By Sommer Cartier, for Let's talk Plants! November 2022.
Grow Your Own Food with Style
Who says vegetable gardens can’t be attractive?
Why not mix things up this winter by creating an edible landscape in your yard? Even cool weather veggies can brighten up an outdoor space, adding dimension, texture, and color to any landscape design. This approach to gardening can be visually stunning and provide you with a bounty of fresh nutritious veggies while saving you money on your grocery bill. Whether you’re looking to save money at the grocery store or spice things up in the garden, below are a few edible landscape ideas to get you started.
Choose varieties that are aesthetically pleasing in landscapes
The great thing about cool season veggies and herbs is their wide variety of texture. From the delicate stems of flat leaf parsley and cilantro to the wavy, curly leaves of kale, there are so many beautiful combinations to work with. While green tends to dominate cool season gardens, there are plenty of plant varieties with beautiful vibrant colors that can add depth and contrast to your design.
Swiss Chard: One of the more colorful winter varieties with stems that range in colors from neon red to yellow and purple. They create a nice pop of color in winter landscapes and are great options for container arrangements.
Lettuce: Along with color, this cool season veggie offers a wide range of textures. Plant contrasting colors together such a bright green Nevada lettuce with dark red curly Lola Rosa.
Kale: A hardy plant that can serve as a beautiful centerpiece for container arrangements and looks great when used to create borders. There are several kale varieties with a wide range of colors to pull from such as Curly Kale (green), Scarlet Kale (deep purple), Red Russian (blue green) and crinkly-leaved Dinosaur Kale (gray green).
Cabbage: The deep red hues of Red Rock Mammoth cabbage can add a nice dramatic look to your garden design. Nagoya Red cabbage can also be a fun look with its deep rose and teal foliage.
Why have a separate flower garden when you can grow them alongside your veggies? Flowers grown among veggies will not only provide color, but they will also attract pollinators and other beneficial insects who attack and kill pests such as aphids and spider mites. Even better, select flower varieties that are edible such as pansies or nasturtiums. Not only do they produce wonderful colors and keep the pests away, but you can also eat them too.
Pansies and violas: These irresistible flowers just happen to be the 2022 Herb of the Year™ and come in a wide assortment of colors and bi-colors, many with cute little face patterns on the petals. They are perfect for borders, container gardens or mass plantings around taller plants.
Calendula: This cheery looking yellow-orange flower doesn’t let cool temperatures dampen its spirits. In fact, it blooms vigorously all winter long in temperate climates like San Diego, making it the perfect flower for your winter garden.
Dianthus: These little plants are like the energizer bunny. They put out a non-stop show of color ranging from pink to white to red.
Sweet Alyssum: What these low growing plants lack in stature they make up for in bold fragrance and color, drawing in all sorts of beneficial insects to your garden. With their thousands of tiny white, rose, blue, or bi-colored blooms, these delicate plants are great for creating attractive borders in the garden.
Adding dimension and height to garden designs not only improves the visual appeal, but it also provides opportunities to grow plants vertically, maximizing your growing space. This technique can be as simple as growing sugar snap peas along an existing fence or wall to installing pergolas to support your grape or passion fruit vines. Of course, as far as edible plants go, you have a larger selection of vining plants to choose from during the warm season months.
Decorate Your Landscape with Containers of Edible Plants
Container arrangements are a wonderful complement to any vegetable garden design. When placed among the ground plants, they can add dimension or create an accent or focal point.
Do you have a space of land that is difficult to cultivate? Place a container full of colorful lettuce to brighten the space and add a pop of color. Containers can also be used to decorate hardscapes such as patios or walkways, creating greenspace where there otherwise would not be.
With a little thought and planning, you can create a unique edible landscape that is as attractive as it is bountiful. With edible landscapes, saving money never looked and tasted so good!