I was on some allotments at the weekend and was struck how bare and scruffy they look at this time of year. We've passed the Spring equinox, but seedlings can't be planted out yet. The weeds are getting going. The only pleasing exceptions were the hardy perennials which had made it through the winter, such as Rhubarb, Artichokes, Mint and Kale which dotted the allotments ... and the few gardeners digging their patches ready for planting. The sight made me think, and it went like this.
For most people, maintaining a vegetable patch is something 'they'd like to do', but many struggle with the time and commitment it takes. How many plots start with a burst of enthusiastic digging in Spring, but are overtaken by weeds and bolting vegetables by mid-summer? They are hard work. And then it's start all over again next year.
Perennials by contrast are far easier and far better value. If Nature's 'survival of the fittest' held sway in the vegetable patch, we'd grow many more perennial vegetables and herbs. Indeed our ancestors did, but over 90% of heirloom vegetable varieties have now been lost, and many of these were perennials. Why? Because for the past 100 years and more seed companies have got us believing we should only buy 'high performance' annuals, which create repeating revenues for them.
Annuals are hard work every year and most of us (grafting GreenPlantSwappers excepted of course) struggle with this.
Perennials by contrast, reward every year, for longer periods of the year, with a lot less effort. You nurture and harvest them. Most out-compete weeds and resist slugs. They're good for balancing the soil and make the vegetable patch look better 'out of season'.
Let's hear it for swapping more perennial vegetables and herbs. More people would get the gardening habit and grow their own food if they realised how much easier they were.