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SOIL APPRECIATION: TIPS FOR PLANTING PERENNIALS IN FALL

In a previous blog post, we discussed why soil is the latest climate change mitigating superpower that we have been abusing. The gist: we have been relying too heavily on planting annuals, which are harvested each season, and do not allow enough nutrients to be recycled back into the soil between plantings.

Planting perennial plants, which reap harvests for several growing seasons before being replanted, are a great way to restore soil health.  Allowing the plants to remain in the ground for several years prevents the need for heavy duty fertilizers and pesticides, increases the nutrient density in the soil, and allows the soil to store more carbon.

So, why not adopt the ol’ ‘home is where the heart is’ philosophy, and get your own garden’s soil back to its top form–it’s so easy! Fall is actually the perfect season for you to get started. Mild temperatures and rainier days create an ideal environment for perennial plants to grow strong root systems for spring. And the best part? You’ll get more than a few harvest seasons out of most perennials, which means more plant enjoyment for less work. Nice.

Tips for planting perennials in fall:

  • Find healthy and strong plants
  • Spread about ½ – 1 inch of mulch at planting time, to lock in soil moisture and warmth. Once winter arrives and/or the ground freezes, spread another 2-3 inches of mulch–this will protect your plants during the cold months
  • Don’t use fertilizer. Fertilizing inspires young shoots and leaves to spurt up, but when fall-planting, you want your perennials to enter their winter dormancy.
  • Don’t plant late bloomers (Asters, mums, black eyed Susans, and perennial ornamental grasses are better planted in spring)
  • Your plants will be entering a winter dormancy period soon, so don’t panic if you aren’t seeing a ton of top growth. The plants are still growing their root systems and establishing themselves within the soil.

Edibles to plant:

  1. Sunchokes. Sunchokes, or Jerusalem artichokes, are relatives of the sunflower. Described as having a nutty flavour, sunchokes can be eaten raw, or can be cooked in the same way you would a potato. The plants grow to be quite tall, so it’s best to place them along the edge of a garden.
  2. Rhubarb. Rhubarb is best planted from a crown, which you can find at your local garden centre, or from a neighbour with an overgrown garden. It’s the stalks that are the edible bits, but the leaves make a great addition to your compost pile.
  3. Horseradish. If you are into spice, this is the perennial plant for you. Part of the mustard family, the root is the real flavour powerhouse of this plant. However, horseradish has a tendency to take over a garden with the invasive growth habit of its roots. So, when harvesting them, it can be good practice to remove as much of the roots as possible, and to only replant enough of the root sections as you will need for next year.
  4. Daylillies. Daylillies are a great choice for first time, or busy gardeners, as they require very little attention. They make beautiful garden borders, and their flower buds can be harvested and eaten.
  5. Asparagus. Asparagus is packed with vitamins, and is one of the most well-known perennials. Although it can take a little while for the plant to become established, once asparagus gets going it will be providing tasty green treats for years.

What are your favourite perennials to plant?

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