Growing Elderberries

Have you heard of elderberries? Well, it is one of the few plants that can be found on almost every continent on the earth. It has a litany of medicinal properties. The berries and flowers are amazing. Not to mention it is a superfood! It is said that Hippocrates raved about all of the health benefits of this plant. Are you interested in growing it now?

Since elderberries are grown all over the world in varying climates, it is safe to assume that it is relatively easy to grow.  If you are planning on growing is a shrub, realize that it can get up to 12 feet tall and almost nearly as wide. A multi-stemmed, fast-growing, hardy and versatile plant that is often overlooked by home gardeners. Interesting fact; the stem is hollow and has been used to make musical instruments by many indigenous cultures.

Big City Gardener

More Facts About Elderberries

Elderberries belong to the Sambucas species in the Adoxaceae family.

One thing that makes this plant amazing is the wide range of soils it can be grown in. Elderberries prefer well-drained sites with full sun but are even able to produce in shaded areas. They are also able to grow in regions that are prone to flooding. Travel around the Midwest, and you will see these plants growing along riverbanks thriving.

Like most fruiting trees or shrubs, it takes time to receive the berries. You will have to wait between 2-5 years before receiving your reward.  When the plant has had enough time to mature, elderberries produce clusters of white flowers that the pollinators love in late spring, and the dark-colored berries are present by the late summer. These flower clusters are produced on new growth. Why is this important? If the shrub is getting too unruly and you need to cut it back in the winter when the new growth springs up that season, you will still have the opportunity for flowers and fruit.

Attempting to eat these berries fresh off the tree could make you instantly regret growing this plant. They are bitter. Similar to a fruit called a quince, once they are cooked, that bitterness immediately goes away. Elderberries are high in vitamin C, dietary fiber, phenolic acids, and anthocyanins. Elderberries also contain antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory agents. They have a long history of being used to treat common colds and the flu.

elderberries

While the berries are nutritious, be careful with other parts of the plant. It has been said that the leaves, stems, and roots are poisonous. They contain a form of cyanide.

How To Propagate Elderberries

You can propagate this plant the same way as tomatoes. Cut new growth and place in a cup of water for weeks until you see roots or cut and propagate in soil.  I have seen even seen people successfully take a cutting from a branch and stick that branch directly into the ground!

Few pests bother elderberries. For the most part, your number one pests will be birds. If you want to keep your harvest to yourself, think about investing in some form of bird netting. Beneficial insects love this plant. By adding this plant to your landscape, you have the potential to increase your good bug population so that they can, in turn, reduce your pest population. That’s why I am going to take a lot of cuts and clone this plant. I think every garden I am affiliated with needs to be growing this crop.

Companion Plants

Elderberries do not like their roots disturbed once planted. So look at planting them underneath taller trees or planting shorter native perennials underneath. I like to plant herbs that can tolerate shade and will form a ground cover. Think thyme and oregano.

Why You Should Grow Your Own Transplants

Growing transplants is often underestimated. Why do I say that? Every year, when it is planting time, a lot of gardeners head on over to their favorite nursery and buy whatever starts they have available. I don’t know about you, but to me, that is unexciting and repetitive. We are putting the decision in someone else’s hands, no thanks! Do you know what their growing conditions are? Do you know how long the plants have been in the package? How old they are? What fertilizers were used? Which pesticides were or weren’t used? Is it really organic? What is the soil mix comprised of?

These are all questions I want to know the answers to before purchasing or planting.  And since I am not able to talk to the growers or to tour the facilities, I would instead take matters into my own hands.

The Beneft of Growing Your Own Transplants

By growing your own transplants, you will have all the answers to these questions and more. Not to mention, you will be able to grow varieties that are not available in the gardening centers. Think about all the varieties of vegetables you will be able to grow. You will be the envy of all your gardening friends. I mean, who isn’t tired of growing better bush every year? It will definitely take some extra work on your part, but in the end you get to control the entire process from planting to harvesting.

You will need to understand seed starting mix, how and when to properly fertilize, lighting and how to properly water.  When you have this understanding you will be able to apply this same knowledge to the rest of your garde. Growing your own transplants will help you to become an all around better gardener. And at the end of the day is that what this is really all about?

For more growing and gardening tips, stay tuned for the best Just Grow It! blog posts.

