An Ornamental Vegetable Garden
Give your veggie garden a facelift with these inspiring ideas.
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Push the limits of any garden, large or small, with an ornamental vegetable garden. Traditional veggie gardens are generally confined to rectangular raised beds, but why not think outside of the box? This 225-square-foot space (15' x 15') at the Sunset magazine gardens has been planted to maximize harvest (figure A); it can produce enough veggies for two to four people.
Curvilinear raised beds with well-draining soil are laid out in a circular pattern with two semi-circular sides. They are lined in fieldstone, adding an attractive hardscape element and providing structure for the space. The layout allows room for easy access and viewing of the beds.
From eggplants and peppers to squash and herbs, a variety of summer crops are grown here. In winter, cool-season crops like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and other greens are planted.
The beds take advantage of vertical space to maximize the harvest. Hog wire provides a great support for climbing beans (figure B).
Wood stakes sunk into the ground about 1-1/2 deep provide a sturdy structure for tomatoes (figure C). Starting from the ground up, wrap twine around each stake every six inches to create a cage around the plants and continue adding twine as the tomatoes grow.
A birdbath and flowers complete this small garden. The added benefit, besides being attractive, is the attraction of birds and insects. Because the birdbath and flowers attract natural predators, pest problems are kept to a minimum.
Although succulents are often thought of as plants for warm climates only, some varieties are suitable for colder climates, even to USDA Zone 5. The succulent garden at Sunset is an experiment of colors and textures (figure D).
These low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants come in a colorful array from blues and grays to reds and oranges. Some have spiky or rosette growth habits while others have ruffled or rounded edges (figure E).
Concerned that your succulents won't overwinter in your area? By growing them in containers, you can have them outdoors all summer long and bring them inside for the winter.
Beach garden in a pot
If you are looking for a soothing reminder of your summer vacation to a tropical island, recreate your own miniature version of paradise with a beach garden in a pot (figure F). First, get a container that will hold your pint-sized beach. Then select plants that you might see growing along the coast. Here, Mexican heather grass (Stipa sp.), gold coin aster (Astericus maritimus 'Gold Coin') and Echevaria are planted in the pot. Use horticultural-grade sand as a mulch dressing over the soil surface; this type of sand is weed free. Spread the sand between the plants. Complete the look of the container by adding a few beachy touches like pieces of driftwood or even a miniature umbrella used in cocktail drinks.
If you're planning to spice up your gardening this summer, chile peppers are the way to go.