Design and Build a Low Maintenance Perennial Fruit and Herb Front Garden (UK)
Perennial Fruit and Herb Garden
Note: The plants listed below are as a guide — it is not a list of edible species. Please refer to culinary fruit and herb text books before using any plants in the kitchen or consuming any plants.
Not many people use their front garden. Front gardens are often laid to turf. Except for mowing the grass, or using the front door, the front garden goes largely ignored. Some people plant a mixture of plants including pollen plants which bring colour and can contribute towards the local ecosystem.
Using the following simple design, you can design and build your own garden, which will provide you with fresh and seasonal fruit, herbs for the kitchen, for delicious healthy teas, plus lovely fragrances and flowers throughout the year — with very little input. In fact this type of garden requires less maintenance than the regular mowing of a lawn.
This garden design focuses upon very low maintenance, perennial fruit and herb plants and easy accessibility. It was an attempt at making a garden that might appeal to people even if they had not heard of permaculture as an alternative to their front lawn. It is meant to be highly functional whilst looking attractive too. For this reason there is a wide path (90cm), quite a tall and easily accessible herb spiral close to the kitchen, and generally easy access to all parts of the garden. It is true that yield could be increased by intensive planting and introducing annual crop plants.
All the plants have been listed below — if you have no idea where to start, these will get you off to a good one. The names are in Latin so you can find the exact plants or very similar should you wish. The trees are specifically chosen for a small garden (on dwarfing root stocks) and are either self fertile or cross-pollinating. All the fruit-providing plants have been chosen to give fruits throughout the season — early, mid and late. You can always add more or choose different varieties.
The plan has a scale and orientation, why not adapt it to your front garden if you are looking for a design? There are many great examples of herb spirals shared on the internet made from all sorts of materials — choose a material which best suits you and treat yourself to a free and perpetual supply of fresh and dried garden herbs.
All of the materials and plants came to a total of GBP£1,025 (approx US$1,800). Allow around 10-14 days to gather materials and construct the garden. New materials were used throughout totaling GBP£550 (approx $950) so to save money, use reclaimed, recycled or found materials. The trees and fruit bushes cost GBP£140 (approx $250) bought from Hattens Farm, Harleston, Norfolk, UK (Tel. 01379 586325). The herbs and other plants cost a total of GBP£335 (approx $600). The herbs were bought from www.laurelfarmherbs.co.uk and the other perennials and seeds from www.woottensplants.com.
Make a rough sketch plan and annotate with measurements to make a scale drawing. It’s really worth doing a scale drawing as this helps to calculate the quantity of materials needed and the number and positioning of plants. Once you have your base map drawn you can trace/photocopy it to do sketch concepts that are in proportion. It can be helpful to draw a little sun shining towards the garden to keep you orientated, and also a little stick person perhaps 1.8m tall x 50cm wide on your sketch plan to give you a context of scale.
Record all the information you can about the garden on your field sketch plan — most important is the aspect (to the sun) so use a compass ideally, otherwise at least note where the sun is and record this on your sketch plan.
Note landscape features such as walls, existing shrubs, plants and hedges, gates, pathways, taps, drain covers, outdoor lights and plugs. It is also very helpful to know where any pipes or wires run underground and to avoid planting trees and shrubs near these, and if digging deep down for any reason, to exercise caution with your shovel!
Make a list, or take some photos of the existing shrubs if it is a client’s garden so you can easily refer to these if working from home/away from the site.
Existing shrubs in this garden (forming the surrounding hedge):
- Hypericum perforatum
- Berberis julianae
- Viburnum tinus
- Rhododendron moerheim
- Mahonia aquifolium
- Buddleia davidii
- Ceonothus sp.
- Viburnum Sp.
- Cotoneaster sp.
- Syringa vulgaris
- Potentilla fruticosa
- Berberis sp.
- Spirea sp.
- Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Variegata’
- Philadelphus coronarius
- Laurus nobilis
- Rosa Sp. Pink
- Rosa Sp. Red
Consider the characteristics of the garden and site, think about all the potentials, imagine the garden humming and buzzing with life and flowers. Bring it to life in your mind and go through all the features you noted in your survey. Think about the potentials, whether it’s where and how you will capture/collect water, or growing plants up or on something… the design principles are excellent for visualizing and covering all bases, plus acronyms such as PASE (Plants, Animals, Structures, Events), even if it’s a little garden, you can still imagine friends and family visiting and how they may use the garden, or if there is a toddler’s birthday… things that will delight them! Think about attracting animals or accommodating for domestic pets. You may think about features such as pergolas for shade and growing climbers or as in this case a herb spiral. REAP MORE (Reason, Explore, Assess, Place, Maintain, Observe, Refine, Enjoy) — all of these factors should be considered and projected into the future when thinking about your design.