All The Secondary Nutrients Your Garden Needs 

For a garden to thrive, it needs a combination of vital nutrients. The quantity of nutrients the plants require to thrive determine which category they fall into; macronutrients, secondary, and micronutrients. Macronutrients are needed in the most significant amounts, they are also the nutrients notate on the front of the package. In this post, I’ve listed all the secondary nutrients your garden needs. They may be smaller in quantities than the macronutrients but are equally vital. These secondary nutrients are calcium, magnesium and sulfur. All these nutrients play a different role but they all seem to share one common trait; they are easily leached from the soil.

What Are Secondary Nutrients?

Calcium is mostly related to the strength of the cell walls. Calcium deficiencies are rare in soil and are more often associated with hydroponic gardening.  While calcium deficiencies are not ordinary, individual plants like tomatoes and peppers need additional calcium to ward off blossom end rot.  Like nitrogen, calcium is easily leached from the soil. That means if you’re growing in containers, prepare to supplement your plants with extra calcium. Plants with calcium deficiencies usually display brown spots or markings on the leaves. Organic amendments that will provide calcium are dolemite lime, ground oyster shells, and even eggshells. I have had very little success with adding crushed eggshells to the soil.  Recently, I have started making water-soluble calcium.

Magnesium, as well as iron and calcium, is vital to photosynthesis. It almost acts like a switch that when flipped turns on enzymes that are vital to plant growth. Magnesium deficiencies are rare but are easily spotted. Plants with magnesium have streaks on the veins of the leaves while the remainder of the foliage stays green. These leaves will eventually turn red/purple or brown but will usually remain attached to the plant. Nitrogen deficiencies behave similar, except the leaves fall from the plant. Since magnesium is absorbed by older leaves first, problems usually begin at the bottom of the plant and work its way up to the new growth. Organic amendments that will provide magnesium are Epsom salts, lime, compost, and composted animal waste.

Other Nutrients Your Garden Needs

Sulfur is required for plant amino acids and is directly related to plant proteins. It is needed to create chlorophyll and other enzymes. Sulfur deficiencies are rare when growing organically. This is because organic material usually stores sulfur. Chlorosis or yellowing of leaves is associated with Sulfur problems and often shows itself on new growth. Looking for an organic sulfur amendment? Try elemental Sulphur or compost. Yes, sulfur is a micronutrient but it is needed in similar amounts as phosphorus. Maybe it should be the fourth macronutrients?  

We learn about these nutrients to be prepared to solve issues that may arise within the garden. I have said it before and will repeat it. What is most important is that we build up the life in the soil. Focus on strengthing the soil food web. The billions of bacteria, fungi and enzymes that make everything gardening and growing possible. Learn about each of these elements and you will notice that you will rarely run into any of these deficiency issues. Just my thoughts. That’s enough reading, go grow something!

6 Ways To Improve Your Soil

I don’t care what anyone says when it comes to gardening, success or failure rests on, or better yet, in your soil. Soil is the blood of the garden. With more microorganisms in a teaspoon than there are people on the planet, it is easy to see why. All of the interactions between the various organisms, hyphae, fungi, bacteria, and invertebrates in the garden make up the soil food web. 

The soil food web is the same as any other food web you learned in school. Everything has a predator, so bigger organisms eat smaller organisms. This balance achieved through this interaction is harmonious.  

In gardening, the soil is overlooked or neglected, and it does not get the care and respect that is needed or deserved. Soil should be light, fluffy, and retain moisture but not be waterlogged. The soil should be rich and full of life, not chemicals and salts.  Keep that in mind next time you are out in the garden. 

