When I moved to this home ten years ago I inherited a huge half-acre garden full of trees, shrubs and flowers. The garden has certainly changed over time with new plants being added each year, new hardscapes have been built and new uses have been found for previously treed land. Its been a huge amount of work and we are still not done. Over the last few years I have been teaching children how to grow food and mentoring over at the Ladner Community Garden. I felt somewhat like an impostor doing all this teaching as I didn’t have any food growing outside of what was in my greenhouse. That changed and the way I garden has too. I now grow more food than I ever have. I see visions of lawn coming out to make way for more vegetable gardening. I mean, you can’t eat lawn. I love my lawn for its cool, refreshing feeling and the feel of it under my bare feet but I don’t need as much as I have.
Last year hubby built me two raised beds and they are crammed full of vegetables this year. I am only feeding three people so I don’t need whole rows of lettuce. I have learned to plant successively to have harvests last all summer long. There are many ways to grow food even if you don’t have the space. I love raised beds as they warm up earlier in the spring, are easier to weed, the soil is amended easily and there is less bending over for this aging gardener. Yes, I admit it, as you age you need to think how you can do things a little easier.
You can even grow food in a hanging basket. In this basket I am testing out salad bush cucumbers from West Coast Seeds. The package said they could be grown in a hanging basket so I am giving them a try by adding two plants to a basket. Check out the baby cucumbers on the plant. I see lots of greek salads in my future!
If you want to make your edible plantings pretty, why not add some edible flowers such as Nasturtiums? They really brighten up a basket. Their flower buds taste like capers and the flowers can be added to a salad as well.
If you grow a lot of flowers but would like to plant food as well, you don’t need a separate garden. This is my Rose garden by my front door. Try interplanting vegetables with your flowers. Here I have planted tomatoes with a border of Calendula and Marigolds. It only made sense to include edible flowers here. The Marigolds and Calendula are not only edible flowers but good companion plants for the tomatoes.
Across from my Rose garden I planted this garden with another mix of flowers and vegetables. Here I have kale and tomatoes in the back with cabbage, tomatoes, basil, beans and a Hosta. In front is Alyssum to attract beneficial insects, lettuce, Thai basil and Marigolds. I look forward to seeing this garden mature and may have to move the Hosta if I continue to grow food here. It’s all about maximizing the use of your sunny areas of the garden as most vegetables like at least six hours of sun each day.
I also added some of the new Peppermint Swiss chard to the planting. I love the stems on this plant. The Thai basil which is also known as Siam Queen is one of my favourites as an edging plant. It has gorgeous purple flowers and foliage. The best part is we can eat our garden. Now that’s planting smart. Hubby told me the other day that when he makes his lunch for work he pops out to grab some lettuce for his sandwich. I have won him over, yes!
I am really impressed with the beans this year. They are early and we have already had our first harvest. The bush beans are good producers on short plants that don’t require staking. Try Valentino bush beans for nice thin stringless green beans.This variety can also be grown in containers.
You can use a variety of containers to grow vegetables in. I used this upcycled wicker drawer to plant some herbs.
In this container I planted some Liatris which is about to bloom. It was planted as corms last fall. I decided to add a pop of colour to this container once the Tulips were finished flowering. I added some Basil and Marigolds to fill in. The purple of the Liatris will look lovely next to the Marigold. I am anxious to see how it looks the next week.
So if you want to add food to your landscape, use what you have available for space. Perhaps the place you normally reserve for annual flowers could look a little different next year. For people without a yard, use containers, hanging baskets and maximize your vertical growing space. Perhaps you can trellis something like pole beans or peas in a large container on the patio. Try adding a few edibles to your landscape next year. You will be glad you did.
Kristin is a garden writer and mentor for community and school gardens in Delta,BC