If it’s not your garden you are designing, consider carefully the needs and hopes of your client. If they work a lot, or go away often, or if they have children, are active or not, social or keep to themselves, etc., all these factors can influence your design proposal.
Case study – mental notes assessing this garden
This garden has a great aspect, with the sun blessing the garden most of the day. A south facing garage wall just in the NE corner of the garden can be good for growing up. An existing concrete path gives good access to the rear garden and all along the front garden. The garden already has one existing triangular bed by the driveway and another bed under the kitchen window, which is in shade most of the day. The existing hedge is well established, a great windbreak and backdrop in the right place — not shading the garden. Most of the existing shrubs are flowering and good for pollinators too.
The soil is very dry, compacted and sandy, almost like rock! The garden has not been used for quite a few years judging by all the metal and plastic that is grown into the “lawn.”
A few really rotten logs full of insects were placed carefully out of the way under the existing hedge in the shade to preserve their habitat.
The garden already has some nice wild fennel, comfrey and a couple of roses that can all be easily relocated. Transplant these into the shady bed by the house until replanting the following week, water well when transplanting!
The client ideally doesn’t want to have to do much gardening, only harvesting. The summers can be hot and dry here, and the winters are pretty chilly being next to the North Sea. The client lives alone and doesn’t see her family much. She goes to the pub, social events and the theatre more than having guests round. She loves fruit trees, butterflies and the hum of bees. She is very exuberant, colourful and a thespian! She is interested in herbs and the uses of them and would like to get to know them. She says I can do what I want as long as there are fruit trees and no maintenance if possible. The budget is £1000 – 1500.
Front Garden with Perennial Fruit and Herbs, East Anglia, England, UK.
10 different fruits : 47 different herbs : 99% perennial : very low maintenance.
The garden in this example is 10metres x 10metres. The same principles can be applied to gardens of various sizes by scaling up. As a guide, for easy access make pathways 90cm wide, unless space is of the essence and you wish to grow as much food as possible, in which case make them narrower. Local 20mm gravel stone was used for the pathways; to be a durable, cheaper and permeable alternative to paving.
The layout can be orientated according to the sun. Keep the trees at the far end from the sun and orientate the horseshoe bed and path like a magnet towards the sun, which in the Northern hemisphere is in the South! Hopefully this simple design can be applied to lots of front gardens wherever appropriate.
Design for a suburban front garden for Northern Hemisphere
Looking down on the newly completed garden
The main features of this garden are:
- Herb spiral: with perennial kitchen herbs (Rosmarinus prostratus ‘Spicata’ was planted at the top, as this is dwarfing with a trailing habit).
- Fruit trees: pear, apple and plum trees with a fan-trained cherry, under-planted with guild plants (pollinator plants, mulch plants, tap rooters, N fixers) including a great variety of herbaceous perennials for culinary and medicinal use.
- Fruit bushes: a range of raspberries, gooseberries, blackcurrants and rhubarb with cultivated and wild strawberries as groundcover.
- Herbaceous perennials: under the fruit trees a range of culinary and medicinal herbs are planted, mixed together with some perennials which are really good for pollinating insects. All of the plants in this garden produce flowers and many are aromatic.
- Rose bed (with shade tolerant fragrant roses): with sorrel, strawberry, garlic chive (Allium tuberosum) and French sorrel (Rumex acetosa) for ground cover.
Before (August) and the first summer after (June)
Below is a table with retail prices from a builder’s merchant in the UK as a guide. You can probably be more creative in how you source your materials and save yourself a load of money!
