant based kitchen waste, used coffee grounds, tea bags and egg shells. Valuable greens from the yard include plant matter from the garden like chemical free grass clippings and green garden waste. Farm animal manure could also be used in moderation.
Kitchen waste.

The brown list provides the carbon to the pile. Add fall leaves, straw or hay and small woody items. Shredded cardboard and newspaper can also be used. You will want a ratio of 1 pound of greens to 3 pounds of browns. Don’t get too technical here. Composting doesn’t have to be complicated so just start adding and you’ll get the idea. Turn the pile with a fork occasionally to keep things moving along and breaking down. Items to avoid are pet or human waste, animal kitchen waste such as meat scraps, colored newsprint and plastic. Any noxious plants such as poison ivy should not be used.Also avoid any bad weed seeds that might take over your bin.  Small amounts of wood ash can also be added. Try to make sure that any larger items are broken down into small pieces for easier decomposition.
Current garden scenes!

My goal this week was to encourage winter composting. I’ve provided a few simple solutions that can make your home composting efforts possible and effective. If it doesn’t work out, you could always give your kitchen waste to a neighbor for their compost bin. Just ask them first! Simply keep them in the freezer and give them to them when you see them. It will keep that waste out of the town dump and help make some of that luscious compost! February has brought us some pretty tough traveling conditions so far. We finally got back out in the woods again yesterday. We are waiting on our massive seed order and thinking of starting some seeds in a few weeks. What’s on your gardening to do list? Mine keeps growing! Don’t miss a single post by subscribing below!


Draw Up Your Garden Plans!

One of the very best ways to plan a successful garden is to draw up a garden plan. Drawing up your garden plans allows you to maximize garden space and stay totally organized. Why not beat the spring garden rush by mapping out your gardens now? Here are 3 great ways to do it!

Get It On Paper

First, it’s helpful to get the measurements of your existing gardens. Choose graph paper or a notebook. A plan can be a simple sketch (on a napkin!) or a more detailed drawing. Make a list of flowers and vegetables that you want to grow. Start by figuring out how much space you will need for each group. Take into consideration spacing requirements for each plant and make sure you provide enough room for each. Arrange the garden by planning for taller things in the back. Notice how sunny or shady your garden space will be. Give specific attention to which direction the garden is facing.
Simply use graph paper!

By saving these garden drawings year after year, you can look back and see how things have changed. Keeping them in a binder or garden journal would keep things organized. Drawing these plans will also help with keeping track of crop rotation in your gardens. For many years I used a lined notebook. Simple but effective.

Paint It Out

Have you ever opened up a gardening book and drooled over those lovely painted garden plans on every other page? If you have any talent in the painting department, drawing out your gardens is a fun winter garden planning activity. This method can really make your plans come to life. Get your dimensions on the paper and start adding the plants. I start with pencil and then add watercolor paints. Then, I write in plant names with a thin black marker. A larger garden plan could include your whole yard.
Get out your paints!

I started doing some smaller sample plans last year to give examples of a small garden or herb garden, for instance. I’ve even done a few for some garden clients over the years so they can then reference the map to identify plants.
Painting an herb garden.

Go Digital 

Computer drawing is really not my thing but I do feel that it has it’s place. Imagine sketching out your garden plan on your phone or device and then bringing it straight to the garden center to pick out your plants and seeds! You wouldn’t forget a thing.
Digital garden planning.

This could be accomplished by using a drawing program or a garden design app. There are plenty of them out there, even some for free. Whether you favor flower, vegetable or both, look into this convenient way of designing your gardens.
Garden design on a whole new level.

Drawing up a garden plans is the perfect way for getting exactly what you need and making sure you have room for everything you intend to plant. Get it out of your cluttered gardening mind and get it on paper (or the screen)! For more ideas for garden planning, check out these posts: Planning Your 2018 Garden, How to Create the Perfect Salad Garden and 5 Easy Vegetables For The Beginner Gardener! I’m leaving you with a few garden pictures from the past and present. Have a great week and happy planning!