Here are 6 ways to improve your soil quality: 

  1. Try not to walk on the soil. Doing so puts immense pressure on the particles and forces them to compact.  Remember, the goal is to keep the soil fluffy.  Compaction closes off channels through which water, nutrients, and roots work their way. 
  2. Whenever possible, practice organic gardening. Synthetic fertilizers usually contain heavy salts, which tend to destroy the soil biology we are working to produce.    
  3. Keep soil covered Whether you are in season or out of season, currently growing something or not, you must keep the garden soil covered. Leaving soil exposed to the elements can cause topsoil erosion and promote weed growth.  Covering the soil or Mulching protects the ground, providing a protective material layer on topsoil.
  4. Test your soil These tests tell you what is in your soil. Whether there is, it is too much or too little of the nutrients. They also give you fertilization recommendations to get your soil to optimal levels of these nutrients. How can we know what to add to the garden soil if we don’t know what is already present? 
  5. Amend your soil.  After receiving the soil test results, notice what your soil is missing and apply accordingly. I say, amend the soil and not fertilize because you fertilize plants, not soil.  
  6. Pay attention when adding fertilizer.  Read the label and mix the ratios accordingly.  The old saying “more is better” does not apply here. Excess fertilizer use comes with problems of its own such as nutrient lockout.  

Pay attention to these tips, and you can help improve and preserve your soil.  The members of the soil food web will thank you.  Now stop reading, get out in the garden and JUST GROW IT!

What are native plants?

Native plants are unique. They are built to withstand the local conditions and made to succeed. They are region-specific and have adapted and naturalized over time. In Texas, they can withstand the extreme heat conditions and have evolved to flourish with minimal watering. They are low maintenance and built to succeed in our environment. Life depends on them, which bring pollinators, other beneficial insects, birds, and wildlife to the area. They are the backbone of a successful and productive ecosystem.

Even within their naturally occurring region, native plants generally adapt to more localized growing conditions. This adaptation is known as an “ecotype .” An ecotype is a subset of a species that possess genetic adaptations to local growing conditions. Some ecotypic adaptions are visible, such as shape, size, or color. While other adaptations are not visible to our eyes, they are adaptions to deal with specific soil makeups, drought tolerance, or even temperature sensitivity. 

Unfortunately, most of the landscape plants available in nurseries are foreign. These plants can cause issues within our soil food web, introduce foreign pests to our regions, and outcompete and kill native species.  

Why include native plants

  1. Biodiversity. Including natives in your garden help impact the natural areas near your home. Cross-pollination between your garden and wild plants may disperse seeds or berries into natural areas. They help benefit wild plant populations.
  2. Support Pollinators. Natives are the best way to create a thriving ecosystem for pollinators. They attract bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects. Increasing the pollinator and beneficial insect population in our garden helps decrease our need for insecticides or pesticides. These plants are a nectar source for pollinators.   
  3. Birds. Natives provide food and shelter for native bird species. From nuts and berries to insects, it is impossible to deny the direct link between native plants and native birds.
  4. Low Maintenance. Once established, these plants will require less maintenance than other species.  
  5. Water Conservation. Because they adapt to local growing conditions, they usually require less water, and this trait helps preserve one of our most precious and most scarce resources. 
  6. Help the climate. Using native plants in landscaping can help reduce noise and carbon pollution from lawnmowers and other lawn maintenance tools. Many natives, especially trees, actually store carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases.  
  7. Native plants use less fertilizer. Excess fertilizers often pollute our waterways, and this pollution harms aquatic life and, even worse, can end up in our drinking water.  

Where to buy natives

Do not take native plants from the wild as tempting as it may be. Doing so disrupts the ecosystem and threatens their population. Purchase from a local nursery. A good nursery will have an entire section for natives and even have knowledgeable employees to help guide your decision-making process. If your favorite nursery doesn’t stock native plants, it’s time to find a new favorite nursery.

How to use natives

Incorporating natives into your garden is up to you, but here are a few suggestions.  

  1. Use natives to create a border.
  2. Naturalize a large area with aggressive natives like sunflowers or asters.
  3. Create a rain garden. The deep roots of native plants stabilize and hold soil.
  4. Replace non-natives with native plants.
  5. Reduce the size of your useless lawn by adding a bed of native plants.
  6. Create a pollinator garden. 

Educating yourself on natives is the next level of gardening. Talk to experts and seek out knowledge to just look at the resources available on this site that talk about native plants. Once you have the information put it into action. 

JUST GROW IT

What is Kombucha?

About ten or twelve years ago, I came across a mushroom tea beverage while visiting some friends in California. I had no idea that this beverage was on its way to being known nationally or that it would become one of my favorite drinks ever. I am talking about kombucha.  When I was introduced, kombucha was not nearly as available or well known as it is now. I doubt there were very few stores besides whole foods that even sold the drink. Well, it doesn’t matter because after I tasted the tangy, sweet, and fizzy combination, I knew I was hooked.  