Price (incl. delivery) £ GBP
1500kg Type one road stone (two large builder’s bulk bags)
1000kg 20mm Gravel (two large builder’s bulk bags)
180 red bricks(Tanner Red Mix)
200kg Soft sand
100kg sharp sand
3 bags cement
3 rolls of landscape membrane (for under the path)
17 x Gravel boards (22x150x3m/1”x6”x10’)
20 wooden pegs
Cardboard – collected
Large trailer of woodchip – delivered
8 Bags Compost, Bonemeal, screws, diesel
549.70 (approx $950)
Constructing the garden beds
The clippings and brush from the initial garden clearance/tidy were shredded with an electric chipper and piled underneath upturned turves along with some sticks, small branches and some logs to form new mounded Hugelkulture beds — this provides slow release humus and retains soil moisture. Over time this will break down and create worm food! Adding nutrients and retaining moisture was very important for the sandy dry soil here. The rotten logs that were in the garden were carefully placed under the existing hedge to remain as insect houses. These insects are essential in the garden for decomposing and composting, saving you some work! You may even get mushrooms, or inoculate some logs/wood chippings yourself with plugs, e.g. Shiitake on Oak chips or best, Silver Birch logs.
A Hugelkulture bed provides a long-term supply of organic matter and retains moisture. Photo: Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture, p. 40
Layering up the mini Hugelkulture beds: sticks, branches and logs at the bottom, chippings and
clippings next, soil and upturned turves, followed by cardboard sheet mulch and a final layer
Sheet mulching with cardboard and a layer of woodchips
The mounded Hugelkulture beds were sheet mulched with cardboard (collected free of charge from a co-operative supermarket). You can use thick layers of newspaper equally as well). They were then covered with 15cm of woodchip sourced from a local tree surgeon. In drier periods particularly, water the beds well before sheet mulching them so you are locking in moisture as opposed to blocking it out. When you layer the cardboard, once in position (making sure all the edges overlap by 15cm to make sure nothing can grow between the gaps) cover it with water so it goes floppy and molds to the soil underneath. You can pin the cardboard down with sticks or bits of wire coat hanger bent into a U-shape if needed. Try to cover with your top layer of mulch before the sheet mulch dries out and starts to curl upwards. You are aiming to completely cover all the cardboard/newspaper with woodchips/mulch. If you have a limited supply of top mulch available, start with a thin layer all over, then top-up later once you have the whole mulch area covered to avoid running out too soon and having to redo any work.
Sheet mulch to block out the old lawn and turves. A good helping of horse manure too.
The horseshoe bed was designed so as to have easy access from both sides for harvesting the currants and berries. Upturned turfs were arranged in the bottom, covered with a bit of soil and chippings, covered in cardboard to blot out any re-growth. I didn’t add the manure to the bottom layer to avoid it feeding the old grass and encouraging it to grow. The nice helping of horse manure which is easily available in the locality in sacks on the side of the road was placed on top of the cardboard. Horse manure isn’t particularly rich in nutrients, but is a great source of humus; this was mixed with some bags of soil conditioner/municipal compost collected from a local Council Recycling centre and a sprinkling of organic chicken muck. If you have rotted manure it’s good for mixing in with the soil and feeding the roots of your new plants directly. This was fresh manure so it was placed on top of the sheet mulch, mixed with soil conditioner and clean soil, and covered with straw mulch. The idea being that the fresh manure would breakdown in situ, blending with the soil and conditioner, forming new topsoil for the following season. Make sure it’s not in contact with any of your plant stems as fresh manure can burn or rot the stems of plants. Yes it smells but not for long!
Gravel boards pegged in place
The beds were layered as follows, from bottom to top: original soil, old lawn, turves of old lawn, chippings from clearance, cardboard, horse manure and chicken muck, organic soil improver, straw mulch. This was then ready to be planted with the berry bushes and a groundcover of strawberries.
The bricky’s herb spiral!
The herb spiral was constructed from bricks to match the house. It was built using standard mortar on a 10cm sub-base of compacted stone (Type 1 MOT road stone) to avoid any cracks from movement. A small plumber’s level was used to position each brick, with a pen line marked on the bubble level to keep the incline consistent. The spiral is completely watertight to direct the water down through the spiral and keep water locked in. This rather tedious approach to construction, for some, was intended to test whether the spiral shaped construction is necessary. It was also to act as a sculptural feature for the garden. In hindsight, there was no major evidence that a watertight spiral shape serves any function with regards to growing physically healthier herb plants, but using mortar to fix the blocks meant a tighter and taller herb spiral could be constructed without risk of collapse — reducing repair work later. Having said that, it must retain water better than loose stones, but not significantly enough to remark on it.
Using a mixture of natural and formal shapes in the garden can create interest; a 3D spiral certainly creates a presence and animation within the garden.
