Grow Your Own Food – with Style!

What’s trendy in home landscapes right now? It’s not just outdoor living spaces that include kitchens, it’s growing the food to cook in those kitchens. Trendy, topical, healthy, slow food – oh girl, you have got to jump on board. No, no, no – I’m not talking renting a tiller and digging up a rectangle in your front yard for the corn crop (although you could if you want to – and if the neighborhood association will let you). Let me tell you how you can sneak kitchen delicacies into your landscape and raise the most local of local food without converting your backyard into an organic farm.

Herbs are about the easiest to grow plants and look great in the landscape. Two things that keep most herbs happy: plenty of sun and good drainage. Snipping some rosemary, oregano and basil from your container plantings as you are preparing dinner adds more than flavor to your kitchen – it adds class.

Plant a few veggies among your perennials and annuals. You may want to plant one cherry tomato and one slicing tomato. You don’t have to use a classic tomato cage – try a 4×4 post with a finial or strong, ornamental, metal support to support a tomato. Remember you will have to get to your tomato plant to harvest. Sun and air flow are important – it can’t be tucked behind mature shrubs. And don’t forget green peppers, which are attractive, glossy green plants that fit well into a landscape. If you do tuck a few edibles in your landscape, you do need to be careful with chemicals in your garden.

The green industry has been working hard to create vegetables that are colorful, interesting, flavorful – and grow well in containers. There are many, many vegetables now available as both plant and seeds bred to produce in containers and small spaces.  Look to your local nursery or Renee’s Garden (www.reneesgarden.com) for inspiration.

Look beyond the typical summer season to grow fresh vegetables. Cool season crops can keep the ground productive in spring and fall. Early spring can produce radishes and turnips. A few asparagus plants can provide a bit of asparagus, then tall, ferny foliage in the perennial border throughout the summer.

A tomato plant can provide a wonderful, flavorful summer harvest, but if you plant blueberries you can have an annual harvest for years. Blueberries have it all – delicate spring blooms and colorful fall foliage on a native plant that produces tasty fruit full of antioxidants and vitamins. Blueberries can be mid-size shrubs that produce best when there are three shrubs that include different varieties. I highly recommend planting three blueberries if you have the space, but there are many varieties of patio blueberries available now: blueberries that stay under 3’ tall and produce even if you have only one plant. These blueberries, like ‘Blue Suede’, which was bred in the South to produce lots of berries over an extended season, grow well in a container on a patio or deck.

OK, rosemary on your chicken and basil on your tomatoes are impressive, but what about lavender flavoring your sugar cookies, edible flowers decorating your plate, home-grown herbal tea (try a $3 pack of Hibiscus ‘Herbal Tea’ seeds from Renee’s Garden), or redbud blooms tossed into a salad? Who says you can’t have your flowers and eat them too?