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Jun 1, 2009 10:56 PM

Perennial veggies

Ever tried planting perennials? I put potatoes, artichoke and onions in my garden probably 5 or more years ago. They come up again every year. In fact, they're coming up again in the Spring is what signals me that it's time to get out there and get ready to put in the annual things.

Here in SoCal, tomatoes volunteer too. I'd rather choose nursery varieties since we can get heirlooms at the nursery but this year I'm letting one of the volunteers grow out just to see what it turns out to be.

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  1. If you planted an heirloom tomato last year, the volunteer should be the same heirloom as you had last year.
    The problem occurs when hybrids seed themselves. They don't breed true and you can never depend on what you'll get. Those should be ripped out.
    The heirloom seeds are stabilized and many people collect theirs from one crop to use the next year. You can't do that with hybrids.

    4 Replies
    1. re: MakingSense

      MS, not to provoke you, but traditional seeds are not "stabilized". It is actually that hybrids cannot maintain hybrid vigor.

      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        Sorry, Sam. I'm using really amateur vocabulary here. Because I am an amateur, not a scientist like you.

        I always knew that saving seed from hybrids was pretty much a waste because what came from them wasn't dependable. The plants could be like the "parent" but were more likely to be wacko mutants or throwbacks to whatever the hybrid was bred from. I've had some pretty strange looking volunteers that self-seeded in my garden from hybrids.

        I got that word "stabilized" from some gardening site about heirloom breeders. Something about making sure that they reproduced dependably from generation to generation before they were named and became known as a specific variety like "Black Cherokee" or "San Marzano Redorta." Then you can know that if you save the seeds from that plant, they will be true in the next crop. You'll get the same plant so the seeds are worth saving.
        That may just be a gardening word and not suitable for the real scientific world that you work in.
        Did I get the concept right?

        1. re: MakingSense

          Guess I should have added:

          [insert sideways grinning moron ocon here to indicate good intent]

          Anyway, I guess "stabilized" is about equivalent to getting pure line selections of traditional varietes: seed is collected from many different fields of the given variety, planted out, agronomic and morphological characteristics assessed, and seed selected, with off-types eliminated.

          My point was that such traditional seed is inherently stable in the sense of being able to save seed each season and plant again the next. But it is natural that wide crosses - hybrids - are not able to reproduce in the same manner.

      2. re: MakingSense

        I suspect it's seed of a hybrid Sungold. No idea what it will be other than cherry. But I've got 11 other varieties that I can count on so I let it grow out.

      3. How does that work with onions? do you not use the onion bulb and it keeps going? or do they go to seed then replant? same question for potatoes?

        6 Replies
        1. re: cleopatra999

          I don't know about onions, but with potatoes, if you miss a few during harvest (and it's hard not to) they will sprout and you'll have more plants.

          1. re: Glencora

            that is what I figured, I guess I wouldn't really classify this as perennial, but that is a matter of semantics.

            1. re: Glencora

              Right! As hard as I try to get them all there are always enough that elude me that I always get a subsequent crop.

              The onions set their own seeds.

              1. re: rainey

                I see...we would not have a long enough season up north for onion seeds :(

                If you are thinking that way...wouldn't anything that you left to go to seed reseed itself?

                1. re: cleopatra999

                  Yes! It's a very different experience depending on where we each are.

                  I'm originally from NY state and you can't imagine my surprise that tomatoes volunteer from seed out here in SoCal!

            2. re: cleopatra999

              There are several types of onions out there that are "perennial". The one I'm familiar with is the Egyptian Walking Onion and I've grown that as far north as southern upstate NY (which is as far north as I've lived). I've also had tomatos volunteer that far north as well.

            3. Asparagus, of course, is a great perennial crop, as are Jerusalem artichokes.

              2 Replies
              1. re: pikawicca

                Asparagus THE best perennial vegetable. The patch when I was growing up lasted at least 20 years and produced the best, most flavorful, succulent, abundant output ...

                1. I have found mache reseeds and is just as good as year one. My husband composted our tomato plants late the year before last and lo the forest of tomatoes sprouting in our newly planted side yard's flowerbedding! We left them. What the heck. They were very late to fruit, but they kept for months in our basement and were very good.