It was intended to install a timed water sprinkler at the top of the spiral to water the semi-circular garden. This would have been an additional upfront cost to save maintenance time later; however in this garden the sprinkler system was omitted.
Landscaping complete, ready to plant!
Landscaped front garden, ready for planting!
Select and plant fruits/herbs which you personally use most, and experiment with their location in the garden. If you plant a plant in a position where it’s not doing well or is a problem, try it somewhere else for a season in the garden. This way you will get to know the plants and your garden well.
I followed Toby Hemenway’s book, Gaia’s Garden, as closely as possible. The book has excellent diagrams for herb spirals, mulching, and detail on guild planting; for instance constructing an apple tree guild, p150.
Planting the herb spiral
The herb spiral creates a good range of favourable conditions which can benefit a variety of species, from dry-sunny to moist-shade.
Planting positions in the herb spiral depend on the position of the sun. Bear in mind that some herbs such as rosemary and thyme love dry, sunny positions, and herbs such as mint and violets are okay for the less sunny, moister spots. If you find you have planted an herb in a place where it’s either taking over or hindering other plants (mint can do this!) or it’s not doing so well, try moving it to another position. The herbs planted in this spiral are as follows, from the top to the bottom:
- Rosmarinus ‘spicata’ (prostratus sp.)
- Origanum vulgare compactum
- Salvia elegans ‘Tangerine Sage’
- Viola sp.
- Artemesia dranunculus
- Thymus sp. ‘Bad Hair Day’
- Thymus pulegiodides ‘Broadleafed Thyme’
- Thymus pulegiodides ‘Foxley’
- Chamaemelum nobile ‘Flore Pleno’ “Double Cream”
- Viola sp. ‘Lizzy Wooten’
- Allium – thick leaved chives
- Allium schoenoprasum polyvert
- Petroselinum crispum ‘Crispum’
- Petroselinum crispum ‘French’
- Mentha x piperita f.citrata ‘After Eights’
- Mentha spicata ‘Cyprus – Mint Sauce’
- Allium cepa var. aggregatum
- Diplotaxis muralis
Completed herb spiral
Herb and groundcover layer
Companion or guild plants were chosen and planted around the fruit trees, such as chives, common chicory, bee balm, fennel, yarrow and comfrey. All the herbaceous perennials were planted into the Hugelkulture beds. Apart from the chives, which were planted right around the base of the fruit trees, the guild plants were planted within the projected canopy of the fruit trees — so in close proximity, but not in the way of being able to get to the tree for harvesting later on.
Make sure when planting new plants from pots that you dig a hole that is big enough, so as to not have to pack in or squash the roots of your new plants.
Ruffle and free up the roots which may have become pot-bound. You are generally aiming for the roots to be able to expand and spread out so as to gather water from a wide area, except for plants with a tap root such as the Cichorium intybus (Common Chicory) where you can dig a deeper hole and unwind the tap root which, if grown in a pot, has probably developed into a coil. The roots are so important, it is essential you take care with them — don’t leave plants out of their pots, else wind and sun will quickly dry them up, reducing the chances of the plants’ survival.