This drink was not new; on the contrary, it has been around since ancient times. According to history, the drink originated in China and then spread throughout the world. 

Kombucha is fermented sweet tea. It contains bacteria, yeast, black tea, sugar, and flavorings. You make a sweet tea and add something called a SCOBY.  SCOBY stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. The SCOBY looks weird. If you have never seen one, think about any alien blob of gelatinous mass from any alien movie. Yes, that weird. I wish I were able to go back in time and see the first people who created kombucha. What would possess you to drink the liquid after you noticed this blob floating in it? It blows my mind.  

The Fermentation

With the help of this SCOBY, the tea begins to ferment. The bacteria and yeast get together and do their happy dance while feasting on the sweet black tea’s sugar. After allowing the tea to sit and ferment for a week or more, you end up with a slightly carbonated, tart, tangy vinegary drink. What is cool about kombucha is that you can lengthen or shorten the brewing time to achieve your desired flavor.  For a more vinegary taste, leave the jar to ferment longer. For a sweeter flavor, shorten the brewing time.  I tend to allow my kombucha to brew for ten days; I have found that delivers my preferred balance between sweet and tangy.  At this point, you can flavor it to your liking and bottle it again in an attempt to increase the carbonation level. 

Like other fermented foods, kombucha contains a countless number of probiotics or beneficial organisms for your gut.  The proposed health benefits don’t stop there.  Since kombucha is fermented and brewed from black tea, you get all of those benefits.  You also get, 

  • Antioxidant-rich 
  • Improve heart health due to flavonoids.  
  • Lower cholesterol level
  • Reduce blood pressure 
  • Contains cancer-fighting properties known as polyphenols
  • Improved alertness and mental clarity due to caffeine and certain amino acids

I am not a doctor, so I cannot back up these statements, but I can say that it tastes great, and it may be the spark that helps you start living a healthy life. I know you were wondering why is the gardening guy talking about kombucha? Because gardening is just the start, the goal is to be healthy to garden for a long time. Not to mention that you can incorporate whatever herbs and fruits you grow in your garden into the second bottling and flavoring process.  

How To Brew Kombucha

Now that you know what kombucha is and it health benefits, let’s talk about brewing it. I would say it’s better make your own than buy. People have been brewing Kombucha for centuries. How they did it long ago, or even first decided to try this is beyond me. But, I sure am glad that they did. 

To get started, you need a few everyday items and a not so common ingredient. 

The common ingredients:

  • raw sugar
  • black tea- loose
  • water
  • pot
  • 1-gallon glass jar 
  • cover and an elastic band.

The not so common ingredient is a S.C.O.B.Y. You can buy them online; search for SCOBY on Etsy or any search engine, and you will get a bunch of hits. Or you can buy yours here on the Big City Gardener shop. I would recommend staying away from the dehydrated versions available from some online retailers. I even sell my extra SCOBYs on my site. Along with the SCOBY, you are also going to need some starter solution. Whenever you buy the SCOBY, it should come with a cup of solution. That is enough solution to get you started brewing.

Once you have your supplies round up, it is time to get started. Just know that this recipe is for 1 gallon of Kombucha. Make the necessary adjustments if you are brewing more or less.  A great thing about kombucha is that you do not have to be exact with your measurements. So a little extra sugar or more tea bags is up to you.  If you alter the recipe too much, I’m sure you could run into issues.  Just remember when people first began making kombucha centuries ago, I doubt they were keeping exact measurements.

Directions:

