A vegetable garden does not need to be a separate area in the garden just for vegetables. Instead vegetables and fruits can be interplanted with other landscape bushes and ornamental plants. Information about the plant size, shape, texture and color is important to incorporate edibles in the home landscaping.
Here are some tips for including edibles in the home front and backyards:
Where to grow veggies specially if there is no space for a vegetable garden?
When we think of growing vegetables most of us think of growing them in neat rows and in raised plant beds. If there is large backyard space certainly a dedicated vegetable patch can be created. It is still useful to include some flowers and herbs even in the dedicated vegetable patch to create a welcoming environment for beneficial insects and reduce the risk of other plant diseases.
If the yard space is small or there is no good place to put a dedicated vegetable patch then add one or two vegetable plants among the existing ornamental plants.
In El Paso, TX or nearby Las Cruces, NM and other desert southwestern cities most residential neighborhoods have professionally landscaped yards with gravel and bushes and almost no space to grow anything else. If this is the case you can create small plant beds each season and gradually increase edibles in your landscape.
To create a plant bed remove gravel and underlying plastic/weed cover in a small 2ft x 3 ft area, exposing the soil. This area does not need to be rectangular, it can be oval, round or irregular shape depending on the rest of your landscape. Create this bed near existing plants in your landscape but not too close either. Locate the water supply to the existing landscape plant and track it down to the larger 5/8" pipe/hose underneath. Once you have located the hose underneath, the new plant bed could be dug anywhere near the path of this hose. This will allow you to connect a small drip-line or small sprayer to the hose thus providing automatic watering to your new plant bed through the existing sprinkler system.
Edge the plant bed with bricks, stone or other suitable edging items available in home improvement stores. Add a bag of compost and mix with the existing soil. If the soil in your yard is builders sand then it is best to remove a small amount of sand to make space for even more compost. If you do not want to remove the soil then edge the bed with brick or other concrete edging materials to raise the bed by about 4-6 inches allowing you to add more compost. Bricks, concrete and stone pavers will allow the bed to be shaped in any design. If a rectangular bed is desired then even wood can be used for edging.
If you do not want to grow in ground then containers and baskets are your options as well. There are many veggies and herbs that can grow in medium size containers such as small pepper varieties , eggplants, smaller tomato varieties and almost any herb. Larger containers are needed for tomatoes, larger pepper and eggplant varieties, okra, various squashes and melons.
Which plants look good in landscape?
Any plant could be included in a beautiful landscape but the place and combination with other plants has to be pleasing to the eye. Vegetable plants have more foliage visible than flowers or fruit therefore will provide good contrast with other foliage plants of different shades or with flowering plants.
Some examples of Summer vegetables in landscape:
Tomato: Vining or indeterminate types of tomato will NOT go well in the front of a flower bed. These however may form a backdrop if a beautiful and strong trellis is used for support. Tomato plants that are rambling without sturdy support will not look attractive.
There are bushy varieties such as husky cherry tomato that can be attractive in the middle area of a wide ornamental bed.
Small varieties of tomato such as Red Robin, Micro Tom, Tiny Tim etc are small bushy plants ranging from 6-12 inches. One or two of these could be incorporated even in the front of an ornamental bed. These are also ideal tomatoes for container planting. Tumbling tom is another container variety but will not go well in ground because it does not stay upright. Its branches tend to, as the name suggests, tumble from the container sides.
Eggplant varieties such as Thai purple, ladyfingers, Ichiban or any other variety with small, bushy plants go very well in flower beds. Plant one or two among flowers or other ornamentals in the front yard. Larger eggplant varieties can be planted at the back of a plant bed.
Eggplants also look beautiful in containers for example you can have a mix container with an eggplant and trailing petunias.
Herbs also go very well in landscape with a wide variety available in different sizes and shades. They not only look beautiful and are useful in the kitchen but also attract many beneficial insects. Here are some examples of using herbs in the landscape:
Dark leaf or purple basil always creates interest in any ornamental bed. It is also good in mixed containers.
Upright rosemary could replace any other landscape bush in your yard and could be maintained in the shape and size desired.
Thyme can be an excellent ground cover.
Oregano goes well in any plant bed and will attract bees
Camomile has beautiful small flowers and can be grown among any other flowering or non-flowering plants
Mint is not good to grow in beds as it is invasive. Instead grow mint in containers in patio.
Sage and lavender are beautiful bushy plants and can be interspersed among other plants in the garden.
Okra has beautiful foliage giving any garden a tropical look. The plant, depending on the variety, could range from 2 feet to 6 feet. Taller plants will look good against a wall or at the back of a ornamental bed. Okra also comes in a burgundy shade in which both leaves and fruit are burgundy and provide a very good color contrast.
Zucchini and other non-vining squash plants have large wide leaves and provide a very attractive appearance in a corner of any ornamental bed.
Vining squashes can be trellised against a wall or can be used as a ground cover
Melons are heavy therefore more suitable for ground cover rather than for an upright trellis or against a wall
If you do not have any edibles in your garden start with just one or two plants either in container or in any plant bed. Even a few home grown chillies from a single plant will tempt you to grow more the next season.
Once we start growing edibles among other landscape and ornamental plants new ideas pour in for the following seasons. Garden art objects could also be placed near the vegetable plants just as with any other ornamental plants in the landscape. We keep learning and keep getting better as we try different plants in different places each season.