Edible Gardens

Edible GardensEdible Gardens
Blend your fruits, vegetables and herbs with the flowers in your garden to create a potager.
Potage: is French for soup. Potager: a garden where soup ingredients and then some are grown. It is a style that is presently enjoying a revival. A potager is a series of growing beds intersected by paths as space allows.

There are two ways to grow food plants with aesthetics in mind. One is to add suitable edibles to existing flower beds such as parsley or red-leafed lettuce bordering perennials or roses, a patch of Swiss-chard or purple kale among perennials with a tower of pole beans at the back. The other way is to lay out an interesting vegetable garden weaving flowers, herbs and even fruits into the design.

True organic gardening incorporates intercropping or companion planting principles into the garden design and structure which in essence is the inter-mixing of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers to benefit each other, repel destructive insects and attract the pollinators. The edible ornamental garden can be very attractive with great diversity in scents, colour and texture. From the same space comes wonderful food from fresh spinach, peas, radishes and lettuce in early summer; baskets of beans and heads of broccoli in July; tomatoes, cucumbers and onions later on; with potatoes, carrots, beets, cabbage, kale in the fall. Make sure to do your research into companion planting if planting in a smaller space.

Allium is Latin word for garlic. Vegetable alliums are chives, garlic, leek, onion, and shallot, all of which are excellent protective companions for roses. Ornamental alliums also provide excellent protection from mildew and black spot as well as aphis. Geraniums repel cabbageworms and are good to plant among roses, grapes and corn against Japaneses beetles. Geraniums will help prevent grub infestations in lawn and gardens. Gladiolus planted with peas and beans have inhibiting effects on each other so do not plant together. Plant rue with roses to foil the Japanese beetle. Use rue in dog beds against fleas. Rue and basil are incompatible. Insecticidal flowers which are very good to plant throughout all gardens are asters, chrysanthemums, cosmos, coreopsis, nasturtiums and marigolds. Tomatoes inter-planted with marigolds will grow and produce better. Morning Glory grown with corn—probably one of the earliest examples of companion planting by our aboriginals— stimulates germination of seeds and gives added vigor to corn. Nasturtiums planted with squash will keep squash bugs away; plant near broccoli, potatoes, radishes, and any member of cabbage family for beneficial effects. Petunias protect beans against beetle. Basil helps tomatoes overcome disease and insects as well as improves flavor and growth of tomatoes. Dill is a good companion to cabbage, lettuce, onions, cucumbers, beets but does not do well with carrots. Most plants dislike fennel and it is one herb that should be planted well away from veggie garden. Mint is a good companion to cabbage and tomatoes, improving their health and flavor. Strawberries do well in combination with bush beans, spinach, borage, lettuce, white hellebores, marigolds, apples, peaches, figs, and orange trees. Mulch strawberries with pine needles and straw in the fall for over-wintering.

A good potager design includes vertical accents such as a birdhouse on a pole, stakes to hold up tomatoes, trellis or teepees to carry pole beans, cucumbers and squash into the sun. Fences or walls can serve as supports for climbers and is the perfect backing for an espalier – a fruit tree trained to fan-out flat against the surface. Large containers or wooden half-barrels could be strategically placed to hold flowers, annual herbs or edibles such as tomatoes. Whether the entire garden is planned as a potager or just a portion of a larger yard there are no rules governing the layout or shape of beds. Kitchen gardens – ornamental edible gardens should fit your space in a manner that is pleasing to the eye and relates to the existing context of house, fences, lawn and the like. Think of views and vistas, natural walking routes, easy access and a place to sit and enjoy your garden.

Unlike a traditional vegetable garden, an ornamental kitchen garden is never entirely dug over or tilled; once formed, beds are more or less permanent. This allows the beds to be used for perennial flowers, shrubs and herbs. A dwarf fruit tree could be positioned at an end of a bed but be mindful of the shade it will cast as it grows. Annuals whether vegetables, herbs or flowers fit right into a potager. The edible garden provides a sense of both change and permanence within the same space.