Perennial – A plant that lives for more than two years. The key to a productive homestead, perennials are your reward for patience and forward thinking. While they can take a few years to get going, perennials are usually far more productive and require far less work each season than annuals. I labor to find time each week to start my annual seeds, transplant them, etc. A mature apple tree, on the other hand, is already up and running. It may drop 200 pounds of fruit in a year. All it asks is for occasional pruning. A good raspberry patch will produce a couple of gallons of berries. Last year’s vines die off after they fruit. You just clean out the old withered vines once/year and let the new vines do their thing.
That forward planning I mentioned is the key though. Every year we find more perennials that we would like to wedge into our small plot and every year I begrudge how inefficiently I planted in previous years. I’m not going to dig up those three year old apple trees now, but I wish I could move them closer together, making more room to flush out the orchard.
We’ve planted several hundred perennials here at Paper Crane Farm over the three years we’ve been here, from pears to pawpaws to persimmons. Few of these have produced much yet. The strawberries and raspberries have given us buckets of fruit to enjoy. The thirty or so fruit trees have given us maybe 3 apples and 25 pears. Once everything reaches maturity though, we hope to have an endless supply of fruits and nuts during the summer and into the fall. We choose things that fruit early, that fruit late, and that fruit in between. With proper storage, these will ideally carry us through the lean months when little is growing.
We’ll see. But gardening is an optimists game. When we’re picking out gooseberries in the nursery catalog over the winter, we’re thinking about the burst of flavor, not how the deer may eat them. In any year, some of these things will boom and some will bust. That’s okay. Next year will be better.