Red and green lettuce mix from Renee's Seeds.

Beautiful vegetable gardens

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The potager, garage border and greenhouse create a garden that makes beautiful music in all seasons.

The potager, garage border and greenhouse create a garden that makes beautiful music in all seasons.

In my opinion, vegetable gardens are as beautiful as gardens planted purely for ornamental purposes. However, before Rosalind Creasy wrote about edible landscaping, I don’t think people thought vegetables could be part of an ornamental landscape. By growing vegetables that are beautiful in and of themselves and mixing them with fruit trees and flowers, you can create your own edible paradise.

Cabbages growing in my potager in early spring with the morning sun shining upon their leaves.

Cabbages growing in my potager in early spring with the morning sun shining upon their leaves.

Early spring vegetables especially lend themselves to landscaping. Because they are often leafy greens, they don’t need to grow into much larger plants that set fruit like a tomato, for instance. However, tomatoes can also be worked into an edible landscape too.

Cherry tomatoes are beautiful until the end of summer. Plant them after your last frost date.

Cherry tomatoes are beautiful until the end of summer. Plant them after your last frost date.

It’s all about how you place them, along with what kind of structure you use to support their limbs and get their fruit up off of the ground. I used a red tomato cage because it pulls the color from the cherry tomato. Not only is a structure like this beautiful, but also, expedient because leaves and fruit can be damaged by insects and fungi if they aren’t lifted upward. Still, a tomato cage will only work with determinate tomatoes. Most heirloom tomatoes are indeterminate and require a much stronger structure. Squash suffer from the same problems with its fruit as the might tomato. One way to elevate the conversation is to grow plants in containers like this squash I snapped a photo of at Sunset Magazine’s headquarters in California. Just look at that galvanized metal container. It’s beautiful in its own right.

Squash in a container at Sunset Magazine headquarters

Squash in a container at Sunset Magazine headquarters.

By planting ornamental vegetables in key places, you can have a beautiful garden no matter the season. Start in spring with red and green lettuces. To do the alternating pattern I made below, you can sprout lettuces indoors and transplant them, or sow seeds outside and then move them about once they have at least two true leaves. I moved these when they were quite small so I watched them carefully and gave them plenty of water so they wouldn’t go into transplant shock. Also, using manure tea that you make–I show you how in The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff–or, by purchasing some from Authentic Haven Brand, you give these little transplants a boost of nitrogen and micronutrients. I suggest manure or compost tea for any vegetables transplanted into the garden. You can also use it to boost seeds once they sprout out of the ground.

Red and green lettuce mix from Renee's Seeds.

Red and green lettuce mix from Renee’s Seeds.

When thinking of the ornamental edible garden, don’t forget flowers, both those that are edible like the nasturtiums below, but also those that aren’t. Just make sure neighbor kids and adults don’t browse the vegetable and flower food bar in your front yard until they ask you which plants can be eaten and those that will give them a tummy ache or worse.

Nasturtiums are edible flowers for the vegetable garden and beyond.

Nasturtiums are edible flowers for the vegetable garden and beyond.

So, this spring, when you plan your vegetable garden, draw a simple design first. You can find several in my book, but you can also draw your own. Then, fill your vegetable garden with beautiful and colorful vegetables, great structure for vining and tall plants and edible and inedible flowers. When choosing flowers, don’t forget pollinators either. They will help your squash and other plants bloom and grow. Pollinators also need our help desperately, and by picking flower seeds of simple flowers, you can create a garden that is both beautiful and healthy for you and the planet.

 


See how much these seeds have grown!

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Tomato and pepper seedlings growing like wild fire.

Tomato and pepper seedlings growing like wild fire.

Look at my seeds now. See how much they’ve grown in the two weeks since I sowed them on March 5. It’s time to repot many of them which I’ll be doing later this afternoon. I’ll show you that process too, but I wanted you to see what the plants look like this morning. If your seedlings have emerged and are growing, you can also turn off your heat mats. It’s so exciting! Don’t you think so too?

Flower seeds I started a few days after the tomatoes and peppers.

Flower seeds I started a few days after the tomatoes and peppers.

The flower seeds, above aren’t quite as large because I started them a few days after the tomatoes and peppers. However, they will catch up by the time we move this seedling party outside. It won’t be long now.

These tomato seedlings want to be planted in a roomier home.

These tomato seedlings want to be planted in a roomier home.

The seeds I planted in cells are really ready to find a new home. They are cramped in their present quarters. Remember, when you transplant, make a tag for each container. Otherwise, you won’t be able to tell which tomato or pepper is which. They all look alike for a long time until they grow larger and begin producing fruit.

Speaking of tags, everyone has their setbacks. Just look at the tags below. I used a blue Sharpie instead of black, and the humidity from the covered seed tray melted all my words. Frustrating? Yes, but I kept the packets of seed I’ve sown in a separate box. That way, once these have true leaves, I can look them over and see which ones are which. I’ll re-tag them then. So, don’t be discouraged when things don’t go as planned. It happens to all of us.

The blue Sharpie ran due to humidity so the tags are worthless.

The blue Sharpie ran due to humidity so the tags are worthless.

I see seedlings as a sign of hope because no matter what winter throws at us, spring is truly here. Have a great week and let me know how your seeds are doing. I’d love to hear.

I think seedlings are just about the most hopeful thing there is.

I think seedlings are just about the most hopeful thing there is.

To learn more about seed starting and how to build this seed starting station, buy my book, The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff.