Friday, 4 June 2010

First Fruits of Perennial Plantings

by Kate
Living The Frugal Life

It's likely we'll soon see the first tiny harvests from several of the perennial plants we put in over the last couple of years.  We took just a very modest harvest of asparagus in April, since our plants are now only two years old and so cannot support a full harvest.  Cherries, blueberries, grapes, elderberries and pears should also grace our table this year - sometimes in very small quantities.

I counted seventeen cherries on our Mesabi cherry tree.  It's covered in netting to keep the birds away.  At this stage they look like Maraschino cherries.  I hope they darken a little more.

This will constitute our entire blueberry harvest this year, provided the birds don't get them first.  I pinched off all the blooms last year, the year we planted our first blueberry plants.  I probably should have done the same this year, to let the plants put all their energy into just growing.  A harvest of seven blueberries (there are a few behind the visible berries) is hardly worth the name anyway.

On the other hand, seven pears from our Collette pear tree is worthy of the name "harvest."  These beauties are so tantalizing.  I know there are still plenty of things that could happen to these fruits before they ripen.  But I'm hoping, against my better judgment.

One of our two elderberres is blooming, and another is getting ready to bloom.  Oddly, the blooms on this particular plant have little fragrance.  This plant died but then grew back from the rootstock.  So we really have no idea what qualities the fruit will have.  I've begun harvesting the blooms in stages, as they open fully, to make elderflower cordial.  I'll let a couple of blooms from each plant set fruit if they can, to see what we get from each one.  Again, removing most of the blooms allows these young plants to concentrate most of their energy on development of roots and branches.

The grapes have decided to produce this year.  We'll see if any fruit makes it to a harvestable stage.  My husband put in five wine variety grapes two years ago.  This will be our first harvest, and possibly our first small batch of real homegrown wine.

The figs are growing exuberantly in their self-watering containers.  No sign of fig drupes yet, so we may not get the promised small harvest this year.  But at least the plants look healthy and happy.  So do the hazelbert plants in the same containers; we don't expect any nut crop this year though.  That's one of my self-watering. potato buckets next to the fig, with shallots and garlic behind them.  The garlic plants are still sporting their scapes, soon to be harvested.  And almost totally obscured in the back right, some of our raspberry canes - more perennials.  These produced insipid fruit last year.  They're getting one more year to prove themselves since they were young and 2009 was a bad year for gardening.  If the fruit isn't much better this year, they'll be replaced with something else.

While I caution my eager gardener's heart not to count on these tiny first harvests, it is satisfying to see our work in establishing these edible perennials begin to bear fruit.  It has been a heavy workload over the last few years.  The motivation that I used for myself is that though the perennials take more effort to plant, they only need be planted once, and then will give returns for many years.  We're still not done planting all the perennials we'd like to have, so it's a relief to see the returns starting.

Any perennials in your garden?  Or plans for some?  What perennial food crop would you most like to add to your garden?