12 perennial vegetables to grow for a low-maintenance allotment

12 perennial vegetables to grow for a low-maintenance vegetable garden or allotment | H is for Home

You may or may not have noticed that we haven’t done an update about our allotment in quite a while. Yes, we still have it. Unfortunately, because of Justin’s back injury, poor weather and neglect due to time pressures, this year has been a wipe out!

In an ideal world, we’d potter about amongst the fruit and veg every day – alas, this just isn’t possible at the moment. We’ve come to the conclusion that, for the time being, we’d be much better off concentrating on low-maintenance perennial vegetables. We’ve done a bit of research online and from Eric Toensmeier’s book, Perennial Vegetables. This is our short list of 12 that we’re going to try out.

Allium fistulosum - Welsh onion

Allium fistulosum – Welsh onion

It may say Welsh on the tin, but this allium actually originates in China. We think it would be perfect for our allotment. Not only is it good for cooking and eating, it’s a beautiful ornamental when it’s in flower. It’s used widely in East Asia in miso soup, stir fries and in salad garnish.

Available here

Allium ursinum - Wild garlic, damsons, wood garlic

Allium ursinum – Wild garlic, damsons, wood garlic

Wild garlic grows… well, wild in lots of places near where we live. We have an old tin bath that we planted up with a few wild garlic bulbs a couple of years ago. It absolutely loves the dark, damp spot where we put it and its spread has already doubled. We’ll dig up a bit of it and replant it in a similar position on the allotment. We look forward to the wild garlic season every year, we use the leaves a lot in cooking.

Available here

Growing asparagus in a pot

Asparagus officinalis – Asparagus

Asparagus is one vegetable that I wish we’d cook and eat more often. It’s always so expensive in the shops – and it’s almost always thick, fibrous spears on offer. Because the soil in or garden and on our allotment isn’t at all sandy, we think we’ll grown a little asparagus in containers. Maybe one green, one white and one purple.

Lots of people say that it can’t grow in pots but we’ve seen on the internet that it can be done. Apparently, the container needs to be very deep with very good drainage – so we were thinking of using a couple of old metal dolly tubs. The downside of container-grown asparagus is that it doesn’t live anywhere near the 10-20 years that it does in open ground and the resulting spears can be a little spindly. The upside is that the taste of asparagus cut from the earth and cooked within hours is incredible – as is the feeling of knowing you’ve grown it yourself.

Available here

Brassica oleracea botrytis asparagoides - Broccoli, Nine Star Perennial

Brassica oleracea botrytis asparagoides – Broccoli, Nine Star Perennial

A broccoli that looks like a cauliflower and is a perennial? We’d never heard of it! Each head grows to the size of a tennis ball – so the perfect portion. It would be great roasted or served with a cheese sauce and a crunchy breadcrumb topping.

Available here

Cynara scolymus - Globe artichokes

Cynara scolymus – Globe artichoke

Yes, it’s a faff to prepare. Yes, there’s a lot of wastage in its preparation. But you never see it in the supermarket and rarely on a veg stall at the market. And it’s such a show-stopping, architectural plant in the garden or on the allotment; we think it earns its place on this list.

Available here

Helianthus tuberosus - Jerusalem artichoke, sunchoke

Helianthus tuberosus – Jerusalem artichoke, sunchoke

Another vegetable that you don’t see in the supermarket, the Jerusalem artichoke (it’s not an artichoke… and nothing to do with Jerusalem for that matter!) is a relative of the sunflower. As such, this perennial root vegetable doubles up as an ornamental having bright yellow flowers on a stem that can grow 5-10 foot tall.

Available here

Matteuccia struthiopteris - ostrich ferns and fiddleheads

Matteuccia struthiopteris – ostrich fern, shuttlecock fern

It’s the young unfurled fronds, or fiddleheads, of the ostrich fern that can be eaten – not raw though. Neither of us have ever tried them, but they are meant be delicious sautéed in butter. They contain omega-3 & omega-6 fatty acids, fibre, potassium, antioxidants… full of goodness!

Available here

Phaseolus coccineus - Scarlet runner beans

Phaseolus coccineus – Scarlet runner beans

The pods of the scarlet runner bean conceal the most beautiful beans! Eat them in their pods while they’re still young & tender, cook the shelled beans from fresh or dry and store them for a later date. Grow & train the plant up a wigwam or trellis where you can appreciate the scarlet flowers in all their glory. Even the roots are edible – a true perennial all-rounder!

