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Creating an edible garden

Creating an edible garden

Ecological garden design Sid Hill explains how to grow edibles throughout your garden – no need for a veg patch!

Where to start with your garden design

First create an ingredients list of the features you want to include. Once you know what you want, you can make a moodboard on Pinterest (or similar) to collate your ideas. Look at the layout and shapes in other garden designs to get a better idea of what you want for your space. If you’re stuck, overlay another garden design you like on the base plan of your garden [see here for creating a base plan]. This can often open up ideas and get creativity flowing.

How to go from nature to plate

Rather than (or as well as) incorporating an annual vegetable patch into the design, use edible plants throughout. While a veg plot needs a very sunny spot, edible perennials can be used anywhere when you match the plant to the right conditions. Many are beautiful and also great for wildlife. Growing edible trees, shrubs, herbs and climbers is also easier and less intensive than annual vegetables. 

Plant fruiting trees, particularly on dwarf rootstocks, as this allows you to fit more into the garden. Amelanchier, Cornelian cherry and plum trees work well. Plant climbers to grow up the trees such as kiwiberry, goji berry and perennial caucasian spinach. Dot characterful currant bushes throughout the garden and in a few years you’ll have an abundance of nutritional fruits for you and wildlife. Create texture with herbs like fennel and cover the ground with strawberries to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.

Top plant combo

Growing an edible garden that mimics how plants grow in the wild can be done on any scale. The idea is that they are in a mutually beneficial community. Bring together plants to harvest, to fix nutrients, for pollinators, for groundcover, and any particular needs such as tea or medicine. In one bed you could have: 


ο Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata), a small tree with tasty fruit. It also fixes nitrogen.

ο Honeyberry (Lonicera caerulea), a shrub in the honeysuckle family that’s tough and easy to grow. It can cope with freezing temperatures and drought. It produces blueberry-like fruits. 

ο Bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’) is another super-tough plant. It has incredible bronze foliage that provides textural interest and its feathery leaf structure allows light through to the ground layer and enables smaller plants to grow below it. 

ο Yacón (Smallanthus sonchifolius), a large herbaceous plant from South America that produces sweet and crisp tubers. Large tubers help break up the soil and create pockets of air which improve its structure. 

ο Sweet violet (Viola odorata), a low, spreading, evergreen perennial – the young leaves and flower buds can be eaten raw or cooked. It covers the ground, protecting the soil from the elements.

Garden and landscape consultant specialising in permaculture, ethnobotany and sustainability |


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This article was adapted from issue 7

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