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.

 

About 

I’m a writer, born and raised in Oklahoma, and an obsessive gardener who grows shrubs, perennials and vegetables on my acreage each year. My favorite veggies have to be homegrown hybrid or heirloom tomatoes, Genovese basil and hot and mild peppers. It’s an Italian salsa garden at my house.


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