A patch of cabbage, broccoli, lettuce and leeks provide contrast in a sea of flowers. Picture: Kay Montgomery
Fruit trees, vegetables, herbs and berry bushes are incorporated aesthetically in this trend, which offers a functional part of the garden landscape, reduces the carbon footprint and helps beat climate change
City gardeners are always on the lookout for savvy ways to get the most out of their gardens. Where herb and vegetables plots were once tucked away at the bottom of the garden or hidden behind the walls of a kitchen courtyard, modern gardeners are putting their crops front and centre with the ornamentals.
Foodscaping is a gardening trend which incorporates fruit trees, vegetables, herbs and berry bushes and makes them an aesthetic as well as functional part of the garden landscape.
Urban farming not only provides the gardener with wholesome food grown close to the table, but also gives parents an opportunity to educate youngsters on food production and encourages a physical family hobby that gets children outdoors.
In addition to the health benefits of more fruit and vegetables in one’s diet, by growing your produce organically you cut down on your body’s exposure to chemical pesticides.
Growing food in your city garden also reduces your carbon footprint and helps to beat climate change.
Go foodscaping: Choose the vegetables and fruit you and your family enjoy. Also, consider produce you can pickle or use to make jam so you can enjoy the fruits of your labour long after the season. If you produce too much for your own table, share with friends, family and neighbours.
Soil and water: Consider your soil type and the water requirements of the edibles you want to plant and place them alongside ornamentals with similar requirements. Vegetables grow best in a rich, well-draining soil. If you have heavy clay soil, add organic material to improve drainage. After planting, mulch the bed to help retain moisture and prevent weed growth. Autumn is a great time to begin a backyard compost heap. Add fallen leaves, vegetable peelings (plenty from soup and stews) and grass clipping, and you’ll have a rich compost to feed your soil in spring.
Placing: Most vegetables need at least six hours of sun daily and will thrive in a sunny mixed border. Some edibles do tolerate a few hours of shade. These include salad vegetables, kale, spinach, mint, garlic and parsley. In drier areas of the garden plant rosemary, sage, thyme and amaranthus.
Add to your design: Before you consider replacing plants in your existing garden, look for places in the landscape where there are gaps that need filling and consider the edibles you can grow here.
Climbing, rambling and vining candidates: grapes, gooseberries, raspberries and blackberries. Grow pole and runner beans, peas, squash, tomatoes or cucumber around a wigwam or teepee or up trellis.
Fruit along a fence or wall: grapevines, kiwi or espalier trees – apples and lemons (Citrus x meyeri).
Tall edibles: corn, amaranthus and rhubarb.
Edibles for inclusion in a mixed border: rosemary, basil, dill, beetroot, spinach, capsicums and blueberries. l Edging plants: mint, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, frilly lettuce or parsley.
Ideal for containers: tomatoes, lettuce (salad combinations), capsicum, strawberries, blueberries (well-draining, slightly acidic soil) and herbs.
Food focal points: a lemon or olive tree, a wigwam with climbing vegetables, grapevines over an arbour or an attractive container planted up with a mixed of vegetables and herbs. Fruit trees like the kumquat (Fortunella japonica), fig, pomegranate and cherry can be grown in containers for an eye-catching display.
Companion planting: Gardeners of yesteryear grew specific plants close to the vegetable patch as a way of naturally deterring pests, or to produce a higher crop yield. Garlic, onions and chives are strong-scented and a good deterrent for pests. Other successful companions are parsley with carrots, tomatoes with celery and mint and any of cabbage family with onions, lavender and marigolds. Sweetcorn can be grown with sunflowers to provide more nitrogen for the corn and amaranthus or nasturtiums close to egg plants to deter pests.
Colour, texture, fragrance: Vegetables that have pretty foliage in vibrant colours can be used for colour and texture in the border. Consider beetroot, kale, feathery drill and fennel or Swiss chard “Bright Lights” for myriad hues in pink and yellow. For the fresh smell of citrus around a garden seating area, plant lemon-scented thyme (Thymus citriodorus) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). Other fragrant herbs to consider are rosemary, lavender and sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana). Rosemary and lavender are water wise but marjoram needs rich soil and regular watering.
Edible flowers: Flowers such as nasturtium, pansies, chrysanthemums, geraniums, marigolds, roses and violets may be picked, washed and added to a tossed salad for extra colour.
Think seasonal: Cut costs and sow vegetables directly from seed. What can you sow now? Beetroot, broccoli (to end-March), cabbage, carrots, celery, garlic, kohlrabi (to end-March), leeks, lettuce, pepper, potatoes, spinach, Swiss chard and turnips. From April: broad beans, onions and peas. Stagger plantings for an extended harvest.