The Ornamental Vegetable Garden

The Shoestring Gardener

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With their sweet-pealike flowers and long, green pods, scarlet runner beans or any variety of peas growing on a fence or trellis behind a flower garden are both delicious and decorative.

The tall, ferny foliage of carrot tops or dill, planted so as to surround flowers with quite solid shapes (dahlias, lilies and daisies, for example), is very attractive: it frames and highlights the flowers. The tall, blue-green, spiky leaves of leeks, the red-tinged, wide leaves of beets, and the flaming red stems and leaves of Swiss chard can light up an ornamental garden with rich color and texture. Many root vegetables—carrots, radishes, and beets, among others—have interesting foliage. With their small, bulbous roots, they can be planted among your flowers without inconveniencing them in the least. As you harvest your vegetables, you make more room for the flowers to grow and expand over the summer. Try a mix of vegetables and flowers— even perennials—in a border. Combine different textures and colors of foliage that complement and enhance each other for a garden as beautiful as it is functional.

Mother Nature didn't segregate vegetables and flowers in her garden. Why should we? Vegetables needn't be grown in seclusion by themselves, relegated to a plot behind the garage. More and more gardeners plant their vegetables near the house where they can be seen, enjoyed, and easily harvested.

Vegetables and flowers can be combined in a garden that is both functional and ornamental. Vegetables are downright beautiful. Combine vegetables with flowers and create a garden of diverse greens, textures, and shapes that will please even the most discerning eye.

Vegetables and flowers are good companions, grown together for centuries for function and beauty. For example, early Americans knew marigolds repel harmful pests. Companion planting in vegetable gardening means encouraging a symbiotic— mutually beneficial—relationship between one plant and another. One plant may repel insects that commonly plague another.

Companion planting can be thought of in terms of pairings for beauty, too. Parsley, ruffled or plain, adds a wonderful, dark-green. textured l>order to a flower garden. As an edge to an early spring flower border, lettuce and cabbage are both attractive (but they will need to be replaced later when hot summer weather arrives). Thomas Jefferson grew tomatoes as a curiosity, an ornamental. He didn't eat them. Tomato plants add color and interest, and are a surprise when attractively surrounded by flowers.

Three years ago I introduced raised beds in my vegetable garden. and there are more benefits than I realized at the time.

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