Traditionally, we’ve planted flowering plants – annuals, perennials, shrubs and even trees – in special, decorative beds, while relegating edible plants to their own nondescript beds. That is all changing now.
Integrating edible plants into flower gardens is a new trend. Right? Well, not entirely. Some forward-thinking gardeners have been doing this for years. I even know one gardener who filled the area between his sidewalk and house with tomato plants. Got a great yield as well as a conversation piece. At a Gardenscape show some years ago, an up-and-coming company incorporated veggie plants into a bed of annuals.
Now, more and more, people are trying this. As the trend catches on, it’s quite common to visit a neighbor’s home and see tonight’s salad growing among the petunias and marigolds. We don’t know the psychological reason behind this movement, unless it’s viewed as enhancing the garden’s sustainability. However, there are a few practical and aesthetic reasons why it’s a good idea.
From an aesthetic standpoint, we usually design flower beds in interesting shapes, while our vegetable gardens are purely utilitarian – rectangular shape, straight rows. Integrating veggies with our flowers eliminates the purely functional “garden.” On the flip side of that coin, however, veggie gardens are usually planted for maximum produce yield. Flower gardens are designed to look nice. Consequently, it may not be practical to plant as many edible plants in a square foot of space as it would be in a dedicated veggie garden.
Thinking pragmatically, how would you plant corn in most flower gardens? It would probably look out of place since only sun flowers reach the height of corn. Conversely, the delicate, fern like leaves of carrots are attractive ground cover around flowers.
When integrating flowers and veggies, the same planting “rules” or, more accurately, guidelines apply. That is, keep plants the same size clustered together so the bed doesn’t look like it has a bad haircut. More practically, borrow a xeriscaping tactic and group plants with similar sun and water requirements into one area. That way, each will be satisfied.
If the thought of designing your own integrated, or edible, garden seems mind boggling, we have creative designers who are eager to help guide you through this challenge.