  1. Brew a gallon of sweet tea.- Place 4-6 teabags in your 1-gallon glass jar and cover with ¼- ½ gallon of hot water.  If you are using loose-leaf tea, then use 2 or 3 tablespoons of tea. Allow the tea bags to steep for 10 minutes.  Stir in a cup of raw sugar. Add the remaining water to the container.
  2. Add SCOBY and starter to the jar of sweet tea.  Before adding the scoby, check the temperature of the water.  If the water is too hot, there is potential to damage or even kill the SCOBY.
  3. Cover the Gallon jar and set out of the way in a warm place.  A dark spot is not necessary, or a cabinet is not required.  Wherever you can find an area out of direct sunlight, including the kitchen counter, you will be fine.  The ambient room temperature is essential to fermentation.  Look for a place with a temperature between 75-85F.  Excessive cold can slow down and halt the process.  If necessary, place the jar on a seedling heating mat or top of the refrigerator.  Doing so will help to raise and sustain the solution in the desired temperature range 
  4.  After a minimum of 7 days, you can start tasting your booch.  Move the scoby to the side and dip a cup, spoon, or straw.  Use the straw to siphon the desired amount out of the jat before tasting. Do not sip directly from your jar. Continue to check the kombucha daily until it reaches your desired flavor profile.  I have found that 9 or 10 days is the sweet spot for me: the longer your tea ferments, the more vinegary the flavor.  If you forget about your brew, you’re better off letting it continue to ferment until it reaches the vinegar stage. That’s right, kombucha vinegar.
  5. Remove the scoby and cup of kombucha before bottling.  This cup of liquid will be your starter solution for your next batch.

After a few days you will notice a white fil forming on top of the liquid. Do not be alarmed! This is not contamination, this is a new scoby forming. One of the perks about brewing kombucha – buy the SCOBY and solution once, and every time you brew a batch, you get a new SCOBY. If you are continually brewing, you will end up with a lot of SCOBYs. You can keep them in a jar full of SCOBY, coined a SCOBY hotel, read about it here, or give them as gifts to get your friends into the kombucha brewing world.

Now that you know the brewing basics learn about flavoring and second ferment here. The second ferment is where the fun begins. It is where you get to incorporate your garden goodies into the Kombucha. Since this is a gardening blog, you know I had to connect this article to gardening somehow, someway. Get brewing and remember…

JUST GROW IT 

Plants That Repel Mosquitoes

If you are not aware, I live in the great city of Houston, TX and I love it! Well, not everything about it. Since Houston is down here on the Gulf Coast, in the summer months, we have to deal with mosquitoes. You can’t be outside for more than 30 seconds before you start to get swarmed and attacked. Now you could douse yourself in mosquito repellent or light citronella candles. I prefer to use plants that repel mosquitoes. 

Now while growing these plants will help, they will not solve all of the problems/issues. So, line your balcony, outdoor patio, or gathering space with these plants. After the plants have been growing, you will be able to use the plants to create a plethora of mosquito repellent creations.

Plants That Repel Mosquitoes

Here are some plants to add to your garden to help repel mosquitoes. One thing you will notice is that a majority of the plants on the list have a lemon smell. These plants are full of essential oils that mosquitoes prefer to stay away from. Now just because you plant these plants does not mean that you are guaranteed to be mosquito-free. The trick or secret is what you can do with all of these plants.You can make a natural repellent that does not include deet, make candles that help repel the mosquitoes, and even make essential oils. The simplest way to use these plants is to grab a few leaves and crush them in your hand. Then rub the secreted oils onto your exposed skin.

  1. Citronella – Careful because there is a geranium referred to as citronella.  I am talking about the citronella plant that looks similar to lemongrass.
  2. Lemongrass 
  3. Basil 
  4. Lavender 
  5. Catmint 
  6. Rosemary 
  7. Lemon Thyme 
  8. Ecalyptus 

Also, be sure to check your area for standing water because this is where mosquitoes breed. Growing all of the mosquito repellent plants and making all the repellents in the world will not help you if your area is a breeding ground for mosquitoes.  

7 Health Benefits of Gardening

Why do you garden? Do you know all the health benefits of gardening? Naturally, the fresh produce is what we get but I’ve listed below what I think are some of the many health benefits of gardening.

1. Physical Exercise

Gardening is a great way to participate in physical exercise. Gardening for 2.5 hours a week can help achieve the same target heart rate as a moderate-intensity workout. It also provides light strength training. Ever wonder why you are so sore after pushing that wheelbarrow around?  Also, it keeps joints mobile and flexible. The constant bending of the knees and elbows promotes and increased range of motion. Digging and planting help hand strength, dexterity, and hand-eye coordination.

2. Stress Relief

Gardening for 30 minutes decreases cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that is directly related to stress levels. There is a link between elevated cortisol levels and many different health issues; immune function, obesity, memory and learning problems, and even heart disease. 

