This is the time of year when it seems like everything needs to be planted all at once. Whether it is cool weather crops going into the ground outside or hot weather crops getting started inside. Maybe the worst of the rush should be over by now, but I’m a little behind. So I find myself especially appreciative of all of the plants that have alternative growth schemes to the annuals that typically fill a vegetable garden. And so, a tribute to perennials, fall plantings and volunteers.
Perennials: These are plants that plan on living more than one year. Here at HQ, we’ve got thyme and oregano and sage, all started from seed last year, but back again this year with no additional work necessary. We’ve also got chives and mint and strawberries and fruit shrubs, all brought in as transplants. We’ve got fruit trees and asparagus left to us by the Millers, HQ’s previous owners. (There are actually a lot of plants grown as annuals in a vegetable garden that would be perennials if they grew in more mild climates. Unfortunately, my tomato plants can’t survive the winter here to keep baring fruit for me year after year.)
Fall plantings: These are plants that prefer to be planted in the fall rather than the spring. We’ve got winter wheat, shallots and garlic, that all got put in the ground last fall in time for them to begin to establish a root system before going dormant for the winter. Then they reemerged in the spring all on their own, ready to go for the year. Most prairie plants fall into this category as well. The seeds need to go through a certain amount of cold, freeze-thaw cycles, attack by soil organisms or digestive juices, etc. before they’re ready to sprout. While you can artificially provide these things for them inside, it often makes more sense to stick them in the ground and let nature do the work for you. The seedlings will emerge when they’re ready.
Volunteers: These are plants that come up all on their own without any work or planning on your part, results of seeds dropped unnoticed by your plants, carried in by birds, or who knows. We have sunflowers and lettuce coming up in the garden from our plants from last year, dill that was volunteering in our neighbor’s garden that we’ve brought over to ours, and a patch of asparagus growing in the ditch across the road that surely couldn’t have been planned (volunteers AND perennials! BONUS!). There are also some random onions around, but we’re pretty sure those are all ones we specifically planted but then overlooked when harvesting last year, back for a bonus round.