We are fortunate. Transportation and refrigeration have made it possible for us to enjoy out-of-season fruits and vegetables without a second thought. Lettuce in January? Tomatoes in November? No problem in the Northern Hemisphere, where such delights would otherwise be available only in the summer. However, there’s nothing like a fresh, ripe tomato from your garden, and harvesting your own lettuce minutes before you eat it is very satisfying. Summer is almost here. Time to get growing and experience edible gardening!
Plan Before You Plant. There are so many options for edible gardens; it’s hard to know where to start. The creative people at Houzz have hundreds of ideas, ranging from traditional rows to raised beds. You can fit your greens into a Mediterranean setting, a tropical paradise, or an Asian-style garden. Live in a dry climate? There are water-wise tips and tricks to follow. You’ll see ideas for small gardens and gardens that could feed a small town. Enjoy your browsing, but remember to look at your space and consider how much time you want to devote to your garden. If this is a new venture, start small. You can always add a watermelon patch next year.
Grow Up. Speaking of space, just because you don’t have a lot of room doesn’t mean you can’t grow edibles. Pole beans love to climb. You can grow cucumbers on trellises, and peas, zucchini, and squash are trellis-loving options, too. (Dare I say it? The sky’s the limit!) Container gardening is another small-space solution. Strawberries will thrive in pots, and give you lovely flowers before rewarding you with sweet fruit. Did you know you can grow fruit trees in small spaces? You may have seen dwarf citrus trees, but there are dwarf apples, cherries, peaches, and more.
What To Plant. What do you like to eat? You can grow just about anything if you have water, sun and soil, although there are limitations. Corn requires a lot of space. Lettuce will bolt (go to seed) when the weather is hot and the days are long. Tomatoes, like most fruit and veg, need a certain number of days to ripen, although there are many short-season varieties to satisfy your caprese salad cravings. Make a wish list, do some online research, and talk to the gardeners at a local garden center. They are more likely to have plants suited to your climate than the national chain stores. Experiment if you can. I’ve always thought of artichokes as a coastal California plant, but I have friends in central New Mexico who grow them successfully, and are harvesting them now.
Don’t Forget The Flowers. The success of an edible garden requires pollinators, such as bees, birds, butterflies, and bats. Even flies and mosquitoes play a role. These beneficial creatures need a variety of food sources, so while you may be focusing on edibles, mix in some flowers. Not only will you encourage pollinators to visit, you’ll add color and interest to the garden. Add flowers that bloom throughout the growing season and look for native plants as well. Limit or eliminate pesticides from your garden. If it kills a destructive insect, it will kill a beneficial one. Pull on your gardening gloves and remove pests by hand, and maybe plant a little extra to allow for some losses. Deer and rabbits are a different matter. You’ll need good fencing to keep them out of your garden.
But I Don’t Have A Garden. No problem. That’s why we have farmers markets!