Here’s the list of plant species in this garden:
|Achillea millefolium ‘Terracotta’||Yarrow|
|Achillea millefolium ‘Martina’||Yarrow|
|Ajuga reptans ‘Catlins Giant’||Bee Bonnet (Groundcover)|
|Ajuga reptans purpurea||Bee Bonnet (Groundcover)|
|Allium cepa aggregatum||Evergreen Chives|
|Allium schoenoprasum ‘Medium Leaf’||Chives|
|Allium tuberosum||Garlic Chives|
|Astrantia major ‘Buckland’||Masterwort|
|Atriplex harimus||Sea Orach (Delicious salty salad leaf)|
|Bergenia cordifolia||Elephant’s ears|
|Cichorium intybus||Common Chicory|
|Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’|
|Dryopteris erythrosora||Autumn Fern|
|Echinacea purpurea ‘Hot Summer’|
|Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’|
|Foeniculum officinale||Green Fennel|
|Foeniculum vulgare ‘Bronze’||Bronze Fennel|
|Foeniculum vulgare||Wild Fennel|
|Frageria Sp. (Honeoye, Alice, Symphony)||Early, Mid, Late Strawberries (G.Cover)|
|Frageria vesca||Wild Strawberry (Groundcover)|
|Galium odoratum||Sweet Woodruff|
|Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’|
|Hemerocalis hyperion Hemerocalis sp.||Day Lily|
|Hesperis matronalis||Sweet Rocket|
|Lamium album ‘Dead Nettle’||Dead Nettle|
|Lavandula stoechas ‘Fat Head Lavender’|
|Linum perenne ‘Album’||Perennial Flax, Lint|
|Lupinus ‘La Chatelaine’||Pink Lupin|
|Lupinus ‘La Pages’||Red Lupin|
|Lythrum salicaria ‘Robert’||Purple Loosestrife|
|Melissa officinalis||Bee Balm, Lemon Balm|
|Mentha x piperata||Black Peppermint|
|Myrrhis odorata||Sweet Cicley|
|Oenothera biennis||Evening Primrose|
|Penstemon ‘Pink Candy’|
|Phlox panniculata ‘Blue Paradise’|
|Physostegia virginiana alba ‘Summer Snow’||Obedient Plant|
|Rosmarinum officinalis ‘Greek Ginger’||Rosemary|
|Rumex scutatus||French Sorrell|
|Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’|
|Salvia verticillata ‘Purple Rain’|
|Sanguisorba minor||Salad Burnet|
|Santoline chamaecyparissus||Cotton Lavender|
|Satureja Montana||Winter Savory|
|Satureja spicigera||Creeping Savory|
|Scabiosa atropurprea||Sweet Scabious|
|Scabiosa atropurprea ‘Chile Black’||Scabious (Dark red)|
|Sedum spectablie ‘Indian Chief’|
|Teucrium x lucydris||Hedge Germander|
|Thymus herba-barona||Caraway Thyme|
|Thymus pulegioides ‘Tabor’|
|Thymus serphyllum ‘Pink Ripple’|
|Thymus vulgare ‘Greek/Turkey’|
|Verbascum ‘Cotswold Beauty’|
|Verbascum ‘Cotswold Queen’|
|Verbascum chaixii ‘Album’|
Some seeds were scattered about the edges and in some gaps for pollinators, self seeding and to add extra colour. If you have sheet mulched everywhere, you can reveal areas of soil and add compost, sprinkle some seeds, sprinkle a thin layer of compost and replace a thin layer of chippings/mulch. Or, just part the mulch chippings, pack in a couple of handfuls of compost and seed this.
|Calendula officinalis||-Pot Marigold|
|Phacelia tanacetifolia||-Phacelia, Scorpion Weed|
|Nigella sativa||-Black onion seed|
|Cosmos ‘Sensation Mixed’||-Cosmos|
Trees and shrubs
When creating new beds, or especially planting new shrubs or trees, it is really beneficial for the new plants’ root growth to use blood, fish and bone, plus compost mixed well with the original, weed-free clean soil. Other soil conditioners are also very beneficial such as rock dust to add minerals. You can also add some pot ash from the fire/stove and if the soil is very acid such as where an evergreen hedge grows, you can add lime or limescale works, collected from copper tanks etc.
Dig a square hole that is as wide as the roots so you can arrange them nicely, and to the necessary depth – determined by the soil line you can see on the plant’s main stem. A square hole prevents the roots from growing round and round in the hole – the corners of the square mean that roots get trapped and spread out from the tree (see video: How to plant an apple tree really well). When you dig the hole, pile all the soil into one pile just to the side, then add the bonemeal (blood, fish and bone) and compost, plus any other additions to this pile. Make sure you mix this very well (as the blood, fish and bone can burn the roots if in direct contact) before using the mixture to bed-in the new plant. If the plants are bare root, make sure to carefully work the soil in between the roots of tree or shrub using your fingers. If they come in a pot, free up the roots by dislodging soil. Wear gloves whilst using bonemeal and other soil conditioners, as they can burn your skin and are not so good to ingest.
The goji berry was planted into the surrounding Hugelkulture bed. The raspberries had their own strip-beds, with timber gravel board surrounds to avoid them spreading. The raspberries are planted in partial shade to the most easterly part of the garden indicated on the plan design. The remaining blackcurrant and gooseberries were planted into the horseshoe bed with a strawberry groundcover.
