Time To Take Care of Perennials
I have 50m of rhubarb, seakale, Purple de Jesi globe artichokes, purple asparagus and perennial onions (Welsh Bunching and Multiplying Spring .. they compliment each other)
It’s easy to say that perennials are less work, but in the end just like everything else in the garden, they do not live on fresh air. Perennials need nutrients just like everything else. It is true they mostly have super deep roots that can forage for nutrients far lower than most annuals, but in the end they need the same minerals as everything else to be highly productive and nutrient dense.
August/September is the time to feed and mulch them as they are all beginning to grow and will feed you very very well over the next 3 months, filling gaps left by the annual veges especially in colder climates.
I make compost for my annuals but have never felt as though I had enough for the perennial bed too. I grow carbon crops in the annual Bio-Intensive garden to make compost for the annual garden but I didn’t design anything in to my garden, initially, to feed the perennials.
Some perennials have shallow feeder roots, are heavy feeders and must be moist all the time to crop heavily like welsh bunching onions, multiplying leeks, multiplying spring onions and chives. These I mulch heavily, water more often than other perennial crops and feed more often. Mostly my other perennials are easier but still require twice a year mulch and feeding to do well.
As I explained in blog 1 of this series, in my effort to continue growing soil and nutrient dense food without buying fertiliser, I have taken 6 beds out of my 20 bed annual Bio-Intensive rotation, and I’m planting them in alfalfa solely to use for mulch and feed for the garden beds that will benefit most. This includes the perennial beds. We are all so used to not designing plant nutrition into our gardens, that it feels like a big challenge to be able to continue to growing soil and nutrient dense food when the fertiliser is cut off.. either by choice or not.
I’m committed to growing high brix food, which is measurable, so that forces me to look for as many local options as I can find to continue raising the mineral levels in the soil.
I’m growing alfalfa (and comfrey all around the edge of the garden) to mulch the perennials and tomatoes, so long as I keep adding more layers of mulch each month through to December it will rot down and become food for the feeder roots of the plants it is mulching. If you don’t keep applying more layers of mulch and instead leave it to dry out it does not rot down into the earth .
That will be a great start, but on top of that I’m going to make a simple liquid fertiliser I can use as a foliar feed.. the most effective way to add minerals to the soil.. through the leaves…
I’ve done a lot of research around outputs in my eco-system that potentially provides nutrients for my garden, in the hope of discovering balanced sources of calcium and magnesium, the two initial key players.
I have discovered yet again, what I thought I already knew!!!
a. That if you intelligently choose a diverse range of elements in your eco-system they could provide the balance needed, and
b. If you provide your plants and animals with highly mineralized, high brix feed, they also will gift you things like cow manure which has an amazing range of balanced minerals and much more. Egg shells which contain the ideal calcium magnesium balance if they are fed super well, vermicast and chicken poo, so long as I focus on creating diversity and integration, my two favourite permaculture words, the life and energy in the system will, over time, take care of the balance….
So my strategies for feeding my perennial beds this Spring are:
1. To increase the cation exchange capacity (CEC) by adding clay and CHARGED biochar to the soil
2. Mulch with comfrey while the alfalfa gets away then alternate
3. Make an eggshell, seaweed, cow manure, molasses liquid tea that will be foliar fed (the molasses is critical in this as a carbon source to hold the water soluble minerals)
4. Mulch occasionally with leaf mould collected from surrounding oak leaves and poplar leaves, and left in a circle of sheep netting until it becomes leaf mould.. amazing stuff!