January 2018 III: adding perennials to the no-dig garden

Much of traditional vegetable gardening is taken up with sowing and transplanting annual plants.

Many natural foods in the wild are either truly perennial or quasi-perennial (each plant lives 5-10 years) and introducing some of these can reduce work in the garden without sacrificing yield.

In addition, other perennial plants may grow well in shade, provide pollen for bees and other pollinators or offer pest resistance traits to neighbouring vegetables.

Perennials include:

1. Fruit trees (apples, pears, cherries, plums are most common around here)

2. Fruit bushes/canes/brambles (raspberry, gooseberry, blackcurrant, elderberry, blackberry and sloe seem most common here)

3. Perennial leaves – I have incorporated tree cabbage and sorrel into the garden in 2017.

4. Perennial stalks – I planted a new set of Timperley Early rhubarb in autumn 2017 to go with the long-established asparagus crowns.

5. Perennial herbs – I have added yarrow, sage, lovage, chives and oregano in the past three years.

6. Perennial mulch – I planted comfrey Bocking 14 four years ago.

7. Perennial pollinators – I have planted wallflowers (in photo below) and borage on borders (hoping the borage will self seed in a perennial manner).

By incorporating 10-20 perennial plants each year, soon the garden will have recurring food, flowers, mulch, pollinators and colour without annual effort.


For further information about perennial plants for the garden, see: ‘Perennial Vegetables’ by William Blackburn ISBN 9781539736783.