The Value of Perennials

Reader Contribution by Mary Conley
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I haven’t posted for several weeks. It isn’t because I don’t have a life, just the opposite. We’ve been exceptionally busy making improvements to our city home, plus the excitement of our oldest son’s marriage to Kim. How fun to have a new daughter-in-law! Since Perry usually cares for our city garden, I realized in early spring there was no use planting it as he would be on his honeymoon and setting up housekeeping with his new bride.

Then we had so much rain those garden beds became covered with moss. As easy as it is to do, I didn’t even get the early lettuce planted. Then my tomato, green pepper and onion seedlings refused to grow – most likely because of our tinted windows. The disappointments never quit, especially when we didn’t get sweet corn and green beans planted at the farm. It is a seventh summer at the farm and the first time we won’t have sweet corn.

I don’t know how many times I had to tell myself to just let it go. Eventually, we planted the seed potatoes just before they rotted, and a few hills of pumpkins, butternut squash and sweet potatoes. They are late but seem to be doing well. Is it any wonder that I almost expect them to get hailed out or eaten by insects?!

Along the way, a realization would sneak into my thoughts now and then. It was the knowledge of the reward of previous hard work, and it brought happiness to my gardening heart. Perennials! Yes, they saved me from this summer’s gardening despair.

First, up popped the asparagus, and we happened to be at the farm at the right time to harvest enough for several meals. Even some lettuce came up voluntarily from seed. Then came the hardy and dependable rhubarb, which we love and find more uses for each year. The spring rains kept it tender until I arrived to bag it for sauce and our favorite recipes.

Chives and mint are plentiful, and we noted that the Russian sage we babied all last season pulled through the winter and is looking healthy enough to cut and dry this fall. Also the horseradish. The gooseberry bushes are loaded and waiting for me to make gooseberry syrup.

For two weeks, we’ve picked June-bearing strawberries, freezing them in small quantities for many smoothies. Soon, we’ll do the same with blackberries and raspberries. To top it off, despite the harsh winter and spring, there will be a few apples and pears this fall.

Nope, you just can’t beat perennials. They are a much trusted and valuable friend of the gardener.

A side track: Just in case you were worried that the mosquitoes and chiggers might have died out during our recent years of drought here in southwestern Nebraska, I want to assure you that they are alive and well!