CREATING THE PERFECT CONTAINER GARDEN
Practical ways to add dimension to your garden
Veggies or flower beds? Sustenance or beauty? In the past, these were choices a gardener had to make. However, there’s no reason you can’t combine the two and create a garden that is a feast for both the eyes and the table! Edible gardening—creating an ornamental garden that also yields an edible harvest—is one of the hottest trends in landscaping these days. It’s a good way to capitalize on limited space. An edible garden will allow you to reap a harvest from your yard without feeling like you’re running a farm. It’s also an ideal way to introduce kids to a healthy diet and lifestyle.
If you find yourself feeling intimidated by the thought of trying to make edible plants into a beautiful landscape, don’t worry. Integrating edibles into your ornamental landscape is easier than you might think. Here are some tips for getting started:
First, determine your primary goal.
There are many reasons to create an edible garden such as saving money on groceries, enjoying the freshest possible produce, introducing kids to a healthy diet and lifestyle, growing a conversation starter and/or novelty garden, and beautifying your yard.
Before planning your garden, decide what’s most important to you. This will help you make good decisions about what to plant. For instance, if your goal is to grow as much food as possible, you will likely make different choices than if you simply want to add a culinary dimension to your flower bed.
Next, assess your space.
Where will you be growing your garden? In the front yard? Back yard? In containers on the porch? If your edible garden is in a highly visible spot, you’ll probably want to pay special attention to creating an aesthetically pleasing effect.
Check to be sure your proposed garden site has enough sun and adequate soil quality for what you want to do. Most edible plants prefer rich soil, plenty of water, and full sun (although you can successfully grow some edibles, such as lettuce, in partial shade.)
If you are short on space, don’t despair. You can always plant a container garden, or experiment with creating a space-saving vertical garden. If you have a large yard, consider including one or more fruit or nut trees in your mix.
Now, it’s time to choose your plants.
Designing an edible garden is very much like designing any other ornamental garden. You’ll want to choose plants that complement and/or contrast with each other in terms of height, shape, color, texture, and growing habits, and place them so that they all work together to create a harmonious effect.
What percent of your garden to make edible is up to you. You can go for all edibles, or intersperse a few vegetables in surprising ways in amongst the flowers. Here are a few categories of garden edibles, and suggestions for species to consider as you plan your garden.
You may be surprised at how many garden flowers are actually edible. Use colorful flower petals and blooms as stunning garnishes to make any meal feel special. They also are gorgeous added to salads, and many make fine herbal tea when dried. Some flowers, such as nasturtium and daisy, have edible leaves that can add a unique flavor to a tossed salad. Other species, such as sunflowers and Jerusalem artichoke, are popular vegetables in their own right.
Here are a few edible flower species to consider including in your garden.
Herbs add flavor and fun to food, and they can spice up your garden, too. In addition to any of the flowering herbs, try tucking these here and there in your edible garden:
Ordinary garden vegetables in an ornamental garden? You bet! When you look at them with unbiased eyes, many common vegetables have striking form and color and can really shine as accent pieces in the garden. Some types of vegetables even come in ornamental varieties, which are well worth seeking out. Why not try one or more of the following in your garden this summer?
Your edible garden need not be exclusively an annual affair. Once established, many perennial plants are quite beautiful and will produce bounteous crops of delicious produce for years or even decades. For best results, consult a landscape professional for suggestions as to varieties that will do well in your garden, especially when selecting trees and shrubs.