Design for our permaculture garden

Today I would like to share with you the design I’ve created for our new garden. Having a garden of this size is a dream come true and I have spent countless hours pouring over the map and trying to fit in all that I have ever wished to grow but never had enough space for.

First, some basic facts: the plot is rectangular, measuring 21 meters (69 feet) by 46 meters (150 feet). The soil is sandy but the topsoil is quite deep and fairly rich in humus (for sand soil). Prevailing winds are from the south west but the site is not very exposed and there are sheltering trees both south and west of our plot (but not directly next to it). Most of the plot receives full sun. The east & north side border a path and a sand road, the remaining two border other gardens. One of these is also being developed into an edible forest which means there will be good chances of cross-pollination for most species. Plus our neighbours keep bees, which is obviously great for pollination, too. We have consulted each other’s planting lists, and I‘m sure it will also be possible to swap produce (fruit) in the future so that we can both enjoy even more variety.

grown to cook garden
There are three existing trees: a hazel, a pear and a plum. Both the hazel and the pear are pretty old and very tall (about 6 meters), the plum has been planted more recently and is much smaller. We do not yet know what varieties they are. The hazel is in the middle of the plot and I have long thought about whether to keep it or not. It is a wild hazel, so the nuts are rather small, it does not seem completely healthy and its position has a huge impact on the design. In the end we decided to keep it – it and the pear give a sense of maturity to what would otherwise be a bare field and I’m sure that come summer, we will also be thankful for the shade.
To create some privacy and a sense of enclosure, we will be planting a mixed hedge of mainly native fruiting shrubs: hazel, elder, sloe, dogwood, roses and sea buckthorn. In time this should also create nesting opportunities for birds and become a source of food for wildlife. If they do not eat everything, we might be able to harvest from the hedge too. Plus it will provide a windbreak from the north-east winds, which though not the most common, are the coldest we get.
The southern part of the plot is where we will grow our annual vegetables (and some cut flowers, I hope). We have 12 large raised beds and 4 small ones and hopefully we can also add a greenhouse in the future. Most of the beds are now in place and filled with compost – 6 wheelbarrows to a bed.

raised beds
The rest of the plot will be planted as an edible forest, moving gradually from the most fussy trees (peach and apricot) to the tougher, wilder plants such as hazel, medlar, hawthorn and rowan. The tree that in time will be the tallest is the walnut and that one is situated in the northern corner of the plot. This tree is the only one we have planted so far and it is a so-called ‘family tree’ with two varieties grafted on a single rootstock: ‘Broadview’ and ‘Red Donau’.

walnut family tree
Most of the species and varieties I have chosen should do fairly well in our climate. The biggest gamble is the peach and apricot – it is a risk I am only taking because we love the fruit so much and finding truly ripe peaches and apricots in a store has become impossible. Because of their early flowering, the blossom is very susceptible to frost damage and peach is also susceptible to leaf curl in our rainy climate. Which is why they are getting a prime spot between the pond and a hügel bed we’ll be building from all the plant material we have collected so far. The body of water should modify temperature and help protect the trees from spring frosts. I have also chosen the healthiest varieties available. But we’ll see – ask me again in 5 years!

Scattered throughout the garden we’ll be planting some nitrogen-fixing shrubs (Elaeagnus & sea buckthorn) as a built-in fertilization.
I could go on and on about the reasons behind every decision but will stop here before I bore you to death, but if you have any questions about the design, let me know and I’ll be happy to answer!

See here how what progress we’ve made so far implementing the design:

The garden in 2016

The garden in 2017

11 comments for “Design for our permaculture garden

  1. Clare - family & fruit
    04/05/2020 at 23:22

    Followed a link here in from your YouTube comments. This plan and explanation are immensely helpful in understanding the garden we see on screen, and the size relative to my own (4x the size). Enjoy your lovely videos very much. Going to have a wander through this blog now.

  2. Bryan
    06/06/2019 at 20:27

    Can you share what program you use to make this design? I have been trying to find one for months

  3. Faith
    13/04/2019 at 15:42

    Hi Vera, I love your website, garden design and youtube videos, they are so inspiring and informative, thanks! I have done the PDC course in the UK and just wondered if you might sometime write a post/make a video about how you used the permaculture design process to come up with your garden design, it would be really interesting!

