Growing and Protecting Perennial Winter Vegetables

Perennial heirloom vegetables thrive on Salt Spring Island. They love our wet autumn conditions and survive our winter temperatures with very little effort on our part. It takes a little planning then very little maintenance, to enjoy these nutritious plants. They taste best at this time of year right thru the following spring, then go to seed in the summer. Once they complete this cycle, cut them back, and they will begin again.

Location is key. Find a spot in your garden space that drains well and allows easy access during the winter. An in ground raised bed is ideal .Use mulches of straw or leaves to protect them during the coldest parts of winter. When the coldest temperatures are forecast, put aside some dry mulch to lightly cover your whole plant. Once the cold snap is past, just pull the cover back .Keep the mulch in place throughout the growing season.

These plants can be started from seed in the spring or late summer. I will include here some of the many varieties we raise for seed and have been growing on our farm for many years now.

Variegated Cress is a beautiful spicy salad addition, with leaves of cream yellow and green that grow in a nice rosette 10 inches across. Sylvetta Arugula has small olive green leaves which peak in the summer thru fall and regrow again. Pink Plume Celery, which is very rare, has thin pinkish red stalks with bright green leaves. Forms a nice dense bush 8-10 inches tall. The flavour is rich in the cool times of the year, sweet and delicious. Bronze Fennel is a stunning architectural plant that grow to 6 feet tall in summer, with delicious licorice flavoured greens which emerge in very early spring. Perennial Bunching Onion / Sperling Toga Onion and He Shi Ko Onion are all useful for fall thru to late spring as fresh green onions that emerge right thru the snow. Salad Burnet, which dates back to Elizabethan England forms a beautiful small bush of blue /green half inch leaves with gentle scalloped edges. The taste is similar to cucumber, a very refreshing salad addition. Mitsuba, from Japan thrives in the fall garden right thru spring. Delicious triangular soft green leaves form a nice cluster 6 inches across. Giante D’Italia Parsley, which self seeds regularly once you establish a space for it, is one of my favourite greens, the taste is so sweet in the winter. The leaves are soft green, form a fan shaped clump and have a flat shape with deep jagged edges.

Most of these plants would not be considered deer proof and could be grown in large pots if you keep them near your house and protect them during the coldest weather. The snow does act as insulation with mulch.

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