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Polygonatum biflorum canaliculatum - Solomon's seal

Polygonatum biflorum canaliculatum – Solomon’s seal

We’ve had a pot of Solomon’s Seal in our garden for years and never knew that it’s an edible plant. Talking of all-rounders, the starchy rhizomes of Solomon’s seal can be used to make bread and soup, the young stems can be eaten like asparagus and it’s used in herbal medicine as an anti-inflammatory, sedative and a tonic.

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Rheum rhabarbarum - Rhubarb

Rheum rhabarbarum – Rhubarb

One of my favourites! I love it in pies, crumble and as a compote atop plain yoghurt. We may use it like a fruit, but it’s actually a vegetable, similar to celery.  It’s a beautiful, sculptural plant with its huge, tropical-looking leaves at the end of bright pink stalks. It’s only these stalks that are edible – the leaves are famously poisonous… but they are terrific for the compost heap, the toxic oxalic acid quickly breaks down. Rhubarb is known as a bit of a bully and can become rampant, so keep an eye on its spread. We already have a couple of varieties growing in dolly tubs in our garden.

Available here

Scorzonera hispanica - black salsify

Scorzonera hispanica – black salsify

If you live in a cold part of the country like we do, black salsify can cope with that. Another relative of the sunflower, it has lovely yellow flowers. If you’re growing carrots on your allotment, use this as a companion plant as it’s believed to repel carrot fly. Another nutritious root vegetable, it’s rich in potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, and various vitamins.

Available here

Urtica dioica - Stinging nettle

Urtica dioica – Stinging nettle

Most people see stinging nettle as a weed, a pest. Poor thing, it doesn’t deserve that reputation! It’s really versatile. We inherited a couple of patches, which we have left alone, when we took on our allotment (their presence is an indicator of a good quality soil!).

Pick the young leaves (wearing gardening gloves) and cook with them in much the same way as you would use spinach. It’s full of protein, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. It can be used to brew tea and beer. Use the leaves and roots to make natural dyes. Even the stalks can be used to make a textile similar to linen. Soak it in a large watering can or water butt to produce home-made liquid fertiliser. Insects love it,  If you keep chickens, feed it to them and the yolks of their eggs even more yellow. If you still feel the need to uproot it, put it on your compost heap, it’s full of nitrogen which helps in the breakdown of the organic material. What’s not to love about the humble stinging nettle?

Get their look: Vibrant patio garden

Pink vibrant patio gardencredit

This vibrant patio garden may be pink, but don’t think it’s all girlie – there’s a fabulous BBQ installed which would please the most manly of grill masters!

The design makes great use of limited space with numerous spots to sit and separate cooking and dining areas. Again, space is used to the maximum by incorporating the vertical in the planting scheme.

To complete the look, the garden is almost completely white-washed to expand and bounce light around the enclosure. The pink of the seating is picked up in the choice of flowering plants.

  1. Handmade patchwork cushion
  2. Pink floral print cushion cover
  3. The Original Chaise indoor/outdoor beanbag
  4. Gardman Hampton candle lanterns (55cm tall)
  5. Napoleon LE 485 BBQ with side burner
  6. Re-Trouvé outdoor chair by Patricia Urquiola
  7. Re-Trouvé outdoor dining table by Patricia Urquiola

Get their look: Vibrant patio garden | H is for Home

Price Points: Garden arches

Selection of garden arches | H is for Home

Our thoughts have turned to garden arches for this week’s Price Points. A bit random perhaps, but they’ve cropped up in a couple of conversations recently – that’s often a good starting point for this blog series. They’re perfect for climbing flowers or vegetables – clematis, sweet peas, french beans and the like. The ends can go into the ground or into two large pots.

Justin’s parents want one for an access between their driveway to their garden, we thought one would look nice in our garden to add structure – and we also have plenty of space at the allotment. We love mid-range #2 – the action of pushing through gates and passing under an arch to enter our little allotment would make it feel like a grand entrance!

