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How to Create an Edible Garden

Edible landscaping, or foodscaping, has exploded as the hottest gardening trend in years.


By Arricca SanSone, Country Living

Landscaping with food has never been easier or more fun! Here are a few tried-and-true edibles every gardener should consider (and a few new varieties you just have to try).


Edible Garden

Your grandparents were on to something when they tucked a tomato plant or a row of beans wherever they could in their backyard Victory gardens. Nowadays, the concept is similar: Why not grow edibles alongside (or instead of) ornamentals in your landscape? It's a technique that's called edible landscaping, or foodscaping, and it's exploded as the hottest gardening trend in years. The best thing is anyone can grow food, and you needn't tear out your lawn or have a big yard to do it. "You don't need lots of space because plant breeders have developed more compact edibles that thrive in small spaces and containers yet don't sacrifice taste and yield," says Diane Blazek, executive director of All-America Selections, which field tests plants for garden performance. "Plus, you'll have bragging rights because you can say you grew it yourself!"



Greens

"Gourmet greens and baby greens are incredibly expensive at the grocery store, but they're really easy to grow," says Rhonda Fleming Hayes, author of Pollinator Friendly Gardening. "You can simply snip a few leaves from each plant, and they'll keep producing without having to pull up the whole plant and create a hole in your garden." Sow seeds thickly and cut as needed when a few inches tall. Try a mixed row of various colors and types of lettuces and greens such as arugula and kale as a stunning border, in mixed planters, or in window boxes.

Tip: Keep greens evenly moist, and sow seeds a week or so apart so you have a succession of fresh greens.

Greens to try:

•Mizuna Red Kingdom, a pretty reddish-purple Japanese mustard green

•Tuscan baby leaf kale, fast-growing Italian heirloom that's milder than many kales

•Sandy lettuce, attractive oak-leaf shaped leaf in a loose head



Herbs

"One of the best things you can do is harvest just half your herbs, then let the rest go to bloom, which attracts pollinators that are beneficial to your garden," says Hayes.  Many herbs, such as thyme and sage, are perennials in some climates, so you will only have to plant them once. Plant herbs in mixed planters with ornamentals or as edging or borders throughout your landscape.

Tip:  Many herbs such as sage, dill, parsley and rosemary are beautiful, fragrant additions to cut bouquets, combined with other more traditional garden flowers.

Herbs to try:

•Boxwood Basil, compact, bushy plant looks like a boxwood but makes great pesto

•Oregano Cleopatra, silvery-gray trailing foliage has mildly spicy kick

•Cha Cha Chive, greens and flowers are edible with slight onion taste



Tomatoes

There's nothing like popping a ripe cherry tomato, warm from the summer sun, into your mouth as you wander around your garden. "There are so many different kinds that you'll find one that suits your tastes," says Hayes. "Use decorative obelisks or rose towers instead of unattractive tomato cages for the vines, or train them up and over an arch for a more aesthetic effect in your landscape."

Tip: Read the package or tag to make sure you'll have space for the mature plant because many of the vines can become huge (7 or 8 feet long).

Tomatoes to try:

•Patio Choice Yellow, bright yellow high-yield cherry type with vines that grow only to 18 inches

•Fantastico, long clusters of grape-shaped fruit that does well in hanging baskets

•Cherokee Purple, heirloom tomato with rich, sweet taste



Beans

Pole beans, which require support, and bush beans, which typically grow in a more compact form that doesn't require staking, are some of the easiest and most prolific veggies to grow, says Blazek. Beans make beautiful vertical accents in the garden, trained up a decorative trellis, tower or tepee-shaped structure of branches lashed together at the top with twine.

Tip: Direct sow them right into your planting beds or containers, as transplants don't do well.

Beans to try:

•Seychelles, high-yield pole bean with 5 to 6"-long straight stringless pods

•Mascotte, compact bush bean that grows well in containers and window boxes

•Scarlet runner, heirloom variety with gorgeous red flowers that attract hummingbirds



Peppers

"Most peppers will do well in containers so they're a good choice if you are strapped for space," says Blazek. Arrange several containers or pots along a patio or on a sunny front porch.

Tip: Many peppers benefit from staking, and they need consistent, moderate water throughout the season.

Peppers to try:

•Tangerine Dream, compact bush type with bright orange-red peppers 3" across

•Mad Hatter, sweet taste, high yield, and unique three-sided flat shaped fruit

•Cornito Giallo, sweet Italian frying pepper with pretty yellow fruit



Eggplant

Newer types have thornless leaves that make them easier to harvest. Many new types grow in more compact sizes so they do well in containers, says Blazek. They look good as accent plants in pots along a sunny patio or driveway.

Tip: They don't like cold. Wait until nighttime temps are consistently above 60 degrees before planting your eggplant outdoors.

Eggplants to try:

•Patio Baby, compact plants that yield purple-black fruit that's 2 to 3"-long

•Fairytale, compact plant that yields tender eggplants that are white with purple stripes

•Rosa Bianca, pink and white heirloom Italian variety that yields best in climates with warm nights


Berries

Berries are pricey and don't have a particularly long shelf life at the market, so they're perfect candidates for growing yourself. "I prefer to grow types I can't find at the store," says Hayes. Traditional berry bushes are a good barrier hedge or border planting along a property line, while newer plants have a more compact shape that works well as a low hedge or in decorative pots.

Tip: Place extras on a tray to freeze, then toss in a plastic bag for fresh fruit this winter.

Berries to try:

•Baby Cakes, dwarf thornless blackberry that grows well in pots

•Raspberry Shortcake, compact thornless raspberry that doesn't require staking or lots of space

•Delizz Strawberry, produces super-sweet berries all season long and does well in pots
edible landscaping, foodscaping, how to grow your own food

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