Thursday, March 15, 2007

The lawn's a Yawn - Part III
Add Edibles

Most gardeners, even the avid kind, hesitate to site their veggies in the plain-view-front-garden even if it is the coveted south side of the house. Veggies, and other edibles, are seen as the utilitarian and best relegated to the backyard. But in the interests of demoting the lawn, let's discuss some attractive options for supping on what you sow.

Expand and snack
(comment about pictures: for some reason, wide angle shots aren't popular so most of the linked photos are closeups to my chagrin).

Take the standard perrennial flower bed flanking either side of the entrance to the house, expand it by 2 or 3 times, spread out perrennials as foundation plantings, and fill in the spaces with vegetables. Of course, many vegetables will start out small, or be harvested before the end of the season which means that a little planning is needed such as combining fast and slow growing plants or replacing spring / summer crops with fall crops.

Here are some attractive veggies to grow proudly in front of your abode.

Lettuce comes in a miriad of leaf colours and shapes from open headed to the tightly coiled. Combine with any number of brassicas such as the bold heads of cabbage or the hardy (and equally varied) kale which lasts until covered in snow.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Young Mammoth Red Cabbage (ignore the weeds)

There are many other leaf crops that are interesting to the eye such as orach (linked picture, red plant) whose striking seed heads rivals the purely ornamental. The oft mentioned 'bright lights' swiss chard, parsley, the deeply cut leaves of mizuna, and bull's blood beet complete a sumptuous salad.

For every theme, you have a vegetable. Need fall colour? Add the bright fruits of hot peppers whose leaves vary from the variagated fish to the deep purple of black pearl. Want something bold and architectural? How about Cardoon with it's long serrated leaves, or Palm Leaf Kale. Have a grass garden? Try striped maize (okay not actually listed as edible... but oh so pretty). Want something to climb a trellis? Where do I start... Of course, the famous scarlet runner bean, whose equally beautiful salmon coloured cousin - Painted Lady deserves a mention or instead of growing sweet peas, try the blue podded Capucijners pea.

I have not mentioned the cucurbits mostly because they are suseptible to a host of mildews that can make them unsightly by the end of the season, but if you have less of a problem with that, then why not try a mini pumpkin?

Tuck in a tomato plant, or two, for a snack as you walk by. Grow the feathery foliage of florence fennel, the bent or spiralled flower spikes of garlic or the blue toned strap like leaves of leeks. The ideas do not stop with mere vegetables of course. Need a tree, or shrub with long season interest? Why not a sour cherry that flowers in the spring and has fruit in the fall?

Pretty Potager

Are you now so inspired, you are wondering why you should bother with mere flowers at all? Perhaps you are ready for the potager. That's french for, we like food better than flowers too - or at least it should be. If you are not familiar with the potager, imagine a riotess combination of cut flowers, fruiting plants, vegetables, often contained in a geometrical pattern.

What makes some people hesitant to plant just any veggies in their 'plain view' is that they can be (and we hope that they are) vigorous, even rangy looking. One way to conteract this is by containing their exhurberance in a geometric shape such as four squares surrounded by clipped boxwood or raised beds lined with stone or wood. Between these gardens are pathes, and perhaps a focal point in the center such as a sundial, or a chair so that you can admire your handywork.

To make a vegetable garden more landscaped... landscape it. Sounds radical? It did to me at first. Here are some ideas:

  • Make beds and pathes permenant.
  • Use ornamental trellis or arbours as vertical elements
  • Grow fruit trees as fans or columns
  • Add edible flowers such as nasturitum, cosmos or borage
  • Add cut flowers
  • Companion plant herbs as a border or interplant
  • Plant veggies in blocks such as a ring of lettuce around a giant cabbage - think of creating tapestries of colour
  • Grow a knot garden with herbs.

It took a while to convince my hubby that we should put a mini orchard in our front yard but now he's happy with the gooseberry / black current hedge, the fruit tree focus points, and the foliage kale. We'll see how he feels about the raspberry extension to the lavender hedge but I suspect sweet success with our first harvest.

Stay Tuned

For: Go wild, really wild

Part I

Part II


Edible Flowers by cook's thesaurus

Edible Flowers by Colorado State University Cooperative Extension

One of the many sites on companion planting

Scroll down for a cool picture of little red lettuce trees.

Parsley as butterfly food - leaf a bit for the catepillars and get even more beauty

Clearly an artist's garden - Bonnie Meltzer

Pumpkin in the evergreen

Pretty Veggie Garden

Another garlic scape pic


Kate said...

Great ideas ... I wish more people would try this out. The only grasses that I have in my garden are ornamental ones. I use different groundcovers, plants, veggies, herbs etc. and haven't owned a lawnmower in my life.

Your blog makes me homesick for Ottawa ... I had a wonderful garden there. Ah, the things I could grow that would never survive here in Saskatchewan. There's a huge difference between zone 3 and zone 5, I've discovered and I long for my Ottawa days.

I loved your pics a few days' ago of the snow melting. They were wonderful!

Hopefully you won't mind if I add your blog to my 'playing in the dirt' links!

I want to visit here often!

Patrick said...

These are great ideas. Many people grow vegetables because they think they look nice. Skippy's gardening blog mentioned this recently too.

Rebsie Fairholm said...

This is all very inspiring for me because I'm just trying to pluck up the courage to dig up the boring square lawn and centrifugal flower borders in my front garden (which I've done nothing with since I moved here 3 years ago) and turn it into a vegetable showgarden. I have some trays of purple-podded peas, bright pink leaf beet and some quinoa which goes rainbow colours, and I was planning to plant them out at the front among the fuchsias and rose bushes. But I've been holding back with it because I know my neighbour will think I'm a madwoman.

Maybe it's time I just picked the spade up and got on with it.