Making Gardens Work For You: Meet Productive Gardens

While beauty and relaxation are important traits in their own right, they aren't the only reasons to have gardens. Productive gardens can yield fruits, vegetables, herbs and clipping flowers to freshen your home and gift in bouquets.

Kitchen Garden with Herbs, Fruits, Vegetables and Flowers

Productive Garden with Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs and Flowers

DK - Garden Design, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

This garden is not only productive but beautiful, with a healthy mix of flowers, herbs and vegetables. Colors are grouped for maximum visual impact.

Gardens that bear items for use, called productive gardens, have been popular for a long time, dating back through the Renaissance to Medieval times. While the Victorian elite grew exotic fruit and fresh vegetables for hobby and entertainment, "victory gardens" provided key sustinence to women and children whose men were off at war. Today, productive gardening has found itself in a resurgence movement, as people try to reclaim control over the food they eat, decrease their spending and rediscover the shared joy that comes with a well-earned meal that you've grown yourself.

If the wide variety of productive gardens have anything in common, it's a tendency to be orderly, with geometric beds separated by paths for ease of access and maintenance. Materials vary but are most often utilitarian - concrete slabs, brick pathways or even compacted earth are common. Cold frames or greenhouses are often used to protect less hardy plants or to start crops early.

Planting varies seasonally, but fruit trees and bushes provide more permanent structure. Low box hedges may also be introduced, especially in association with herbs that tend to flop and spread informally. Water, required for irrigation, can also be included as a decorative feature.

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