Monday, July 13, 2009

Beautiful Edibles

Hello from the Derwood Demo Garden in Montgomery County! (Well, not literally from, though sometimes I wish I could just take my laptop and blog on the spot. Hm, wonder if there's wireless access yet?)

I wanted to introduce you to some of the prettier plants in our garden this year, including my favorite vegetable beauty contest winner, okra. Okra, you say? All right, some of the taller heirloom varieties can get a little spiky and awkward, but even they have the most gorgeous mallow-family flowers, and the dwarf hybrid we're growing, Little Lucy, is just lovely.


It's not particularly productive, but if you're not fond of okra, that could be a positive feature!

Here's how our little Edible Beauty bed looked last month:


The purpose of this bed is to demonstrate that veggies can be beautiful. I think this is something many people need to learn, including lots of homeowner's associations who say "no vegetables in the front yard, please!" We can change minds! Unfortunately the one thing we can't change is the appetite of deer and rabbits and other critters who say "yum! Veggies in the front yard!" and start snacking - my whole property would be an example of edible landscaping if it wasn't for my furry friends who like to visit and munch. So you may need to confine the beautiful veggies to the fenced areas, or try working in the ones the critters don't like. They usually don't care for the onion family, chives for example:


And hot peppers are also not popular:


I have never had trouble with animals eating any of my pepper plants, sweet or hot, but your mileage may vary as they say.

We just pulled out the gorgeous Bull's Blood beets as they were ready to eat. Here's a closeup of the deep red leaf, with a calendula in flower:


The back of the bed is Swiss chard and then climbing Malabar spinach and pole beans. I plan to pull out the lettuce this week (it lasted much longer than expected, since the heat held off) and plant a few Hestia runner beans that do not run but make little clumps. We have traditional runner beans across the way, on the fence behind the tomato bed, looking lovely in bloom:


Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, but you can work with a more conventional standard of gardening beauty and still have your veggies. Choose plants that stay compact (determinate tomatoes, for example, rather than a sprawling indeterminate variety), think about color of leaf and fruit, be thoughtful about your choice of supports and your mulching technique, use the same design principles you would in installing a flower garden, be vigilant about watering and bug patrol, and consider how to fill gaps made by harvesting. Flowers and herbs are great choices to use in any vegetable garden, because they attract beneficial insects, but they are particularly great in a garden that's designed on aesthetic principles.

Enjoy your beautiful veggies!

3 comments:

  1. Erica,

    Great article! The photos are gorgeous! I especially like the purple pepper plant.

    I agree that beauty is a wonderful aspect of a vegetable garden. I love to just sit at the picnic table next to our garden and contemplate the variety of color and textures.

    Dale

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  2. My purple peppers get the occasional leaf bitten, but nothing serious.
    My cat is a BIG fan of the chives - flowers or not.
    Keep up the great posts!

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  3. I'll have the name of the purple pepper soon - it's one of the few I don't have a label going in for yet because our pepper expert has to look it up again. It is beautiful though!

    My cat will bite at anything that looks like grass, but hasn't tried chives more than once or twice. Tastes vary, I guess.

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