When you first start to grow food, it may seem a bit dull compared to growing only flowers. However you can still have a beautiful garden even with edible plants.
You may have thought that a field of lettuce or a planter of just chard is boring! It can be, especially if you’re using the traditional varieties that are mainly green.
However there are ways to add colour, texture and a sense of cohesiveness to your backyard, front yard, balcony, deck or patio even if just growing edible plants.
Let’s look at some ideas which you can mix and match to your liking.
Veggie plants as accents
There are lots of vegetables that actually add colour and texture to the garden.
The fruiting veggies come to mind first, such as tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and squashes, including zucchini.
There are many varieties to choose from multi-coloured ones especially are eye-catching as they ripen.
And the blossoms as well are attractive in spring and early summer.
Other veggies with leaves can act as a green backdrop to other more colourful plants. Different varieties of kale for instance add texture to the garden with their frilly dark green leaves.
However there are some varieties of “green” veggies that are colourful such as rainbow Swiss chard that comes in yellow, red and white.
And you can even get beans in a rainbow hue of colours!
And lettuce doesn’t just come in green. There are red varieties and even those come in different shades of red.
Using Herbs as borders
Herbs can also serve a purpose as an attractive, fragrant border.
You can easily create a low hedge of lavender, oregano or basil plants around your garden and it may just keep some pests away that don’t like the smell!
Or you can use creeping thyme to cascade over a rock wall or just edge a path. I have a border of thyme along my raspberry patch and every time I pick raspberries and step on the thyme, I get a waft of thyme goodness in my nose.
Herbs can also be used in containers and once they flower they can provide a nice focal point to a patio, deck or balcony.
Grow edible flowers
Warning: not all flowers are edible and some are very poisonous. If in doubt don’t eat a flower that you can’t identify accurately.
You can of course have a mixed garden with regular flowers around your garden or in containers in addition to your food plants.
But you can also plant edible flowers that provide the same colour and texture and fragrance as inedible flowers.
Roses are edible (if not sprayed with any chemical pesticides) and come in all colours you can imagine! There are other uses as well for roses other than making tea with their petals.
Nasturtiums act as a sacrificial plant that lures aphids away from your food plants. But the flowers and seed pods are edible with the seed pods often used to make faux pickled caper berries.
And chamomile, while considered an herb, can act as a great ground cover with attractive white flowers that make a great tea.
For a list of edible flowers, see https://www.westcoastseeds.com/blogs/garden-wisdom/list-of-edible-flowers
Build attractive garden structures
The other way you can beautify a food garden is to pay close attention to the structures that support growing.
Raised beds, trellises, compost bins, arbours, garden sheds and greenhouses don’t have to just be utilitarian. These can be built from materials such as cedar, redwood or another warm-looking wood or stained or painted to match the rest of your garden style.
While the trend to make everything from pallets and pallet wood has become popular mainly due to cost of raw lumber and the desire to recycle and reuse materials, it doesn’t always lend itself well to attractive garden structures.
Use attractive containers and planters
The other structure in some senses are containers. Here you can pick containers that match your style and either go with lots of varied containers or stick with just one material, style or colour for cohesiveness.
Even recycled containers such as buckets can be spruced up with paint (only on the outside) or you could build a sleeve around them with wood.
You can even get faux stone spray paint if you want to convert a cheap-looking plastic container into what looks like a stone planter.
Keep a tidy garden
Even without spending any money, you can do a lot to keep your garden tidy.
Have a maintenance area that is hidden from normal view where you can store large items such as wheelbarrows, garden carts that don’t fit in your garden shed. And this maintenance area can also house your compost bins, extra bulk soil, extra planters or containers, etc.
Do a garden cleanup regularly. Keep your beds well-weeded and trim off any dead leaves or foliage from your plants. Prune plants as need to keep them in check. And use an attractive mulch to not only improve looks but to also conserve moisture and block weeds from sprouting.
Also go around and pick up any tools left out (especially after a marathon gardening session!), clean them and store them securely in a dry location. Same goes for other supplies such as empty soil bags, discarded string from tying up plants, etc.
Don’t expect perfection
Finally you may need to work on your mindset. If you expect perfection in a food garden, you’ll be disappointed.
Things will happen such as mammal pests disturbing your nicely raked mulch to look for bugs to eat. Or your garden structures fade and need restaining or repainting. Or maybe you just let them weather naturally if they’re made of wood.
And your plants themselves may not be as attractive as you thought they’d be. Especially if you’re caring for them organically, you may have some holes in leaves.
That’s okay as your produce’s taste will make up for some blemishes.
You can always clean up your plants a bit, removing discoloured or yellowed leaves which also helps avoid certain diseases.
But the main thing is that you’re growing food. If you can beautify it a bit, that’s fine but in the end harvesting that ripe tomato or bunch of herbs is worth not having a perfect garden all the time!
If you enjoyed this article, have something to add or have any questions, please leave a comment below.
Wishing you all the best!
Tranquil Urban Homestead, Victoria, BC