  1. Easy arch 2m x 1.4m black: £9.99, Two Wests & Elliott
  2. Spiral garden arch and gates: £79.99, Amazon
  3. Wrenbury round top arch: £141.00, Taylors Garden Buildings

5 Tips for getting your garden ready for summer

back and side gardencredit

During the winter months, many British gardens can find themselves neglected and look a tad melancholy. Most plants have died back, there have been months of long, dark, cold days where few people feel like venturing out into the garden. There are lots of things you could do in the coming weeks to help get your garden ready for summer.

Raking up leaves in a gardencredit

1. Have a spring clean

Spring is the best time to tackle a bit of garden maintenance. Sweep up, take a bucket of soapy water to garden furniture, check that gates and fences are upright and secure. Does anything need a lick of paint or wood preservative? Is the guttering full of autumn leaves? Is the barbecue rusty?

Garden with wild flower meadowcredit

2. Sow annuals and bulbs

Nothing makes a garden more attractive than colourful, scented, flowering plants. For a quick and easy fix, you can sow annual native wild flower seeds; corncockles and corn marigolds, poppies and buttercups. Bulbs are the gift that keep on giving; they’re low maintenance and the flowers come back year after year. We planted some dolly tubs with mixed bulbs about 18 months ago and they’ve been providing colour and beauty to our garden once again since January this year. We can’t recommend them highly enough.

Collection of colourful garden plant potscredit

3. Re-pot plants that have outgrown their containers

Most plants are dormant in early spring, the ideal time to divide and re-pot plants that have become crowded and pot-bound. Whether you’re after a few new terracotta, metal or plastic containers, you can find a large range of pots, planters and window boxes online. Not only will you get more plants, you’ll be rewarded with stronger, healthier ones that will flower more profusely.

Patio garden with brazier and strings of lights and buntingcredit

4. Decorate

Decorating isn’t just for indoors. There are often large expanses of shabby wall or fence that could be livened up with paint or trellis. Perhaps you’ve got room for a shed, summer house or shepherd’s hut – somewhere to decamp on long hot days. Create a designated al fresco dining space. Put up strings of bunting and fairy lights. Consider sculptures and water features that can bring added interest and focal points to an outside space. Install a couple of gnomes if that’s more to your taste! 🙂

Butterflies on flowers in a gardencredit

5. Don’t forget the wildlife!

Visiting wildlife brings interest to a garden. It’s easy to entice them in – birds, insects, frogs and toads… even the odd hedgehog or two if you’re lucky! Make your garden a welcoming haven; provide food and water stations and places to shelter, nest and spawn. Nectar-rich flowers are loved by all sorts of critters. You’ll soon be rewarded with the buzz of bees, the song of blackbirds and robins, colourful finches and butterflies flitting about – and perhaps some fledglings to watch grow up.

Get their look: Sociable patio space

Sociable patio spacecredit

We’ve had a couple of really lovely sunny days in the past week and we’ve been making the most of them. We’ve tidied up our back garden and planted the first few bulbs and seeds on the allotment.

This sociable patio space is just the type of thing we like. It’s not huge, but the white-painted fence and decking as well as the split level areas makes it appear much larger than it actually is. The patio is cleverly ‘zoned’ with separate places for eating and lounging. The collection of mirrors bounce light around and, along with the artwork, bring the inside out.

  1. Wrought iron garden set
  2. Striped cushion cover
  3. Brass flamingo sculptures
  4. Circular mosaic mirror
  5. Frosted high ball glasses
  6. Poly-rattan garden furniture set

Get their look: sociable patio space | H is for Home

Home Tones: Terracotta

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Armchair in front of a wood-burning stovecredit

This week’s Home Tone is terracotta. We’re sticking with the natural material for our images – whether it be floor tiles, brickwork or pots. This is our favourite use of the colour, particularly when it’s aged or weathered. The baked clay of terracotta comes in various shades from light & chalky to dark orange, but they all tend to have a warm, natural feel. It works really well with creams and greens – and other natural materials such as sea grass and cane – and pale woods such as light oak or beech.

Red brick garden shedcredit

terracotta feature wall and floor in a kitchencredit

Urban roof terrace with red brick feature wall and terracotta planterscredit

Blue painted fitted kitchen with red brick stove alcove and terracotta floorcredit

sitting room with light coloured terracotta floorcredit

fruit trees in giant terracotta pots on a patiocredit

dining room with red brick wall with large painting of wooden spoonscredit