Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:24 pm
In a near-natural fruit and vegetable garden, diverse crops are important. They attract numerous useful insects, and birds and mammals also like to set up shop. In the end, the harvest is more abundant because pollination of the flowers was ideal and pests were exterminated in time. We present 10 remarkable plants for the permaculture garden that come with many talents.
Speaking of harvesting: Perennial plants are the first choice in the permaculture garden. Ideally, this creates a permanent system (very much in the permaculture spirit) that is self-sustaining, meaning it requires little human intervention.
For example, certain cabbages can lignify in some places and with this special protection can easily survive several winters. Winter hedge onions reproduce industriously via breeding bulbs and develop a large horst in this way. They are ideal for planting in tree discs and thus become part of a “fruit tree community”. Many perennial plants also develop a deep root system, which makes them robust and provides excellent protection against drought.
Permaculture gardening: a lot of yield with little effort
The whole horticultural endeavour is to help plants grow – but no more than necessary. The garden trend “lazy gardening” thus fits perfectly with the principles of permaculture, especially since purposeful overgrowth does have its charm!
“Let nature regulate and learn from the feedback” (according to David Holmgren).
When it comes to plants for the permaculture garden, multi-talents are especially in demand. Beauty does not have to be neglected, as nature is known to produce wonderful flowers. Fruit trees, vegetables, herbs and flowers show themselves together in lavish abundance and provide numerous culinary delights.
Particularly worthy of mention in this context are plants that are able to bind nitrogen from the air (for example, butterfly plants such as lupines, but also many woody species). When their roots expand, a cut is made or leaves fall to the ground, neighbouring plants also benefit from the work of the little helpers in the soil (certain bacteria that form a symbiosis with the plant). In the long term, less fertiliser needs to be bought and applied. Even inhospitable locations can be made suitable for gardening through the targeted use of nitrogen fixers.
10 recommended plants for the permaculture garden
The following plants are a real enrichment for the low-maintenance garden, which offers many delicacies:
- pea bush
The pea bush (Caragana arborescens) is an ornamental heat artist from Siberia that holds its own even in poor soil and can withstand low winter temperatures without complaint. As a butterfly plant that forms a symbiosis with nodule bacteria, it mainly supplies itself with nitrogen from the air. If it is planted between fruit trees, these can also benefit from the nutrient supply. Its roots reach deep into the soil so that the soil is well protected from erosion. The shrub produces pods with small peas that are used in Siberian cuisine, although their safety as food is not entirely clear.
Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) is an undemanding wild herb that comes into its own in salads and pesto with its pleasant lemony flavour. The shoot tips and flower buds can also be added to various vegetable dishes in cooked form. Although it is admittedly not one of the absolute eye-catchers in the garden, sorrel is a valuable plant in the garden. It develops very long roots, loosens deeper soil layers and usually survives dry periods without any problems.
There are about 30 species of mint (Mentha) and over 200 varieties with a wide range of aromas. For example, the typical aroma of peppermint (Mentha x piperta) is due to its high menthol content. In the permaculture garden, mints are important for several reasons: besides their usefulness in cooking and folk medicine, many species are hardy and assertive. Through runners they are able to quickly cover larger areas. They are often used as underplanting for woody plants. Mints are also an excellent bee pasture. But a little caution is advisable: in some locations they can tend to become overgrown. However, this tendency to grow can be exploited by harvesting them and using them as mulch plants in other areas.
- tree cabbage
The tree cabbage (Brassica oleracea ssp.) is currently experiencing a comeback, because the advantages are obvious. It is a tall growing perennial cabbage with good winter hardiness. Its leaves are used in various vegetable dishes or stewed like kale. The “eternal cabbage” does not form heads and hardly ever flowers – it puts all its energy into the leaves. If the voles spare it in winter, you can enjoy the plant for many years. Special varieties are also available in the trade, for example ‘Daubenton’s Green’.
- sea kale
Sea cabbage (Crambe maritima), also called sea kale or shore cabbage, is a perennial and long-lived member of the cruciferous family that is found wild on the shingle beaches of western and northern Europe. In spring it shows an abundance of small white flowers that smell a little like honey. The stems, young leaves and flower heads can be harvested as early as April. Sea cabbage can also be prepared in a similar way to asparagus. The bleached stems (a container is put over them) are a special treat raw and cooked.
- perennial rocket
The wild rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia) is very easy to cultivate. Its dark green, fine-toothed leaves have a wild-tart flavour. The plant is perennial and hardy and can even be harvested in winter when there is no snow. It likes to spread in the garden and is not very demanding on the soil.
- tiered bulbs
The remarkable thing about the perennial bulb (Allium x proliferum) is its ability to form small bulbs, the so-called incubating bulbs, instead of flowers and seeds while still on the flower stalk at a lofty height. This is where the frequently used name “air bulb” comes from. Under the increasing weight, the stems bend over time, so that the incubating bulbs eventually land in the soil and new plants emerge from them. The bulbs in the ground, the leaves as well as the incubating bulbs can be harvested.
Daylilies (Hemerocallis) are long-lasting, uncomplicated flowering perennials that provide weeks of colour. An exciting discovery is that they also fit wonderfully into a permaculture garden, as their young leaves, flowers and even the tubers are edible. The amazing thing about this plant is also the flower development – a single flower lasts only a day. Especially when unopened (exactly one day before flowering), the buds are a delight when cooked or raw.
- cut garlic
The perennial cut garlic (Allium tuberosum) is the perfect seasoning herb for all those who appreciate the aromatic taste of garlic but are happy to forego the “after-effects” typical of garlic. The plant from the allium family can be harvested like chives. The perennial originally comes from Asia, where it has been used for a long time. From July onwards, chives show their white flowers, which are often visited by bees.
10 Siberian purslane
The hardy Siberian purslane (Montia sibirica) is also a remarkable plant with charming flowers. It is an excellent year-round salad plant that can even cope with deep shade and withstand strong root pressure and long periods of drought. It can also hold its own as a ground cover under conifers. The plant forms beautiful carpets in no time without ever becoming a nuisance.