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By Therese Ciesinski, GardenSMART

Do you have a small garden, but big growing dreams? Do you yearn to grow both radishes and roses? Then try foodscaping, the art of combining vegetables, fruits, and ornamental plants in an attractive way.

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You might know foodscaping better by its other name, edible landscaping. It’s the best of all worlds for small backyards, those with limited sunny spots, or where a traditional vegetable garden would be awkward, say, in a front yard.

Many edibles look as good as they taste. Kale, Swiss chard, bronze fennel, and hot peppers are all attractive plants. And perennial edibles win the beauty contest, too. Asparagus and fruits such as blueberries, pears, and rhubarb offer beauty and flavor. And all this diversity draws in pollinators and nurtures wildlife.

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To be successful, follow these guidelines when designing with edibles:

  • Grow edibles next to ornamental plants with the same cultural needs.
  • Most vegetables and fruits need rich, well-drained soil, full sun, and one inch of water a week.
  • Add compost, top with mulch, and fertilize with seaweed emulsion.
  • Don't use pesticides or herbicides.
  • Fill the gaps harvesting creates by transplanting in more seasonally-appropriate vegetables: For example, kale after lettuce or Swiss chard.

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Five Beautiful Edibles To Try

Blueberries(Vaccinium): Blueberries are tasty and the plants are easy to grow. Highbush blueberries, which can grow to 12 feet in height, make good hedges. Two-foot tall lowbush, or wild, blueberries add interest to a flowerbed. Planting more than one variety will improve yields. Blueberries need acid soil, just like rhododendrons and azaleas.

Cherry tomatoes: Fast-growing cherry tomatoes are super easy to grow. They will keep the garden colorful while producing fruits faster than you can eat them. There are red, yellow, orange, and deep purple varieties, with names like ‘Red Robin’, ‘Sungold’, ‘Gold Nugget’ and ‘Black Cherry’. Tuck a couple in a flower border and let them ramble around black-eyed Susans or coneflowers.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): This perennial herb prefers a warm, dry climate. Its fragrant, needle-like leaves and intense blue flowers make it a natural low hedge or border. The cultivar ‘Arp’ grows upright, and can be shaped into a small topiary; ‘Prostratus’ is a trailer, and looks pretty spilling over a wall or as a groundcover. Although rosemary isn’t hardy in zones 5 and colder, plants can be brought indoors and overwintered in front of a (very) sunny window or under grow lights.

Scarlet runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus): An annual vine with bright red blooms that turn into eight-inch long pods. Eat the flowers, the cooked pods when young (before the beans appear), or harvest the dry pods for the bubblegum-colored beans. Train the vines on an arbor or trellis. The more you pick, the more flowers you get. Hummingbirds and bees like them, too.

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Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris subsp. Vulgaris): Big, glossy green leaves and brilliant red stalks give the garden a tropical feel. The stalks of the variety ‘Bright Lights’ are red, pink, and orange. Swiss chard handles both cool and hot weather, and prefers rich, moist soil. Sweet alyssum and cosmos are colorful companions. Grows to 16” tall by 8” wide.

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GardenSMART Featured Article

By Delilah Onofrey, Suntory Flowers
Photographs courtesy of Suntory Flowers

Now is the time to shop for annuals that will go the distance all summer. Suntory Flowers has a portfolio of gorgeous varieties that thrive in the heat. To learn more, click here for an interesting article.

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