My vegetable garden has slowly been converted into a fruit garden. This didn't happen overnight. It is surrounded by a lovely little picket fence, about 2 feet high. Mom built it one spring when she was bored, to provide a little protection from, well, rabbits anyways. We painted it redwood, to match the garage. Everytime we bought a new fruit plant and were looking for a place to put it, the veggie garden seemed appropriate. Since I buy most everything in the fall at reduced prices, the vegetable bed would be the only empty place in the yard. Fruits would be parked there "temporarily", until we could find a suitable spot for them. The temporary spot became permanent. The veggies gradually got moved aside. Now I have a lovely little garden filled with apple trees that we started from seed, grapes, raspberries and blueberries. The question was, where am I gonna put the veggies?
I thought back to a time when I rented this house, and didn't have the use of the entire yard like I do now that I own it. Ah ha!! Problem solved. I'll put the vegetables in the gardens, with the annuals and perennials, like I did years ago. I mean, why not? The flower beds get weeded, they get compost, a drink if they beg. That's the exact same treatment vegetables need.
It is a well-known fact that planting certain flowers with your vegetables helps protect them fom bugs. Why not reverse it and plant the veggies right in with the flowers? Geraniums are said to repel cabbage worms, makes sense to have them growing together. Marigolds help keep whiteflies off of tomatoes. Petunias are a good pest deterrent as well. Sweet alyssum attracts a bug that greedily eats aphids. Bring your vegetables back to the garden.
I once stuck two tomato plants in my raised front flower bed, under an old leaky eaves trough. Every night the dew would form on the roof and drip down and water those tomatoes. Nothing else would grow in that 2 foot square area without rotting because it was always damp. That year I had the best crop of tomatoes ever. They produced quite happily between the Sedum and the Monarda.
Vining veggies: cucumbers and pole beans (Grandad's favourite). Imagine them growing along with your Clematis or morning glories. Let them grow up your sunflowers, ready-made poles just waiting to be taken advantage of. It saves searching around for wires, string, fencing, etc. Don't laugh!! It is possible.
Utilize all of that area between your perennials. Just think, the less open space there is, the less room there will be for weeds to grow. Use your imagination here, there are no rules. Carrots among the cosmos. All of the action in Cosmos happens at the top of the plant. Carrots would nicely fill that bare space down below with lush, green foliage, keeping the weeds at bay. I have seen carrots grown in deep, square pots as well.
Imagine, if you will, wandering around the garden, pulling the few weeds that found the space to grow, every few feet or so stopping to munch contentedly on beans, sugarsnap peas and cherry tomatoes. Deadheading would become a task to look forward to. A recommended daily serving of vegetables, no cooking required!!
Many thanks to bebop2 for the use of the lovely photos.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on March 3, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)