Not everyone has the time to plant and tend to a vegetable garden. Tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, & broccoli are satisfying to harvest from your garden but take time to nurture and need to be planted each year. If you’re looking for something that won’t be quite as time intensive, here are some low maintenance edibles that don’t need to be planted yearly and offer a great harvest year after year.
Blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum)
While we love the sweet, juicy berries, this deciduous shrub also has some great ornamental features. Blue-green glossy foliage emerges in spring which is then followed by pink to white showy flowers and then deep blue berries ripen in summer. In fall foliage turns red to orange. It is self-fertile but does have better fruit yield when planted with other varieties of blueberries. One of our favorite blueberry varieties is Vaccinium x ‘Sunshine Blue’. Blueberries do best in full sun to partial sun and moist, well-draining soil.
Lingonberries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea)
If you’re a fan of lingonberry jam like me (Swedish meatballs anyone?) then this is a great, compact evergreen to have in your edible garden. The small, glossy, dark green leaves grow on wiry stems that spread to about 3’ wide forming a mat-like groundcover. Urn shaped flowers appear in spring in shades of white to pink (like blueberries) and are followed by tart, bright red berries in summer that can be eaten raw or cooked. Lingonberries prefer full sun to part shade and well-draining, evenly moist soils.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
A great aromatic herb that provides year-round interest! Evergreen foliage is gray-green and needle-like and is deer and drought resistant. It also can handle poor soils. For such a tough plant, it has small, dainty blue-purple flowers in spring. It can be freely harvested as needed. Rosemary should be placed in full sun with well-draining soils. Once established, it shouldn’t need too much extra water.
While many of us have daylilies in our gardens for their bright flowers and grass like foliage, did you know you every part of the plant is edible? The young shoots that emerge in spring can be added to salads or stir fries; the tubers (look like small, hairy almonds) can be dug up year-round and can be boiled and eaten like potatoes; the flower petals add a splash of bright color to summer salads or dessert garnish summer and into fall; and the flower buds (before they’ve opened) are good for battering and deep frying. It is important to note that these can be confused with irises and tiger lilies, especially in the spring when their shoots look similar, which are poisonous. This is a great website to help fully identify daylilies if you’re out foraging while camping or hiking. Daylilies prefer full sun and well-draining soil. They can handle mild drought and the spent blooms can be deadheaded to encourage continual blooming.
Artichokes (Cynara scolymus)
Striking, heavily textured, gray-green foliage provides interest throughout its growing season. Large green flower buds rise above the foliage and should be harvested before they begin to open. If you don’t want to harvest them or just happen to forget, don’t worry! The large buds open up to bright purple flowers that can be used in flower arrangements or left on the plant. Artichokes work well both in the landscape or in container gardens and like full sun and well-draining soils with regular watering. If it gets too hot some leaves may die back but new foliage will grow once it cools back down.
Garlic (Allium sativa)
While most tend to grow garlic as an annual, you can grow it as a perennial, so you don’t have as much upkeep. You’ll plant garlic as you normally would, in the fall, separating each clove and planting about 3 inches apart. When the shoots emerge in spring instead of immediately cutting them off to produce one bundle of garlic cloves, you’ll let them grow. The leaves can be clipped throughout the growing season and used like chives. The garlic scapes (the curly stalks) will eventually produce small garlic bulblets which can then be removed and cooked or plant them in a new area or scatter around to thicken your existing garlic patch. In early fall, after a full growing season, if you’re wanting to thin your garlic patch or just need a full bulb you can dig up a few plants for that purpose, but they may be smaller than normal. Garlic likes full sun and well-draining soils and should be placed in an area that can be easily contained or you don’t mind it spreading.
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
Chopped up chives are such a great dish brightener. Bright green tubular foliage grows in clumps and can be harvested once it reaches about 3-4 inches tall by clipping at the base. If you let the foliage grow, light purple flowers will emerge in late spring and are edible as well. Flowers can be removed to promote foliage growth. Chives prefer full sun to partial sun and well-draining soils. They don’t like to be waterlogged or soggy and can tolerate some dry conditions. Clumps of chives can be divided in early spring if needed.
Strawberries (Fragaria chiloensis)
If sunshine had a taste, this would be it. The quintessential summertime berry for many, strawberries are fast and easy to grow and are evergreen. Native to the Pacific Northwest, the coastal strawberry spreads into a glossy green groundcover when left to its devices and can tolerate some foot traffic. If you’re not wanting it to spread, it’s best to keep strawberries in some kind of container. Small white flowers with yellow centers bloom in spring and are followed by bright red berries ripening in summer. Strawberries do best in full sun to partial shade and well-draining soils.
Raspberries (Rubus idaeus)
While raspberries (along with blackberries) can be a bit tricky to maintain we didn’t want to leave them off since they yield such yummy berries year after year. One of the biggest turn offs of raspberries are the thorns and that they spread (via tip rooting). If you’re able to contain them though, you won’t regret it. There is also a variety called ‘Raspberry Shortcake’ that doesn’t produce thorns which is perfect for kids to plant and tend to. Spring flowers are white and are followed by green berries that ripen to bright red (there’s also a golden raspberry, too!) in summer. To help contain raspberries and keep them tidy, they can be pruned after the berries are harvested so that the older canes are grounded keeping only the younger ones. They can also be pruned in late spring to remove any dead canes. Plant in full sun and well-draining, but moist soils.
What other perennial fruits & veggies do you have in your garden? Let us know in the comments!