    Thanks again,


    • vera@gtc
      15/04/2019 at 09:15

      Thanks so much, Faith! I’ve been planning on doing a video on the design of our plot and the permaculture principles I incorporated for quite some time – I’ll try to make it happen soon 🙂 I’d also like to do some events in the UK this year since my English book EDIBLE PARADISE just came out – maybe we’ll meet in person? 😉

  4. 01/01/2018 at 15:19

    Great design, love the drawing as well. What software did you use?
    What are the measurements of the raised beds and what wood did you use. I have a nice garden design myself but will in part restructure e.g. I will make some raised bedside as well. Thanks

    • vera@gtc
      08/01/2018 at 14:40

      Thank you, Peter! Our raised beds measure 120 x 280 cm and are made of Douglas pine which has a good resistance to rot and (also important to us) is grown locally. Some of our beds are also treated with linseed oil based ecological paint – this is not necessary but does help to make them last longer. Good luck with your garden!

  5. Martijn Aalbrecht
    13/03/2016 at 23:25

    Wat een goed design en grafisch ook mooi vormgegeven. Ik vroeg mij af of je nog extra stikstofbinders/nurture trees plant die er weer uit gaan als de andere bomen groter zijn.
    Als de wand aan de noordkant van de kas niet dicht gaat met ivm isolatie/opslag van warmte dan creëer je naast de kas een microklimaat waar je mogelijk nog je voordeel mee kunt doen.
    Zelf probeer ik nu al een aantal jaar een bostuin aan te leggen in de buurt van Beckum. Helaas heb ik afgelopen winter na 3 jaar de avalone pride eruit gehaald omdat de boom niet wilde aanslaan, dus hopelijk heb jij meer succes. Ik heb oa divers soorten elaeagnus soorten, waar je eventueel wel stekjes van kan nemen.

    • vera@gtc
      15/03/2016 at 17:21

      Dank je wel, Martijn!
      Ja, er komen een aantal stikstofbindene struiken, een aantal verschillende soorten elaeagnus tussen de fruitbomen + duindoorn in de gemengde haag. Maar de grond is (voor zandgrond) vrij goed omdat hier al lange tijd biologisch werd getuinierd. De perzik is inderdaad een gok – ik probeer de boom een beschut microklimaat te geven, maar hoe het gaat, zal zich wijzen. De kas zal niet meteen komen, waaschijnlijk pas over een paar jaar. Ik zal dan kijken hoe ik de extra warmte goed kan gebruiken. Ik vind het leuk om een keer bij jou te komen kijken, maar voorlopig zijn we elk vrij moment bezig met het aanleggen van deze tuin 🙂

      • Martijn Aalbrecht
        16/03/2016 at 22:16

        Succes de komende periode bij de aanleg. Zodra je wat meer tijd hebt ben je uiteraard van harte welkom om een keer te komen kijken. Het is altijd leuk om je project te delen en zo mogelijk tips en trucs te krijgen!

  6. 13/03/2016 at 15:46

    That’s an ambitious plan but It’s going to be great when you get it established. I know nothing about the European hazels, but I wonder if yours is the sort you could coppice for a supply of sticks. Also, aren’t you concerned about the juglone in the walnut roots inhibiting other plants? It’s a real problem here, especially for tomatoes and their relatives. Keep posting your progress. I’m envious!

    • vera@gtc
      13/03/2016 at 22:34

      Hi Mark, it is ambitious, but we’re taking our time to plant the garden 🙂 Hopefully most of the trees will get planted this spring but the other layers will come later. Hazels can be coppiced here, too, but this one is fully grown and beautiful – you seldom find a hazel this size here. So we’ve decided to keep it as a tree. Still it will produce some sticks, too, that we’ll be able to cut. I am also planting hazels in the hedge and these will be coppiced. The walnut we’re planting is Juglans regia, which is less allelopathic than the black walnut. It has some negative effect on other plants, but since it will take at least a decade before it reaches a substantial size, I am planting some other, less long lived plants in relative vicinity that we can harvest from in the meantime. Possibly they will have to be removed in the far future – we’ll see!

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