More than a third of Americans now grow their own fruits and veggies, and no wonder. Eating a cherry tomato or strawberry ripened to perfection and warmed by the sun is a memorable experience, and one you’ll want to repeat over and over again. An edible garden allows you to grow your own unique menu of tasty produce, and it ensures you never run out of your favorites.
Besides, an edible garden is a thing of great beauty.
To get the most from your space whatever its size, you’ll need a plan. Determine a goal for your garden and use it to guide your choices. Your goal may be to have lots of fresh herbs available right outside your kitchen door, to provide a full plate of produce for your family, or to teach your children where food comes from. Each of these goals will result in a different garden plan.
You need to consider factors such as sun and shade throughout the day to choose the most appropriate veggies and plant them in the most advantageous spots. Read more about gardening with veggies here.
What to grow?
- Greens galore
- Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant (a stunning beauty even if you don’t like the fruits)
- Apples, or any number of dwarf fruit trees specifically created to fit into smaller suburban gardens
- Figs, which are naturally smallish trees
- Blueberries, raspberries or trendy alternatives such as currants, wolfberries, and goji berries, in the ground or in containers
- Flavorful mints (corral them in containers so they don’t get out of hand)
You can grow a complete kitchen garden in a four-foot square. The most important thing is to grow what you like best. Better yet, get organized with a neighbor or two and coordinate your edible garden plans, then share the bounty among yourselves. That expands your options without taking up more space, and it provides a tasty new way to connect with friends.
If your garden is truly tiny, consider veggies instead of traditional flowering plants. Colorful greens, compact bush-style squash, peas on a bamboo trellis are lovely as well as delicious. Here in the South Bay Area, woody herbs such as thyme, sage, and rosemary are pretty and practical year round. For that matter, our climate is excellent for growing winter garden veggies, too.
Did you know that some flowers are edible? Not only can you plant traditional edibles in your garden such as fruits and vegetables, you can include pretty flowering plants that transform your meals, too. Use them in salads, to decorate desserts, or blend them right in with other culinary ingredients. Some examples?
- Violas, from broad-faced pansies to tiny Johnny-jump-ups
- Squash blossoms (fresh, sautéed, or deep-fried)
- Rose petals
- Sage blossoms (surprise! Culinary sage and its variegated cousins all have pretty, edible flowers, too.)
- Lavender (use the blossoms in lemonade, cakes, and shortbread; mince the leaves to season hot dishes)
- Borage (whose tiny sapphire-blue star-like flowers make a great background for your edible garden as well as providing a pretty garnish or salad addition)
No space at all for a designated kitchen garden? No problem! You can always tuck edibles in with your other plants. Many of them are at least as pretty as flowing annuals and perennials – think variegated lettuces, colorful “green” beans or lemon cucumbers on a trellis, big bold artichokes, dainty dill. What’s extra nice about this is that veggies are annuals. So if you want to change your garden design or your edible line-up next year, nothing could be easier.
Meanwhile, you’ll have to walk only a few steps to rustle up a stunning salad to go with your grilled dinner. Or create your own signature summer beverages, made with garden-fresh ingredients.