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12 Perennial Crops to Grow in Wet Soil

Wet soil can be a challenge for even the most experienced gardeners. Here are some tips for growing in wet soil and 12 perennial crops to try.

12 Perennial Crops to Grow in Wet Soil: Wet soil can be a challenge for even the most experienced gardeners. Here are some tips for improving the soil condition and 12 perennial crops to grow.12 Perennial Crops to Grow in Wet Soil: Wet soil can be a challenge for even the most experienced gardeners. Here are some tips for improving the soil condition and 12 perennial crops to grow.

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My backyard gently slopes away from the house, which is a good thing for keeping the basement dry.

But when it rains, water rushes away from the house and pools up in certain low spots that became boggy. Whatever I planted there seemed to just limp along. So I started researching ways to manage this problem.

When I used the following tips for growing in wet soil and selecting the right crops, my garden was a lot more successful. Now, those wet areas are some of my favorites in the garden!

Growing in Wet Soil

Growing in saturated soil is a challenge because it can drown plant roots, which require oxygen to breathe. This can lead roots to rot, fungal diseases to develop, and ultimately, spell death for the plant.

If you have an area with wet soil in mind for planting, the soil should drain 24-48 hours after a rain.

If your growing area meets this qualification, take heart! By managing the growing area properly and planting the right crops, this challenging site can become a cherished and productive garden area.

Raised planting areas are a good idea, because they allow your wet-tolerant crops to access the water as well as oxygen for healthy roots and proper uptake of nutrients. Try planting berms on contour or raised beds.

In addition to preparing a successful planting area, there are plenty of edible crops to choose from.

The following crops may adapt to having temporary wet feet and may grow in those areas that become boggy directly after a rain. Just be sure that those areas drain soon afterwards and dry out between rains.

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The Permaculture Inspired Edible LandscapeThe Permaculture Inspired Edible Landscape

12 Crops for Wet Soil

Now for the fun part: Planting your wet-soil garden and reaping a harvest!

#1: Aronia Berry (Aronia melanocarpa, common name: black chokeberry)

Aronia berry has recently been dubbed a superfood for its high antioxidant content, even more than blueberries or elderberries.

Because they are a tart berry, they are most often frozen for use in smoothies, or made into preserves, liquors, or any other way you enjoy using tart berries. Aronia enjoys acidic soil.

Pollination: Self-fertile
USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-8
Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
Size: 3-6 feet tall
Wildlife: Birds enjoy the berries, but is deer resistant (protect when young).
Harvest window: Late summer through early fall.

Read more about growing aronia in my article All About Aronia: Grow Your Own Superfood Berries.

Aronia berries growing in the garden

#2: Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)

A common garden crop, few people know that asparagus can tolerate temporary wet soil. Wild asparagus is often found growing in ditches.

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-8
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Size: 3-5 feet tall
Wildlife: Much like humans, deer will enjoy those tasty spring shoots, but they will not bother the mature asparagus fronds.
Harvest window: February through July.

Here is the variety of asparagus that I like to grow.

#3: Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum)

Native to northern North America, highbush cranberry is not related to the more common cranberry sold in grocery stores (Vaccinium macrocarpon), although it resembles it in both appearance and flavor.

With an astringent taste, these berries will soften when frozen then thawed, and are best enjoyed prepared in preserves. Substitute them for regular cranberry sauce!

Pollination: Self-fertile
USDA Hardiness Zones: 2-7
Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
Size: 6-12 feet tall; can be pruned
Wildlife: Not particularly favored by wildlife, but if they are left on the bush, will be eaten by birds and deer later in the winter.
Harvest window: Late summer to early fall.

Highbush cranberry

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#4: Lowbush Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon, cranberry)

This is the typical cranberry found in grocery stores, and is commercially grown in artificial bogs. Requires acidic soil.

Pollination: Self-fertile
USDA Hardiness Zones: 2-7
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Size: 4-10 inches tall
Wildlife: Birds and other rodents who seek shelter in this low growing plant enjoy the berries. Pollinators appreciate the flowers.
Harvest window: Mid to late fall.

#5: Fox Grape (Vitis labrusca)

The fox grape is native to eastern North America and is well known for its popular red ‘Concord’ grape and the white ‘Niagara’ grape used for table grapes, juices, and jellies.

Pollination: Self-fertile
USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-8
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Size: Left to their own volition, grapevines will go on indefinitely. Grapes cultivated in the garden are usually grown on an arbor.
Wildlife: Many birds and mammals enjoy the berries. Protect while young. Pollinators enjoy flowers.
Harvest window: Late summer to early fall.