3. Improved Mood

There are specific naturally occurring bacteria (mycobacterium vaccae) in the soil linked to serotonin levels in the brain. Studies have shown that interaction with this bacteria increases serotonin production. The physical activity, being surrounded by nature, and the satisfaction of working have all been shown to decrease levels of depression. Maybe people should stop taking antidepressants and try putting their hands in the soil and gardening. 

4. Vitamin D

Another one of the many health benefits of gardening is exposure to direct sunlight. This increases Vitamin D. An increase in vitamin D increases calcium and has been shown to reduce risks of heart disease, osteoporosis, and various cancers. Low Vitamin D levels have the potential to increase the chances of heart problems. 

5. Nutrient Density

Nutrient dense foods are high in nutrients but relatively low in calories. These foods contain vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats. The problems are that today, commercially grown fruits and vegetables have fewer nutrients in them that were found 25-100 years ago. 

  1. In wheat and barley, protein concentrations declined by 30 to 50 percent between the years 1938 and 1990.
  1. a study of 45 corn varieties developed from 1920 to 2001, grown side by side, found that the concentrations of protein, oil, and three amino acids have all declined in the newer varieties
  2. Official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data shows that the calcium content of broccoli averaged 12.9 milligrams per gram of dry weight in 1950, but only 4.4 mg/g dry weight in 2003.
  3. In 1951, an adult woman could meet her daily requirements of vitamin A by eating two peaches. By 2002, she would need to eat 53 peaches to obtain the same amount of vitamin A 

Industrial farming tends to decrease the mineral and nutrient value in the crops. The mix of fertilizers and methods used to achieve higher yields and reduce the cost of food are also reducing the nutrients value.

6. Peak Freshness

Picking fruits and vegetables at their peak time ensures they are the most nutritious. All produce loses vitamins during storage time:  “Lettuce loses 46% of some key nutrients within seven days of cold storage. Spinach loses 22% of lutein and 18% of beta carotene content after just eight days of cold storage. Culinary herbs, when used fresh, contain significant amounts of antioxidants. These antioxidants decrease rapidly after harvest making it difficult to reap the full health benefits of fresh culinary herbs with products from commercial grocery stores (Bottino, 2010). 

7. Safer Food 

Do you know what is in the insecticides and pesticides that are sprayed on food or around food? Next time you have the chance take a look at the label of one of these products. Look at all the health risks and concerns. A lot of these products are carcinogens. Some of these sprays intended to help the plant are systemic sprays- absorbed and redirected into the entire plant tissue.  

By growing your food, or urban agriculture as we refer it here, there are no worries about contamination from the farms, manufacturing plants or during delivery. How many times over the past five years have you seen a recall on some produce in a store? 

How to Divide Perennials

Hey folks, our post for today is something related to our previous topic – last but not the least. Check out these guidelines on how to divide perennials. But before you do, here are important reminders:

how to divide perennials
  • Divide perennials on a cloudy, overcast day as dividing on a hot sunny day can cause the plants to dry out.
  • Water the soil a day in advance if the proposed area is dry. Ideally, divide plants when there are a couple of days of showers in the forecast to provide enough moisture for the new transplants.

How To Divide Perennials

  1. Dig up the parent plant using a spade or fork.
  2. Gently lift the plant out of the ground and remove any loose dirt around the roots.
  3. Separate the plant into smaller divisions by any of these methods: 
    • Gently pull or tease the roots apart with your hands. 
    • Cut them with a sharp knife or spade. 
    • Or put two forks in the center of the clump, back-to-back, and pull the forks apart.
  4. Each division should have three to five vigorous shoots and a healthy supply of roots.
  5. Keep these divisions shaded and moist until replanting.

When To Divide Perennials

Divide when the plant is not flowering, so it can focus all of its energy on regenerating root and leaf tissue. 

Divide fall-blooming perennials in the spring because:

  • New growth is emerging, and it is easier to see what you are doing.
  • Smaller leaves and shoots will not suffer as much damage as full-grown leaves and stems.
  • Plants have stored energy in their roots to aid in their recovery.
  • Rain showers that generally come along with the early season are helpful.
  • Plants divided in spring have the entire growing season to recover before winter.

