Ask a Master Gardener: Perennial gardens provide food year-round (Google / Mercury News)

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Ask a Master Gardener: Perennial gardens provide food year-round

By Rebecca Jepsen

for the Mercury News

Perennial gardening can provide an abundant crop of fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers all year long. October is a good time to start or enhance your perennial garden. Perennial food crops require time and energy upfront, but the initial investment will pay back for years to come. There are many choices beyond standard citrus (orange, lemon, and lime) and fruit (apple, peach, nectarine and plum) trees.

O’Neal, Misty, Reveille and Bluecrop are just a few of the 20 varieties of blueberries that can grow in our Mediterranean climate. Blueberries prefer acidic, well-drained soil, ideally amended with peat moss, pine needles or wood chips. Blueberries prefer full sun but can tolerate shady areas as well. They like to be kept consistently moist and benefit from annual fertilizing. They can be grown into hedgerows, as large individual shrubs or in pots.

Strawberries are very easy to grow and can be grown in the ground, in raised beds or from hanging containers. They can be started from seed or from bare-root transplants, which usually come in packs of one or two dozen. Plant strawberry crowns just at soil level. Mulching with straw helps to retain moisture, retard weeds, and keep fruit clean. Mature plants will become crowded and lose energy over time. It’s helpful to remove plants every two to three years and replant the young plants produced by runners. When replanting, rotate berries to a new section of the garden to prevent disease and depleting the soil of nutrients. To improve production, fertilize annually.


The Santa Clara County Master Gardener Web site provides information on upcoming events and classes as well as seasonal gardening information. Go to http://master


Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.