Are you prepared to grow your own food?
If a disaster with long-term ramifications strikes, even the most well-stocked reserves in the world aren’t going to last forever. Eventually, you’re going to have to think about homesteading to provide for you and your family.
Ideally, you will already have a piece of land set aside. But there’s a problem. Self-sufficiency is hard work. Most people, if asked to turn to small-scale farming to meet their needs, would be ill-prepared to do so.
“Perennial farming” overcomes many of the problems associated with achieving quick and efficient productivity. It can guarantee you an almost-instant supply of nutritious food and is much less labour-intensive than an “annual” approach.
What is Perennial Farming?
Perennial farming is the cultivation of perennial, rather than annual, edible plants. Whereas traditionally vegetables are harvested every year, being sown from seed in spring, perennial plants live indefinitely. If they’re “herbaceous” the foliage above ground will die back every year, growing again after the winter has passed. Others, like some fruit trees, are evergreen.
As outlined below, there are many benefits….
What are the Benefits?
- It’s less work – The whole process of sowing, planting-out, pest-deterrence is reduced in regards to time and labour. Perennials tend to be stronger plants (so more disease-resistant) and require only a light mulching of manure year on year. Their deep root systems mean that they have more access to nutrients in the soil.
- It mimics nature – The fact that perennial gardening is more “natural” means that the plants tend to be more resistant to pests and produce higher yields of nutrient-dense food.
- It’s less taxing on the soil – Because you’re not piling tonnes of fertilizer and manure on your soil, it tends to be healthier in the long run.
- Food will be available through most of the year – If you don’t have time to tend to your garden in preparation of a potential disaster, you can plant some low-maintenance perennials and forget about them. These will provide food continuously and you can harvest them as soon as the need arises.
Care and Harvesting
- Dig in organic matter to start – Give your plants a head start by digging in some organic matter – manure or compost – in the place you plan to plant.
- Give them dedicated beds – By giving your perennials a dedicated area, their roots can grow undisturbed by digging or tilling.
- Pick the right plants – Many plants will thrive in shady conditions, whilst others need full sun. Wild-leeks and certain cherry plants, for instance, can grow in north-facing (shady) gardens.
- Encourage symbiotic relationships – “Inter-planting” will encourage pest resistance, beneficial insects and pollination. Consider growing suitable leafy plants under the shade of fruit tree, for example.
- Only harvest 30% of foliage – Follow this rule of thumb to ensure you don’t kill your edibles.
What Should I Plant?
It’s beyond the scope of this article to provide a full list of all the potential varieties and types. That said, I’ve included some examples below that are great to start with.
- Wild Leeks – These tolerate shade well and all parts are edible.
- Asparagus – A great addition to any sunny spot. Plant in rich soil and leave for a few seasons before harvesting.
- Good King Henry – A wonderful but underappreciated leafy vegetable.
- Lovage – A big and productive herb. All parts are edible.
- Rhubarb – Remember not to eat the leaves!
What are your thoughts about perennial homesteading? Leave a comment below and let us know!
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