Concord grapes

#6: Mint (mentha, spp.)

Mint family plants are especially tolerant to areas with wet soil. Mint is versatile in the kitchen, too, and can be used with many dishes from savory to dessert, from fruits and ice cream, to meat-based entrees.

But watch out! It will keep running like Forrest Gump and take over your garden. It will even defiantly grow through the drainage holes of a pot to root itself in the ground. That said, it will cover a barren area and reduce erosion.

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-10
Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
Size: 2-3 feet
Wildlife: Because of its strong scent, mint is not enjoyed by wildlife. Pollinators and lacewings enjoy the flowers.
Harvest window: All growing season. It will typically die back in the winter. Keep flowers pruned for best mint flavor, or let the flowers bloom to attract pollinators.

#7: Persimmon (Diospyros, spp, Kaki or Japanese persimmon, American persimmon)

Persimmon is a tree fruit. Kaki or Japanese persimmon (Diospyros kaki) is more common in the marketplace, but American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) is seeing a revival by those with an interest in conserving and appreciating native plant species. Eat when soft and ripe.

USDA Hardiness Zones:

Sun Exposure: full sun
Size:

  • Kaki: 25-40 feet
  • American: 50-75

Wildlife: The fruit is prized by all manner of animals. It is also the host plant for the caterpillar of the luna moth.
Harvest window: Fall-early winter. Harvest when soft and ripe. American persimmons are usually harvested after a hard frost when they ripen quickly and fall to the ground, but to avoid bruising they can be picked when fully colored yet still firm, and allowed to ripen off the tree.

American persimmon

#8: American Red Raspberry (Rubus idaeus var. strigosus)

This North American native is more tolerant to wet soil than other varieties of raspberries.

Pollination: Self-fertile
USDA Hardiness Zones: 2-8
Sun Exposure: full sun to full shade
Size: 3-6 feet
Wildlife: Many birds and small mammals enjoy the berries, while deer and other herbivores will browse the leaves.
Harvest window: The canes are typically ever-bearing, producing a crop mid-summer as well as in the fall.

#9: Rhubarb (Rheum x cultorum, garden rhubarb)

Rhubarb is a perennial herb known for its edible stalks. The large leaves—although poisonous—shade the soil and make a nice living mulch.

Pollination: Self-fertile
USDA Hardiness Zones: 1-9
Sun Exposure: full to partial sun
Size: 3-5 feet
Wildlife: Not a known food source for wildlife.
Harvest window: Rhubarb is harvested in the spring when the stalks are 8-10 inches long. Leave at least two stalks per plant to keep plants growing from one year to the next. Do not harvest based on color.

#10: Shellbark Hickory (Carya laciniosa)

This large hardwood tree is typically found in bottomlands and floodplains. Although a slow-grower, it produces the largest and best-tasting hickory nut in its native North America.

Pollination: Self-fertile
USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-9
Sun Exposure: full sun
Size: 75-100 feet
Wildlife: Game birds and small mammals enjoy the nuts. Protect the trees while young.
Harvest window: Fall

Shellbark hickory nutes

#11: Strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa)

Strawberries are a common, delicious fruit. Strawberry isn’t as tolerant to wet soil as other plants listed here. The soil MUST drain within 24 hours.

Pollination: Mostly self-fertile but attract insect pollinators for better fruit set.
USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-10
Sun Exposure: full sun
Size: 6-12 inches
Wildlife: Almost all birds and mammals will enjoy strawberries as much as humans.
Harvest window: Strawberry harvests range from late spring to early summer for June-bearing varieties, and into fall for everbearing varieties.

I like to grow the variety ‘Seascape‘.

Strawberries grow in moist soil.Strawberries grow in moist soil.

My raised planting berm of strawberry plants collects water from the roof.

#12: Taro (Colocasia esculenta)

Taro is a tropical plant grown most often for its edible roots, while the leaves can be eaten like spinach. Both must be cooked well before eaten.

Pollination: self-fertile
USDA Hardiness Zones: 7-10
Sun Exposure: full sun to partial shade
Size: 4-5 feet
Wildlife: Said to be deer and rabbit resistant, although this doesn’t mean its deer and rabbit proof.
Harvest window: Harvest the tubers before the first frost. The leaves can be harvested as soon as they open, but leave some on the plant so it can regrow.

Summary

Although wet soil can present a challenge for gardeners, all hope is not lost. There are plenty of ways we can improve the soil, and plenty of crops to choose from.

What perennial crops have you grown successfully in wet soil?

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