If you ever worry about where your food comes from, or what kind of chemicals might have been put in or on it, growing your own is a great solution. Plus, you won't be spending all your cash on organic produce from
Whole Paycheck Whole Foods anymore.
But don't worry, you don't have to give up attractive landscaping -- an edible garden can look good, too, says Jamie Durie, author of "Edible Garden Design."
"The reason I wrote this book is, I got really sick and tired of looking at ugly vegetable gardens," Durie said in a phone interview from his Southern California home.
To transform your garden into an Edenic land of bounty, think of swapping your pretty-but-useless ornamental plants for edible ones. Instead of ornamental hedges around the sides, use apple or citrus trees. You can train them to grow against a wall by tying them to a frame -- this is called espalier. Durie particularly likes prunus serrula, also known as Tibetan cherry, for this.
"It has one of the most beautiful trunks -- it's like polished copper," he said. "It's an incredible ornamental plant that still produces food."
Beneath those trees, also along the edge of the garden, you can use blueberries or raspberries as ground cover.
If you have a fence, you can coax a vine to run across it. "Passionflower vine has one of the most incredible flowers on it you can imagine -- it's my favorite vine," Durie said.
To fill it all in, think about plants that will deliver the shape, color, and texture that you want in the garden -- and, of course, what you like to eat. The blue flowers of sage add an unusual color, and chives add texture.
Heirloom tomatoes, especially compact varieties, are great. Durie likes the Black Russian variety for its deep color.
"Parsley makes a fantastic border for garden beds, and it can be clipped into a replacement for boxwood," Durie said. He likes to interplant parsley with marigold, which has vivid color and also deters pests. Kale is another good border plant, with a more dramatic dark leaf.
Easiest edible plants for beginning gardeners
Pumpkins: You can pretty much plant and then forget about them, Durie says.
Zucchini: Same as pumpkins, but don't forget them for too long, or you'll wind up with giant blimplike objects on the vine -- and have to face weeks and weeks of zucchini bread.
Tomatoes: Easy to grow in containers or beds and much cheaper than buying heirlooms at the farmers market.
Rosemary: The upright type is great for borders, while the trailing type works well in windowboxes, spilling out to soften hard lines.
Oxeye daisies: While they're not edible, Durie said, "I use them quite a lot because they're a plant that you barely have to water, and they'll scramble across a garden and fill in the bald spots -- nobody likes bald spots in a garden!"
You don't have to have a lot of space for an edible garden, although you probably won't be able to feed a family of four off a container garden.
"It doesn't matter where you live -- everyone gets a ray of sunlight," Durie said. "Be fearless!"
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You can buy Jamie Durie's "Edible Gardens" for the special price of $4.99 from these booksellers until May 18:
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