Divide spring and summer blooming perennials in the fall because:

  • There is less gardening work to do in the fall compared with spring.
  • It is easy to locate the plants that need dividing.
  • In the fall, divide perennials with fleshy roots such as peonies, oriental poppy, and Siberian iris.
  • When dividing plants in the fall, time it for four to six weeks before the ground freezes to establish the plant’s roots. 

If you are just starting out and aren’t actually sure yet which perennials would be right for your garden, check out this post.

I hope these tips help! If you know a tip or two about dividing perennials that I have not listed here, please share in the comments below!

Top Perennials For Your Garden

Perennials are plants that re-grow every year from the same rootstock that you planted once. True perennials die back during the winter months and reemerge in the spring. Some perennials only last a few years, while others may last for decades. For more information, read here. Now, let’s discover what are the top perennials for your garden.

Edible perennials are the most intelligent part of food gardening. Tell me something better than a plant that remerges yearly. Providing a food source and that not only saves money, it also saves time? Edible perennials are the best addition to make to your garden. A well-maintained patch can provide decades of food production.  

Before deciding on a perennial, you need to pay attention to your growing zone. Where you live will determine which perennials you can grow and the variety that is best suited for your area. 

Also, pay close attention to the spaced delegated for the perennials. As perennials mature, they naturalize, expanding their root system, taking up more space, and producing in a larger area. Make sure you leave enough space to accommodate mature-sized plants.   

Make sure to plant your perennials where they will receive the correct amount of sunlight. Whether your potential garden receives full sun, partial sun, no sun will determine what you grow.

Types of Edible Perennials

When selecting what to grow, having an open mind helps. The field of edible perennials is large, and I do not think it is only plants like asparagus or rhubarb. Edible perennials include fruit trees, berries, tubers, herbs, and medicinal flowers.   All fruit trees and more edible perennials can be grown in containers. Learn more about container gardening here. Now think of different ways to add edible perennials to your garden.

Big City Gardener
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In my new garden, I am focusing on growing a majority of the fruit trees in containers, and only a select few will make it into the ground. Check out the video showcasing the new garden.

Benefits of Edible Perennials

  • Low maintenance. Edible perennials are low maintenance and thrive with a minimum amount of care. Simply add mulch and let nature do its thing. Your reward is exceptional harvests for YEARS. The ease of growing and potentially high rewards are the main reason to grow edible perennials
  • Edible Perennials help build the soil. Since we don’t till the beds, they develop intricate and extensive food webs that provide habitats for billions of microorganisms. The soil structure, porosity, and water holding capacities are stellar when mulched.  

Drawbacks to Edible Perennials

  • Some perennials, such as asparagus, are slow to establish themselves and begin producing. It is not uncommon for an asparagus patch to take three years before reaching maturity.
  • The low maintenance nature of perennials causes gardeners to forget about them. If this happens, it is easy for weeds and other plants to reside in the perennial patch.  
  • Perennials present particular pest and disease challenges. A simple disease can spread through, leading you to replace the entire patch.  

Below are the top perennials to add to your garden.

Top Edible Perennials 

  1. Rhubarb
  2. Artichokes 
  3. Kale
  4. Tree Collards 
  5. Asparagus 
  6. Horseradish 
  7. Sorrel 
  8. Berries 
  9. Sunchokes 
  10. Garlic 

Top Flower Perennials

  1. Shasta Daisy 
  2. Coneflower 
  3. Hibiscus
  4. Hosta
  5. Black-eyed Susan 
  6. Coreopsis
  7. Sedum 
  8. Amsonia
  9. Astrantia 
  10. Daylily
  11. Salvia 
  12. Asters 
  13. Peony 
  14. Dianthus 

Top herb perennials

  1. Sage 
  2. Mint 
  3. Thyme 
  4. Oregano 
  5. Chives 
  6. Lavender 
  7. Rosemary 
  8. Lemon Balm
  9. Dill 
  10. Chamomile 
  11. Bee Balm 
  12. Catnip

Keep in mind there are more perennials than are listed here. Don’t forget to look into native plants when searching for perennials. You don’t know what native plants are, check this out. Native plants can include plants like persimmons or pawpaws. Don’t forget to look into nut trees. They will require more space, but the harvests are well worth it. Through edible perennials, proper planning, and execution your entire landscape will reward you with bountiful harvests!

JUST GROW IT