A perennial vegetable garden plan.

The desk is scattered with colouring crayons - I've just finished making a perennial vegetable plan for a small garden (about 20 x 40 feet or 6 x 12 metres).

I've made the plan with busy people in mind. I'm hoping it will be a useful illustration of how simple it could be to plant up the borders of a small garden with easy-to-grow perennial vegetables - and fruits and herbs too. (In case I have any readers new to perennial vegetables, I'm talking about vegetables that don't need replanting every year. So they are much less work than traditional annual vegetables and give you delicious food, often even in winter, in return for a bit of weeding and mulching. Making them perfect edible plants for busy lifestyles.)

No great garden design here - just a straightforward plan which retains a lawn for playing and relaxing, puts all the food plants conveniently around the edges and still has an abundance of beautiful flowers and foliage. I've assumed a neutral soil with reasonably good drainage (there is a small bed of very gravelly soil in the lower right corner and the blueberry is in a pot of lime-free compost.) Of course many different choices of plants could have been made and the plan is far from perfect in terms of balancing foliage textures, colour, seasonal interest etc. but it should work as a starting point. Whilst this garden won't supply all the householder's fruit and vegetables quite a lot of food could be harvested here from what might otherwise have been unused land. (Some of the plants on the plan are purely ornamental - foxglove is definitely not an edible - see the list of edibles below along with their Latin names. I've also made a mistake in my labelling - please switch around Mahonia with ostrich fern. And I put a chair on the paved area where I now want to draw a water butt!)

I've been looking up some statistics and if I've got it right about 56% of the fruit and vegetables eaten in the UK are grown here. Most of these come from 148000 hectares of land under commercial fruit and vegetable production but a rising percentage is grown in gardens and on allotments - currently about 5%.

Which of course is great news! Growing fresh produce at home has so much going for it in terms of healthiness and sustainability : cutting down food miles, reducing the use of carbon fuels for machinery and giving us access to low-cost organic food. We actually have 565000 hectares of garden land in this country so we could do a lot more of it. But not everyone wants to spend much of their precious free time gardening even if they like the idea of home-grown veg in theory - I'm sure that's one reason you can still see so many gardens laid down to just grass or hard surfaces. But less time-consuming perennial vegetable gardening is starting to catch on - perhaps it will become rare to be bare!

Edible plants on the plan

Apple - Malus domestica
Morello cherry - Prunus cerasus
Mahonia (Oregon grape) - Mahonia aquifolium
Ostrich fern - Matteuccia struthiopteris
Lemon balm - Melissa officinalis
Apple mint - Mentha suaveolens
Hosta (plantain lilies) - Hosta genus - look for recommended species for eating
Alpine strawberry - Fragaria vesca
Caucasian spinach - Hablitzia tamnoides
Solomon's seal - Polygonatum x hybridum
Mountain sorrel - Oxyria digyna
Sweet violet - Viola odorata
Primrose - Primula vulgaris
Wild rocket - Diplotaxis tenuifolia
Oregano - Origanum vulgare
Bay - Laurus nobilis
Nettles - Urtica dioica
Good King Henry - Chenopodium bonus-henricus
Musk mallow - Malva moschata
Tree onion - Allium x proliferum
Redcurrant - Ribes rubrum
Fuchsia - Fuchsia species - look for recommended species for edible berries
Blueberry - Vaccinium genus, Cyanococcus section
Blue Danube potato - blight-resistant var. with blue flowers and purple tubers
Oca - Oxalis tuberosa
Potato bean (hopniss, American groundnut) - Apios americana
Scorzonera - Scorzonera hispanica
Skirret - Sium sisarum
Mallow 'Mystic Merlin' - cultivar of Malva sylvestris
Portuguese kale (couve galega) - Brassica oleracea acephala
Daylilies - Hemerocallis genus - look for recommended species for eating
Rosemary - Rosemarinus officinalis
Globe artichoke - Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus
Sea kale - Crambe maritima
Peach - Prunus persica
Babington leek - Allium babingtonii
Lavender - Lavendula angustifolia
Variegated Daubenton kale - Brassica oleracea ramosa 'Daubenton Panache'
Strawberry - Fragaria x ananassa
Grape - Vitis vinifera
Thyme - Thymus vulgaris
Buckler-leaved sorrel - Rumex scutatus
Garden sorrel - Rumex acetosa (non-flowering form best for the position on plan)
Buck's horn plantain - Plantago coronopus
Chives - Allium schoenoprasum
Ice plant - Sedum spectabilis
Saltbush - Atriplex halimus

N.B. I sell a range of perennial vegetable plants on my website.