Edible Plants in the Landscape

This month’s Garden Design Workshop is on edible plants http://www.gardeninggonewild.com/?p=2213#more-2213. I doubt that there are many of us who don’t at least have a potted patio tomato every summer, if only in self-defense against those red tennis balls they sell in the supermarkets. This year, I added some type of super-100 hybrid cherry tomato that I grew from seed, and seedlings of Cherokee Purple, one of the best-tasting beefsteak-style tomatoes ever.

If you’re a perfectionist, Cherokee Purple is not for you. The fruits grow into strange shapes, have a peculiar color that is neither green, nor purple, nor red, crack, and do not reveal when they’re ripe. Mine were clinging to their vines with an unbelievable tenacity way past the time they should have been picked, until I figured them out. Their thick skin doesn’t soften, either. I learned to bounce them around in my hand and try to “weigh” whether they were “done.” They were worth every bit of effort.

The cherry tomatoes fruited profusely and my patio tomato was its usual, reliable insurance policy. Tomato towers from Gardeners Supply Company http://www.gardeners.com/Tomato-Towers/35-780,default,pd.html made the job of keeping the plants under control and the fruit off the ground much easier.

Seeds from last fall’s centerpiece, a warty, pink, Galeux d’Eysines squash were planted next to the tomatoes. I got only one pink and green striped fruit; no warts, but a new batch of cheery flowers every morning, which I admired, but didn’t eat. The squash will go into next week’s soup.

I also tried a few greens --- spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce, and arugula, which I put out in their pots as an experiment. All but the arugula became rabbit chow in no time.

My food plants all grow on a sunny berm, in amongst the roses, ironweed, beauty berry, and lilac --- the sunniest space in the back yard. I moved a bunch of strawberry plants there as well, not so much for the berries, since chipmunks don’t wait for them to ripen, but rather in an attempt to crowd out the crown vetch that was trucked in with some topsoil.

Out front is the lavender garden, which I never thought of as food until I tried some lavender cookies on a recent garden tour. A single chive plant keeps company with perennials in another bed. Cuban sage, regular sage, lemon verbena, parsley, marjoram, thyme, and basil spent the summer in galvanized window boxes placed at the base of our porch columns.

Next year, I plan to add some cucumbers and figure out how to grow greens that we actually get to eat ourselves.

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