Flowers aren’t just for weddings anymore. When planting an edible garden, flowers, trees, bushes and plants can provide a beautiful landscape as well as add flavor at the dinner table. Roses, tulips, red clover and violets can add a slightly sweet flavor as a garnish or in a salad. Daylilies mimic the taste of a summer squash and borage has a cucumber like flavor.
Flowering bush’s also produce edible flowers, like hibiscus, produce orange, red, or purplish red flowers that taste like cranberry and have citrus overtones. White elderberry flowers are sweet to the taste.
When planning the location of an edible garden, sun is the most important factor. A space close to the kitchen and visible from a kitchen window is helpful. When a garden is easy to see a access, it will serve as a visible reminder to head outdoors when it needs attention. Soil quality is important, and poor soil can be mediated with organic matter, or even by creating raised beds on top of the poor soil. A 20 foot by 20 foot plot will allow for a variety of spreading plants, but a 10 foot by 12 foot still provides room for a profusion of greens, herbs, peppers, beans, cucumbers and edible flowers. Both edible and non-edible flowers are good to include in the garden, not only for their beauty, but as a way of attracting bees and other beneficial insects.
If designing from scratch, plotting the garden on paper is helpful, dividing the area into sections and adding the names of plants that will be assigned to various spots. To make the most of the available sun, the garden bed should have an east to west orientation, the tallest plants placed on the north end. This will reduce the chance of tall plants shading shorter ones. Once a healthy topsoil of 8 to 10 inches is prepared, it is decision time. Beans, squash, tomatoes, lettuce and Swiss chard are some of the easiest plants to grow, and can be good crops for novice gardeners. In early spring, plants that can be grown directly from seed or directsow crops such as beets, carrots, parsnips, peas, radishes and spinach can be planted. The seedlings adapt to cooler spring temperatures and grow particularly fast from seed. Warmer weather vegetables such as beans, cucumbers, corn, and squash can be direct sown a little later in the growing season. To fully enjoy an edible landscape, it’s important to research carefully the types of plants are planning to serve. Some flowers contain substances that can cause an upset stomach, rashes, or headaches. Pollen can cause allergic reactions. Even edible flower should be eaten in moderation.
Experienced gardeners will discover interesting ways of maximizing the planting space. For example, quick maturing crops, such as lettuce, can be planted around slow growers, such as broccoli. The lettuce will be harvested by the time the broccoli needs the space. In addition of flowers, vegetables and herbs, bush and bramble fruits such as blueberries and raspberries, are another easy way to expand the harvest from the landscape. Compared with fruit trees, bushes are easy to grow, rarely require spraying for pests, and begin bearing some fruit the year after planting. By their third season they should be in full production. Perhaps most important, they’re very space efficient.
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