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How to Grow Perennials and Stem Vegetables

Often disappointing when store-bought, these vegetables are a gourmet treat when freshly picked. They are easy to grow, and perennial types suit the ornamental garden.
Excerpted from Simple Steps: Vegetable Gardening

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Step 1: Choose the Right Site and Soil

Choose a sunny, open site, with deep, free-draining soil, and fork in plenty of organic matter before planting. Celery thrives only in very rich, moist soil, so if your soil is poor, you may do better with celeriac.

Step 2: Sow and Plant Out

Asparagus and globe artichokes are difficult to grow from seed, so many gardeners start in spring with asparagus crowns and young globe artichoke plants. To plant asparagus, dig a trench 8 inches deep and at the bottom make a central ridge with soil; spread the crown’s roots over the ridge and cover with soil so that just the tips are showing. Plant globe artichokes in rows, keeping the leaf rosette above the soil. Simply bury Jerusalem artichoke tubers in the soil. Sow celery and celeriac seed indoors from mid-spring and harden off when they have five to six leaves, before planting out. Water plants in well. Self-blanching celery is an easy choice for beginners.

Step 3: Protect Against Potential Problems

Jerusalem artichokes may need support. Water and mulch globe artichokes in dry weather. Mulch the asparagus bed with organic matter, and apply fertilizer in early spring and after harvesting. Cut down when growth yellows in fall. Water celery and celeriac weekly, and mulch with straw or compost. Globe artichokes may be attacked by black bean aphids, and Jerusalem types can be invasive, so keep them in check. Fungal rots may affect all crops in wet weather.

Step 4: Harvest and Store

Harvest celery plants whole before the first frost. Celeriac is hardy and best left in the ground until required. Cut asparagus spears about 2 inches below the soil surface when they are about 6 inches tall. Cut the heads of globe artichokes while still tight. Unearth Jerusalem artichokes as and when required.

Connovers Colossal Asparagus Harvests in Spring

Courtesy of DK - Vegetable Gardening © 2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Step 5: Cultivate Properly

Earthing Up Celery
Trench celery is a traditional garden crop (image below). The stems are blanched by covering the stems with soil, known as "earthing up," to exclude light. Tie the stems together with string when the plant is 12-inch tall, and pile soil around them to half their height. Repeat every three weeks until just the tops are showing in late fall.

Mulching Globe Artichokes Globe artichokes, particularly young plants and those growing in cold areas, can be damaged by frost, so protect them during the winter by earthing up around them and covering the plant with a 6-inch thick mulch of straw, or a double layer of horticultural fleece.

Harvesting Young Asparagus Plants
Patience is a virtue when establishing an asparagus bed. Resist harvesting the spears for the first two years after planting, to allow the plants to gather strength for future years. Harvest for six weeks in late spring in the third year and for eight weeks in the years that follow.

Pile Soil Around Stems to Earth Up Celery Plant

Courtesy of DK - Vegetable Gardening © 2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Step 6: Choose Crops

Celery (image 1)
Self-blanching varieties are best grown close together in tight blocks or cold frames to produce tender, pale stems.

Celeriac (image 2)
This knobby vegetable tastes much better than it looks and is delicious roasted, mashed, or in soups.

Globe Artichoke (image 3)
A tall, easy-to-grow decorative plant with silvery foliage. The mature flower buds are a realdelicacy.

Jerusalem Artichoke (image 4)
The tubers are usually cooked but can be eaten raw. Plants are tall and make agood windbreak.

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Excerpted from Simple Steps: Vegetable Gardening

© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2007

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