I grew up in my mother’s and grandmother’s gardens on Long Island, picking blueberries, cherries, apples, and sometimes when they hid too long my mother would harvest cucumbers and zucchini that seemed bigger than my head. (Remember never eat anything bigger than your head!) Now that I am a Landscape designer in the Santa Clarita Valley of California, I enjoy adding edibles to my clients’ gardens and of course my own.
I am slowly chipping away at my front lawn, adding both low water/low maintenance plants and edibles. (Yes, I hydrozone so that all are properly watered) I have container designs with squash and eggplant, and I love to add lettuces and greens to almost any container. I also have a beautiful fennel plant (taller than I am) in front of my house where I’ve removed lawn; it is surrounded by gaura, irises, agastache and more. I’d say that about 1/3 of my gardens are edible and I’m hoping to bring more and more clients along for the ride.
One of the gardens I’m working on right now will have a round fountain surrounded by an 18” round planter bed filled with edibles. This winter they will be harvesting succession planted lettuces, a variety of perennial and annual herbs, and edible flowers. I’ll be sure to post photos once we’re planted and growing.
There are so many ways to incorporate edibles into your landscape; of course you can add a kitchen garden into your design, raised bed or right in the ground, it is as old as grandma’s back patch. Or you can start simple, and add herbs to your planter beds. If you want quick results just add some herbs or edibles into an existing bed. Try using either thyme or oregano as ground cover and culinary sage makes a beautiful front of the bed accent! (I like the variegated variety, but the purple one is pretty too and both have wonderfully textured leaves.)
What about introducing some fruit trees? If you manage them right (see my backyard orchard post) you can have months and months of fresh seasonal fruit.
Don’t forget that you can add beautiful flowers too, some are edible and others are good to keep bad insects at bay. Try borage to keep pests off eggplant they also have an edible flower on them that is a lovely lavender color. Dill will help you find out that the hornworms have hit the tomatoes and you will be able to take care of them early. Other edible flowers that I love are nasturtiums and pansies, day lily, and cornflowers. I also love to throw the blossoms of my chives into a salad, and I use the agastache flower (anise hyssop) as a pretty garnish on plates.
There is so much you can do with your garden if you just start thinking outside of the vegetable bed! Think about using the vegetables as an accent, or a focal point. What could be prettier than colorful Swiss Chard?
If you would like to learn more about edible gardening, winter gardens, and the nutritional value of the plants we can grow pretty much year round in Southern California, and you live near Santa Clarita please join my friend, Tina Landrum, and I for a Complimentary Seminar: The Edible Winter Garden, on September 22, 2010 at Green Thumb Nursery’s Harvest Festival. Tina and Julie will be speaking at 10 am, and the festival goes on all day! Raffles, give-aways, discounts, and the Halloween Décor is out!
Green Thumb is located at: 23734 Newhall Avenue Newhall, CA. 91321. I look forward to seeing you there.