                  I keep (on purpose) asparagus and no (grrr) horseradish. I HAD rubarb but spent two solid weeks pulling out the phenom root system about 5 years ago and never ever ever looked back. If I want rubarb, I go to any other random neighbor's yard and hack it out. Last week one neighbor harvested over a hundred pounds from his small yard and was begging epople to take it. People hid from him just like they do me when I beg people to take zucchini and mustard greens.

                  Thanks to pikawicca for the jerusalem artichoke hint. I wonder if they grow PNW way. I bet they do! Yah Hoo.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: Sal Vanilla

                    how much sun does rhubarb need? I have an area of my backyard that I am trying to fill in. It is under the very high bows (15ft min up) of a neighbor's evergreen tree, can't seem to get any perrenials to work there.

                    1. re: cleopatra999

                      Rhubarb will grow very well in part shade. My garden is shady, on the north side of my house so the sun manages to hit most of the garden for a few hours each day, and yet I have been able to grow most of the usual "backyard garden" vegetables including rhurbarb which has been producing for about 12 years.

                      1. re: Gio

                        I am going to have to really watch the sun there and see how long it really is.

                        are there any tools that you can get that monitor sunlight? I bet that there is, they are probably really pricey. that would be handy in many areas of my yard to really find out. For instance my peas on one section just don't do great, I think that they don't get as much sun there as I think that they do.

                        it is in an easy enough area, and I work from home, I should set an alarm one sunny day for every hour and jot it down. Maybe I would be surprised at how much it gets.

                        1. re: cleopatra999

                          In our previous house, we had rhubarb growing like mad in a heavily-shaded area. It's like poison ivy -- seems impossible to kill.

                          1. re: cleopatra999

                            Most fruit and/or flowering plants need at least 6 hour os full sun a day. But....There are variables. Many, many plants will do well in sunny/part sunny/part shade.

                            Tools? Put a comfortable chair in a place that over looks the area you want to test. Something to put your feet on is a good thing too. Pour your favorite beverage. Sit, put your feet up, gaze, judge. Never fails.....

                            1. re: Gio

                              Gio, I like that idea, now if I could get a day off that is sunny where I don't have to build a patio or plant in the garden ;)

                              I did find this tool by the way....I am tempted...

                              1. re: cleopatra999

                                Well I've never had to buy such an instrument. I just take periodic peeks out a window if I can't accomplish plan A, with notice to the time of day. But, I will tell you that I can vouch for Lee Valley tools. I've been buying from their catalogue and on line for years.

                            2. re: cleopatra999

                              You can just put something (like a small plastic jug) in the area you want to plant. Record when you see the sun hit it and when you see it go back to shade. Remember there is an extraordinary amount of sun time this time of year.

                              Rhubarb is not fussy. I have not seen it grown in shade, but I cannot imagine it would balk too much.

                          2. re: cleopatra999

                            Have you considered growing things that bolt when it gets too sunny like chard or bok choy? Really, anything leafy would do well in the summer shade. Broccoli and its relatives can be grown in partial shade - so maybe at the fringe of the tree's cover.

                            1. re: Sal Vanilla

                              I really think we are dealing with almost full shade not partial, if it gets 3 hrs of sun I would be surprised, plus it is an area that the dogs walk through, so I don't want to seed anything or fragile seedlings. I would like not to worry about it, that is why I was thinking perennial. I asked my SO and he thinks that Rhubarb is ugly, I personally don't, but we need to find a balance for the 2 of us. I think a veg is out, will look at plants instead.

                              1. re: cleopatra999

                                You might consider herbs for your shady area. Parsley, sage, chives, tarragon, basil. Those I know can be grown in shade. You could plant them in among other shade loving plants. That would discourage the dogs from trampling them. You could plant some pretty astilbe, hostas, ferns, bleeding hearts... maybe some deeply colored coral bells to have a striking difference in color.

                        2. I have a hearty sorrel patch that produces in spring and fall. It's a pleasure because unless I start spinach in late fall, sorrel is the first green available -- and hence much appreciated!