The roses were selected for their scent, colour and form, and for being shade tolerant with a small bush habit — max height 90cm. These were planted in a block in the bed under the kitchen window, with a groundcover of Geranium nodosum, fern, wild garlic, Allium tuberosum (because this bed is isolated, preventing it from invading the garden), sorrel, and French sorrel. This bed also contains the existing bay leaf shrub. The hydrangea was planted with the other perennials in the Hugelkulture bed.
|Lycium barbarum/chinense||Goji/Wolf Berry|
|Ribes nigrum ‘Ben Nevis’||Blackcurrant Ben Nevis|
|Ribes nigrum ‘Ben Connan’||Blackcurrant Ben Connan|
|Ribes nigrum ‘Ben Sarek’||Blackcurrant Ben Sarek|
|Rheum x coltorum ‘Victoria’||Victoria Rhubarb|
|Ribes uva-crispa ‘Hinnonmaki Red’||Red Gooseberry|
|Ribes uva-crispa ‘Careless’||Prickless Gooseberry|
|Ribes uva-crispa ‘Invicta’||Gooseberry Invicta|
|Rubus idaeus ‘Autumn Bliss’||Raspberry Autumn Bliss|
|Rubus idaeus ‘Glen Moy’||Raspberry Glen Moy|
|Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Ayesha’||Dwarf Hydrangea|
|Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll’||Yellow Smelly Rose|
|Rosa ‘Teasing Georgia’||Pink Smelly Rose|
|Rosa ‘Sweet Juliet’||Orangey Pink Smelly Rose|
I made sure that the fruit trees were planted in a place that meant when fully grown, they would remain easily accessible, shaping them gradually as they mature. The key for pruning apple trees is little and often. The key for pruning stone fruit trees is never in winter.
|Malus ‘Arthur Turner’ MM106/2x/Aug-Oct||Dwarf Arthur Turner Cooking Apple|
|Malus ‘Self-fertile Cox’ MM106/2x/Oct-Jan||Dwarf Self Fertile Cox|
|Prunus avium ‘Sunburst’||Fan Trained Sunburst Cherry|
|Prunus ‘Victoria Plum’ Pixie Dwarf/1x/Aug-Sept||Dwarf Victoria Plum|
|Pyrus ‘Concorde’ Quince ‘A’/3/Oct-Jan||Dwarfing Concorde Pear|
|Pyrus ‘Doyene du Comice’ Quince ‘A’/3/Nov||Dwarf Comice Pear|
The freshly planted garden (September)
Maintain, Observe, Refine, Evolve
Revisiting the garden ten months later, the owner advised that there had been no maintenance. I spent about 15 minutes pulling out some grass from around the edges, particularly the horseshoe bed and a couple of little patches on the surrounding hegelkulture beds, the old existing concrete path needed a sweep, but there was no maintenance other than that to do.
Revisiting the garden, ten months later in June, View from South East towards North West
Being the first time I had used Cichorium intybus (Common chicory), I was surprised at the size of the plant and its appearance — being similar to a thistle. It’s a good leafy mulch provider and dynamic accumulator tap root.
More strawberries needed planting in the horseshoe bed to get the full groundcover effect under the berry and currant bushes. It was good to see the herbs beginning to form their little clumps. There was a hole in the herb spiral where the tangerine sage had been — it is a really beautiful plant, perhaps a magpie had whisked it away!
Revisiting the garden, ten months later in June, view from NE – SW
Time saving per year; it’s easier to say that the lawn didn’t need mowing anymore, and only one visit was necessary for maintenance, so 15 minutes for the first twelve months – not bad.
No fuel or electricity used for the mower, no time needed to mow the lawn = a saving of 7 hours a year mowing time, no need to buy herbs; some free berries and currants the first year, gradually food and herb yields will increase especially when the fruit trees begin producing.
Don’t plant rhubarb in full sun because it bolts pretty much immediately, especially in dry soils! I would relocate the rhubarb plant to a shadier damp spot, such as under the kitchen window in this garden.
Be aware that Cichorium intybus looks like a common thistle or a weed to the naked eye, but it has that big tap root for drawing up and accumulating nutrients, pretty blue flowers, and it creates biomass/leaf mulch.
Most important of all: install water butts in your garden to harvest rainwater! This property had a big one in the rear garden, however the front garden needs one too. You can never have too many water butts for back up!
Ideally, top up the woodchips each year as they will break down gradually and keep an eye on encroaching strawberries and the spread of plants generally; separate and replant their new growth. It’s good to keep adding new plants generally to keep the garden evolving and maturing!