Learn gardening ideas and secrets to growing fruits, vegetables and herbs in your own backyard.
By Melinda Myers
Whether it’s the cost of groceries, the economy or just the desire to grow your own, beginning and seasoned gardeners are adding fruits, vegetables and herbs to their landscape. The benefits of edible gardening—including enhanced flavor, nutrition and food sustainability—offer inspiration to get growing.
If you garden on a balcony or in a large backyard, there is always room for edibles. Consider these vegetable gardening ideas and tips before you dig in:
- Add a few containers filled with herbs and vegetables to your balcony and patio garden. Mixed with flowers, these edibles look good and bring the garden right to the backdoor.
- Keep fresh ingredients near the space where you cook and entertain. Your guests will have fun picking a few fresh vegetables to place on the grill or garnish their burger, or plucking mint for their iced tea.
- Include a few edibles in your mixed borders. Swiss chard’s colorful stems can add color and interest to the garden, red cabbage can create a focal point in a container, and tomatoes, eggplants and peppers can easily be mixed with annual and perennial flowers.
- Use vegetables and herbs to fill voids in new or renovated gardens. By properly spacing your trees, shrubs and perennials, you can save money on your landscape. Fill in the garden voids with a few ornamental edibles.
- Find the right place for your edibles to flourish. Shade tolerant lettuce, spinach and other leafy vegetables only need about four hours of sun; radishes, carrots and other root crops need about four to six hours.
- Increase productivity and decrease your workload by using a low organic nitrogen slow-release fertilizer in your garden or containers. It will usually provide season-long benefits with just one application.
- Take a look at your favorite recipes and plan ways to include some of the ingredients into your landscape. Try a salsa garden filled with tomatoes, a few hot peppers, onions and cilantro. Plant a pizza garden with Roma tomatoes, garlic, basil and oregano for the sauce and peppers, onions, and slicing tomatoes for topping. Young gardeners may like to plant these ingredients in the shape of a whole pizza pie or a slice.
- Space-challenged gardeners can grow tomatoes in containers. A 3- to 5-gallon pot is perfect for a single tomato plant skirted by a few flowers or herbs. Or, try mixing a few tomatoes in with your shrubs and flowers.
- Top off a bed of homegrown greens with edible flowers such as nasturtium, fuchsia and pot marigold. Freeze a few pansy flowers in ice and add to a glass of sparkling water.
About our Guest Expert: Melinda Myers is a nationally known gardening expert, TV/radio host, author and columnist. She is a contributing editor to Birds & Blooms magazine and other publications, and maintains melindamyers.com.
Photo by Melinda Myers, LLC.