|Broadforking a large new vegetable bed|
First of all, I'd identify the sunniest, best drained land by walking the land at diffent times in different conditions, like after heavy rain (be aware that light levels might quite different in winter, but spring to autumn levels are really the most important since that's mainly when you're growing). If it's sheltered as well - super. Otherwise hedge planting has to be top priority - put in a temporary windbreak fabric fence until the hedge is established (about three years). If it's reasonably level ground - even better, but you can work with terracing. It should also have easy access to water for watering (not so crucial in Scotland, but elsewhere it could be). If it's downhill from the house you can easily collect rainwater from your roof to water your veg.
Vegetables and herbs
|Last year's squash bed|
|Part of the large herb garden|
|This area will eventually be totally |
given over to perennial veg
If you think your ground is suitable consider no dig, in which case you can use cardboard as your base layer and top it with compost and organic matter. This uses a lot of compost, however, so think about cost implications. I'd advise trying to dig in several spots first, to see just how stony the ground is and what drainage is like. Much of our ground was very stony and drainage needed to be improved so no dig will have to wait. On the other hand, if your ground is too stony to do anything with, possibly the best way is up: making huegelkultur beds on top. That is, if it's not too windy to go upwards! We ended up making an underground huegel in a particularly wet part of ground.
In addition to the four large beds, I'd have a dozen raised beds for lettuces, salad leaves, beetroot, chard and crops that do better in raised beds such as celeriac. These beds don't have to have permanent structures; they can just be created by mounding up the soil. In this area there also needs to be space for an easy to move pea fence or trellis.
Somewhere near the house, I'd set up a herb garden with lots of perennial herbs and some annuals. This would also incorporate edible flowers, wild flowers and medicinal herbs (often the same plants!).
Next on the agenda would be an area dedicated to perennial vegetables, with some luxury crops such as globe artichokes and asparagus, some great staples such as Daubenton's kale, Good King Henry and a few varieties of perennial onions and some of those tubers that keep on coming like Jerusalem artichokes and oca.
|The last of the winter crops and |
the first of the spring crops
Fruit and nutsWhen it comes to soft fruit, I'd get all my cuttings from other gardeners if possible, since they are so easy to grow from cuttings, especially currants and gooseberries. The same goes for vigorous rhubarb - a split of a plant that does well in your area is the way to go - and strawberry runners (which will need to replaced every three years to maintain vigour, easily done by taking runners from your plants in the summer after the harvest is done).
|The orchard four years on|
When it comes to fruit trees, I'd again err on the side of too many. We've ended up with eleven apple trees, two pears, two plums, two mirabelles, two mulberries, three cherries and one quince. It's crucial to get the pollination groups right, especially if you're in a remote area with no other fruit trees around! The one thing I would change next time is to make sure to have a couple of apple trees with apples that store really well; usually these are the late-fruiting varieties. We only went by flavour in our selection so none of our apples store particularly well without processing them.
|Edible hedging around the veg garden|
If I lived in a climate where they'd crop, I'd also plant lots of nut trees such as walnut, cobnuts and sweet chestnut. Now this is a really long-term proposition! Sadly, although they grow well enough here they only rarely produce a usable crop, with the one exception of hazelnuts - but we've yet to harvest a single nut from our 10+-year-old trees. In the meantime, we're going have a go at growing tiger nuts instead.
Following a programme like this will give a high degree of food self-sufficiency in just a few years, without needing to sacrifice interest and variety in the diet.