The familiar sowing, planting, thinning, weeding and harvesting routines of the annual vegetable garden don't all apply with perennial vegetables - but I'm discovering new routines that do! One of these is chopping the plants down to give a fresh harvest of tasty leaves. It's very useful with plants such as Good King Henry, Turkish rocket and sea beet; herbaceous perennials that give a wonderful flush of bright, tender leaves in spring but by mid-summer have gone onto produce flower stalks and smaller, sometimes less mildly-flavoured leaves.
Turkish rocket in flower
I'm not quite into the routine yet so I started chopping this year a little later than I could have done but it still worked well for the Turkish rocket....(second photo taken a few weeks after the first).
Turkish rocket chopped...
and for the Good King Henry...
Good King Henry chopped...
Chopping back the Good King Henry gave decent sized tender leaves to harvest alongside a few new flowers. With the bladder campion however I think I missed the boat as the plant immediately threw up purely tough flowering stalks again.
Bladder campion chopped...
The technique worked well with the sea beet and wild rocket. I haven't tried it with the patience dock yet but judging by the broad-leaved dock that has been reappearing in the lawn for years I'm sure it will be fine! How often can one do it? Well so far I've only chopped mine once, but I cut comfrey and nettles down repeatedly through the summer, mainly for making plant feeds. They don't seem to mind, but the vigour of the species and the richness of the soil needs to be taken into account. If a plant was slow to come back into growth I would mulch it well with compost and leave it alone.
It's an easy job accomplished in minutes - but isn't necessary at all with the non-flowering form of garden sorrel that I grow. It stays succulent and leafy all year. (I usually avoid picking the slightly older leaves with red marks though. I haven't discovered what those marks are yet - places where a mollusc has had a nibble perhaps?)
Non-flowering garden sorrel - no chopping required!
For the sake of even easier perennial vegetable gardening it would be cool to find non-flowering forms of more perennial vegetables. There are sure to be some out there - do get in touch if you know of one!
N.B. I sell a range of perennial vegetable plants on my website.