Most vegetables and grains are
annual plants -- they mature, set seed, and die back all in the same year.
If you've ever seen lettuce "bolt"
in the summer (send up a tall stem with flowers that look and act like dandelions), then you've seen the seed-making process in action.
If you can prevent a plant from
setting seed (by continually harvesting immature snow peas, for example)
you can keep an annual alive longer, as well as get a bigger harvest.
In mild climates, new "volunteer" plants will grow from the seed the plant drops after it matures. But in most cases, you'll have to either buy new seed, buy new plants, or save seed from your
old plants until the proper planting time in your area.
In cold climates, many biennials
(plants which produce seed and die back in their second year of life) and perennials
(those plants which live more than two years) are treated as if they are
For example, the tomato is a perennial plant native to the
tropics, but it dies if exposed to freezing temperatures, so it might as well be an annual plant in cold areas.
edible annual and biennial plants become tough, bitter or "woody" once they
begin to set seed. This is the reason that some biennials (like carrots) are
harvested before they flower.
Gardening with annuals
Annual plants are useful in many ways.
Beginners can experiment with edible
by adding annuals to an existing landscape.
Edible annual plants are a
great way to add lushness to a bare landscape without spending a lot of money.
Gaps in your established edible landscaping due to the
death of a perennial plant or seeds that fail to sprout can be fixed easily by placing a few
annual plants to fill in the holes.
can brighten up a dark spot in your yard just as well as their
perennial cousins do.
Planting annuals is an easy way to get young
children interested in gardening, as most annual plants come up easily
from seed and grow quickly.
An edible annual container garden is a lot of fun for apartment dwellers or those with small gardens, and can be useful in cases of poor soil and/or very short growing seasons.
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