Do you lack space for a full kitchen garden but wish you could incorporate more beautiful edibles into your outdoor space? Then this post is for you!
Many people simply do not have access to an allotment or have space at home to have a large kitchen garden. Even if they did they may still prefer a garden that is a pretty, orderly space to relax in, entertain and enjoy.
This might be controversial but vegetable plants that I find beautiful on an allotment or large kitchen garden I simply find ugly in a small residential garden. When I am enjoying an al fresco drink or dinner on a warm day, do I really want to sit and look at a brussels sprout plant next to the patio? Honestly?…no! I would marvel at it on my allotment but would find it terribly ugly at home where my outdoor space is just used and enjoyed differently.
Despite having my own allotment, I do still want to plant more edibles at home but in a way where they look pretty and elegant and complement the main planting scheme rather than be the main planting scheme.
How can we incorporate more edibles into a garden planting scheme?
We need to consider growth habits, height and spread and, most importantly, are they visually appealing.
Herbs are an obvious first choice – many of them grow quite small and neat and if grown from seed you can produce many plants at a low cost.
Chives – beautiful! The bees love them and they look like dwarf allium blooms. Plant multiple clumps for symmetry. You can leave the blooms for decoration or pick some to make chive blossom vinegar (drizzle a small amount over your roasted potatoes while they are still in the roasting pan…it is divine!).
Rosemary –a gorgeous plant – not too fancy and makes a fabulous topiary. In fact, Rosemary topiaries at Christmas are making a comeback here – they are already really popular in the US. Think of rosemary as an edible alternative to box. It would look lovely as a substitute for a box ball for example or you could train it to grow as a standard (aka a bush on a stick!)
Sage – on my allotment I am creating lots of herbal hedges and sage is perfect for this. It is fast growing and grows in a neat little mound. You could use sage anywhere in the border as a shrub style plant.
Thyme – you could use thyme as a small hedge – think miniature box! With its tiny leaves its growth is quite compact and would be great underplanting a small tree or climbing rose for example – neatening the edge without causing a distraction to the main feature.
Hyssop – looks just like lavender. Whilst lavender can be edible it can also be quite overpowering so hyssop is the perfect edible alternative.
Lemon Balm & Mints – grow like leafy shrubs. lemon balm will provide you with plenty of leaves for cooking or for homegrown teas! And mint makes the perfect fresh mint tea, added to a simple cous cous side dish or even in a refreshing cocktail or mocktail. Mint should always be grown in pots though or they will take over so this can be in either a generous planter on the patio where the scent will be incredible as you brush past it or bury a pot of mint in the border.
Basil – all basil’s are beautiful and not too big. Purple basil is one of my favourites for both colour and flavour – it would add gorgeous deep purple colour to a border if used as a bedding plant.
Who doesn’t love flowers?! Edible flowers are very ‘on trend’ at the moment so why not grow more of them at home? Here are just a few examples.
Calendula – with its bright orange daisy like flowers Calendula will add both height and colour to a border.
Viola’s – fabulous in a winter hanging basket providing colour throughout the season but they can be grown and enjoyed year-round. Viola’s also make great bedding plants – elegant but not ‘too much’. Viola flowers are edible and look gorgeous in a salad or to garnish a desert or a drink.
Nasturtiums – look great in a hanging basket or climbing up a small trellis – they have such colourful edible flowers and even the leaves are edible! They have a peppery taste and I LOVE LOVE LOVE nasturtium pesto!
There are so many other vegetables and leaves we can grow. Some of my favourites are below!
Radishes – Radishes are great because they are so quick to grow so there is no major commitment if trying these in your planting scheme – sowing to cropping takes only a few weeks when the weather is good. The leaves are pretty and also edible – they can be inserted in the front of the border to give some colour or anywhere that needs ‘filling up’ so you aren’t looking at bare soil!
Salads and spinach– like radishes they are quick to grow. There are so many different varieties that you can go for leaves or overall looks! ‘Merveille des Quatre Saisons’ is a gorgeous butterhead type with red and green leaves that could be grown as a small ornamental shrub type plant.
Beans – grown up an obelisk or trellis beans are easy on the eye and produce lots of green leaves which add height and interest to a border or will happily disguise an ugly fence or shed with some support. The flowers are pretty and the bean pods themselves are quite discreet. We are definitely looking at stocking beans and peas next year so watch this space!
Chillies – Ring of Fire is a great bush type chilli which would look great in a sunny border during the summer months and the masses of small chillies it produces will add some colour and subtle interest. I would plant these in odd numbers starting at three so you can create some continuation in the border and draw the eye along
Tomatoes – who doesn’t love growing tomatoes?! The taste and smell of a homegrown tomato is like nothing else and brings back childhood memories for many of stepping into a greenhouse full of them! If you want to retain some order you will need to go for determinate varieties such as our Tomato ‘Koralik’ which has the added bonus of being blight resistant and is also great for growing in cooler climates. Indeterminate varieties will likely end up a big tangled mess and who wants to look at that on their lovely patio?! I leave those types for the allotment where I am less concerned about looks and more concerned with harvests!
Salad onions – now don’t get me wrong I don’t think these are really ‘garden pretty’ however salad onions at least are very subtle so a few small clumps of these scattered in your border wouldn’t cause a big distraction and could blend quite well into your planting scheme. Our Ishikura onions, when allowed to flower, also look like white allium blooms so if you like alliums in your garden why not grow more of the edible types?!
Beetroot – now this may seem like a strange one but have you ever really paid attention to beetroot leaves? They are stunning – particularly the vibrant red colour of our beetroot ‘bulls blood’ – the root grows in the soil leaving the beautiful leaves on display – stagger a few beetroot seeds in a border either singly or in small clumps and watch the leaves fill out while the bulbs do their thing!
Chard – definitely a stunning plant to grow and very ornamental adding height and colour to the border. The bright coloured stems are incredible and the large veined leaves look like mini rhubarb. Chard looks fantastic all year round taking pride of place in a winter garden.
There are so many incredible ways to add beautiful edibles to your home garden in a really elegant way. I hope this post has given you some great ideas to get you started!
Happy Sowing! x