by germinatrix | February 22nd, 2011
Growing food is incredible. It is also work- harder work than growing ornamentals. This is a fact.
I always say that gardening is magic – well, when you grow food, this magic is multiplied. You put a seed into some soil, you water it and give it sun, it grows full and lush and blossoms and then, it FEEDS you. It is like having the most incredible house guests – the ones that cook for you, then take you out to dinner, and send you a bottle of champagne and chocolates in thanks. Edible gardening, like having house guests, isn’t easy – but it is a joy nevertheless.
These days there seem to be two gardening camps – those who want their gardening easy and straightforward and those who are type A gardeners – these tend to be the food growers. They do EVERYTHING – they grow food, they can their own food, they cook like Top Chefs, they have chickens – leaving those of us who haven’t the time or energy to devote ourselves to being Neo-Pioneers feeling somewhat lame. Why can’t I have a full-time job and grow food? Is my garden doomed to being an attractive collection of easy care ornamentals, a space that gives me nothing to literally sink my teeth into?
I SAY NO!!! You CAN have a garden of eating that doesn’t demand everything from you, but, lets face it – it will demand. Reality check – edibles take extra work. You have to irrigate, fertilize, inspect for nasty critters, harvest, and utilize what you’ve harvested (sounds easy, but just wait until you are in the middle of the summer with your kitchen counters FULL of tomatoes and eggplant, and a busy social calendar!)
“Germinatrix, WHY are you being such a downer? You just wrote a book about how fantastic edible gardens can be, why are you talking about all of the work that they take? I want the MAGIC!”
SShhhh, my little plant fiends – I don’t want to burst your bubble or take away the magic – I truly BELIEVE in the magic! But in order to create a truly successful edible garden, one that will work for you, one that will integrate into a real, busy modern lifestyle, one has to plan. One has to think. One has to make sure that one isn’t so carried away by the romance of having delicious, fresh bounty that is plucked from your yard that you create something unwieldy; something you can’t handle. There is nothing sadder than an abandoned edible garden, because these spaces have all the potential to change our lives for the better, if we come to terms with a few things before we plant.
Thing the first – Hardscape hardscape hardscape. Many of the plants that feed us are gangly, unruly, verging on the out-of-bounds. Good design is the FRIEND of the edible garden, not something to toss aside as a non-essential. Sturdy raised beds, generous paths, fences that can double as trellises, patio space to balance the grow/work space – these things make an edible garden really sing.
Thing the second – Just say no to horticultural xenophobia! A garden that is strictly edibles only will have a limited appeal across the seasons, even if you live in a climate where you can grow all year long. Mix it up, I say! Bring in structure and contrast of color and texture from the ornamental world and allow yourself to play with ALL the colors in the crayon box!
Thing the third – Think like a designer. Take the same tools designers use to create ornamental gorgeousness, and use them create an edible wonderland. Color, texture, and form – play with these qualities in your edibles and any ornamentals you add to your palette. Repeat strong plants or bold associations to create structure within the edible garden. Also – think about what you REALLY need. A good designer will create a space suited to your lifestyle. If all you want are herbs in pots and a few tomatoes, create a gorgeous edible container garden, and don’t saddle yourself with raised beds that you may never use.
Thing the fourth – Get help. Book some time with a local garden coach. An edible garden tends to be a do-it-yourself affair, so hiring someone that can guide you in your quest is a smart move. They can tell you where to best site certain plants, what really works in your climate, what the tricks are to get things chugging along nicely. No matter how many books you read, nothing beats talking to someone who has planted in your area and has a real familiarity with its terroir. It is a great investment!
Follow these “Things” and you will avoid the curse of good intentions – “What the @#$* did I get myself INTO???” You will have an edible garden that pleases your eye, makes sense for your lifestyle, and feeds you and your loved ones. You can’t beat THAT with a STICK!!!
Oh, and you can ALSO buy a book … um, let’s see – what book could THAT be?
Now follow the links and see what my esteemed colleagues have to say about this topic!
XOXO Your Germinatrix