Winter Border
Credit: c daly

Growing Your Own Food

There is a huge rise in interest in growing your own food. There's nothing tastier than a freshly picked tomato, still warm from the sun. Or how about some peas or beans cooked and eaten before the sugar starts to turn to starch? And herbs in the garden picked fresh just before adding to your dishes so you don't need to buy expensive dried herbs. But you need a large space for a kitchen garden don't you? Vegetable gardening needs at least four if not five large beds to practice crop rotation doesn't it? All the garden design books are full of pictures of large rectangular beds with vegetables growing in strict geometric rows. Or you see an ornamental kitchen garden, with neat raised beds in some garden designer's choice of expensive material like antique brick or new wood.

Mixing Your Vegetables and Flowers -  a More Natural Way Of Growing Plants

But it doesn't have to be like that. Think back to when man was a hunter gatherer. He found food plants in all sorts of places. A grain plant next to a dandelion. A wild carrot in the middle of a meadow. Before man discovered agriculture, he never expected to find loads of the same food plant in the one place.

Some Examples of What Food to Grow

So in your garden why not plant broad beans at the back of a flower bed? They have lovely leaves and stems and many varieties have attractive white or crimson flowers. They are also one of the first plants to put on a show of flowers in spring. A squash or pumpkin plant can provide real architectural interest just at that time of year when the flowers begin to fade. To say nothing of their showy orange flowers. Herbs in the sunniest part of your flower garden, are aromatic and may deter pests from your other plants. Tomato plants may not be the most loveliest of bushes, but they have a lovely smell if you brush against them and when they are full of ripe fruit they look just about as pretty as you are hungry! (To plant tomatoes you are best to plant bush type rather than cordon plants which need to be trimmed and staked.)

Start Your Own vegetables From Seed or Buy in Young Plants

You do not need a big greenhouse to start your plants either because you won't need as many of them. Try starting your seeds in a yoghurt pot on a south facing window sill. Or buy ready started plants from the garden centre.

Theory into Practice

The photos in this article are of the border in our front garden, beside where we park the car. (As you can see by the oil stain!) The square bricks in the driveway are 10cm each to give a sense of scale.

The top photo is the border in February- A brand new border with only one bush in it.

The picture at the bottom of the article is that same border in August. Bear in mind that we have had very little sun so all our plants are late, don't fill the space they are meant to and haven't flowered as well as I'd have liked.

In the August border if my photo were of better quality, you would see three tomato plants, three courgette plants (summer squashes), a row of broad beans, a good supply of rhubarb, sage, parsley, thyme, tarragon, marjoram rosemary and mint (the tea type). There's also a fig tree and an apple tree (which unfortunately died in the harsh winter and late spring we suffered, but will be replaced next year.) And a pumpkin plant which is running so late it hasn't even flowered yet so I don't hold much hope for it.

There are also three purple sprouting broccolis recently planted out and which will add interest to the garden when all the flowers die back. And soon I will be planting out rainbow chard which will light up the border with colour and provide delicious spinach type leaves in the dead of winter.

So planning a 'kitchen garden' isn't all about space and crop rotations, a few vegetables can be planted in your flower bed and I bet you'll get just as much enjoyment out of them as you would out of a showy annual!

A flower border with food crops mixed in
Credit: c daly