Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Planting the Perrenials!

One of our favorite things arrived the other day. Greg came home from work, and there it was, leaning against the porch. A brown paper package, tied up with, well, staples. But close enough! This package had Miller Nurseries printed on the outside, which led to even more excitement, because that meant our perrenials had arrived.

Most of the plants we're growing in our garden are annuals; that is, they grow over the course of one year, produce leaves/fruits/roots/whatever over that time, then go to seed to propagate new plants the following year. With the first frosts of winter, these plants typically die off, relying on the seeds to carry on. Perrenials, on the other hand, can survive winters, and keep producing food from the same plant for many years. Like annuals, many perrenials can also be grown from seed, but this takes time. Many of these plants require several years to mature to a harvestable state, so buying plants already started gives you a major head start.

We unwrapped our package to find a giant tangle of roots, consisting of some of the most popular perrenials you can grow in our climate. We'd ordered some of everything, including strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus, and raspberries.

The nursery we ordered from (and many others) made a point to ship our plants at the proper time to plant in our hardiness zone, so once we'd opened the bag, we knew we were ready to get them in the ground. They also shipped the plants with damp roots and some moist packing material but even so, it's still a good idea to soak the roots before planting. We filled up a couple old 5-gallon buckets with water, and submerged the roots for up to an hour to get them ready.

From there, there's really not much to it. If you've got a plant, you basically need to dig a hole, put the plant in the hole, and fill in the hole. Most of ours went into raised beds like we've shown before, ones that had been prepped for these plants. We filled our boxes with a mix of topsoil, coconut coir and compost to create a healthy, fluffy soil mixture. That's especially important with perrenials because this is the only opportunity to work up the soil. Once they start growing, they're staying where they are.

The asparagus crowns were planted the deepest (as recommended by the nursery). Here's how they all looked lined up in a trench in the raised bed.

Up close, they look even cooler. A touch reminiscent of the face-hugger from Alien, no?

The only plants that didn't get the raised bed treatment were the raspberries. Raspberries grow rather tall, so they might shade the garden. Also, they like to send out "runners" - shoots that grow from the existing canes, which leads to a dense berry patch that we didn't want to invade the rest of the garden. We situated the berries just beyond the garden itself. First we had to tear out a long narrow patch of sod where we eventually want our berry hedge to grow.

Then it's back to digging holes and putting plants into them. Raspberries are to be buried an inch or two deeper than they were grown at the nursery.

When you're finished, you end up with a row of twigs sticking out of the ground. Trimming these off to a height of 3-4" above the ground is supposed to help stimulate fresh growth. We'll probably also want to put down some mulch between the canes to help discourage weed growth. Cuz as you can see, we have a lot of them back there.

 And that's all there is to it, in a blog post anyway. In real life, this was a pretty solid days work of digging, placing and watering. But with any luck we'll eventually be rewarded with crops of raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb and asparagus. And now that the hard work's been done, these crops should keep coming back, year after year.

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