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Small Space Gardening for Edibles

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Growing food ourselves is seeing a resurgence in popularity, at least in part due to concerns about the economy. Thanks to Greg Maynard’s vision, even Goodale Park has edible plants tucked into flower beds this year. (Have you spotted them?) If you’re not someone with an open, sunny backyard, you might not think you can grow edibles. I’d like to suggest edible landscaping or container gardening as attractive options. Edible landscaping can be done anywhere you can grow plants. It’s really just a matter of expanding the plants you consider for any particular need. Need a groundcover? Strawberry, wintergreen, thyme, and low growing mints all are quite beautiful and tasty. Well, actually that may be an exaggeration for wintergreen…but it is a pretty evergreen. It’s just that the berries tast EXACTLY like wax lips. If that doesn’t appeal to you, except for novelty, you can rest assured they won’t go to waste. Birds do enjoy eating them.

Blueberries, gooseberries, and black currants are nice shrubs with edible berrries. The picture above is Harley sitting by some of the blueberries in our front yard (yes, she is the garden trampler mentioned last month). Flower gardens can include not only herbs like sage, dill, lavendar, and most other herbs; but also carrots, raddish, celery, onion, and in some cases peppers – depending on the look you’re going for. Carrots and raddish are best harvested before they bolt (form flowers), but you can allow some to bolt in your flower garden for a lovely display, as well as seeds to save for next year.

“But I only have a balcony”, you say? Grow plants in containers. Similar to landscaping a yard, make your containers interesting by growing plants of different heights and leaf textures together. Take a page from companion planting. This is a growing concept that understands that some plants, when growing together, benefit each other by improving flavor, reducing insect damage, or improving the soil. Consider growing a tomato plant in a large pot surrounded by short rooted carrots. Do “Carrots Love Tomatoes”? You bet they do! In fact, it’s the title of one of my favorite gardening reference books. Not an easy read, but a great reference to use when you’d like ideas on what to plant. It is the most beat up of all of my gardening books, because I refer back to it regularly for inspiration. Continuing this idea, plant a broccoli plant, surrounded by onions and edged with green lettuce to create a monochromatic display of texture. Another option is to select a theme for your potted plants, like the salsa garden pot sold at Urban Gardener last year (we miss your creativity, Christie – although Concrete Jungle is a nice neighborhood addition).

There are so many possibilities for growing food. Try a few new plants this year. Even a very small harvest can be delightful both in the thrill of growing and the enjoyment of harvesting.

Some of my favorite garden reference books:

Carrots Love Tomatoes
Rodale’s Low-Maintenance Gardening Techniques
The Vegetable & Herb Expert (great pics)
The Gardener’s A-Z Guide to Growing Food Organically

I Hope this has served as inspiration, and if so, send pictures of your garden — or better yet, invite me over for a meal!

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