Edible gardens come in all styles, shapes and sizes, so where to begin? We asked industry-leading gardening experts for inspiration on how to create a nutritious, delicious edible garden in your own backyard:
Image: Paul Goyette, Flickr
If a full-blown edible garden seems totally out of your wheelhouse, registered dietitian Judy Barbe and author of Your 6-Week Guide to LiveBest: Simple Solutions for Fresh Food & Well-Being, says that you can still have your fruit and eat it too. Barbe explains that planting a raspberry bush can offer the same health benefits of a wholesome edible garden with a fraction of the maintenance: "These plants don’t require much care but deliver fiber-rich fruit year after year. Berries are rich in disease-fighting phytochemicals, so if you plant today, you can enjoy raspberries in your cereal, salads, yogurt and smoothies for years to come."
Tina Sottolano-Cain, professional horticulturalist and creator of Gardens on the Go, adds, "Edible landscaping has become increasingly popular. You simply add edible plants to your existing landscape. Incorporate a few blueberry bushes to your shrub border. Or add a variety of vegetables to your annual and perennial beds. Flowering plants are great to combine with edibles. They increase pollination, which increases your flowers, which then produces more fruit."
When plotting your garden, don't overlook one of nature's flavorful favorites: edible flowers. Executive Chef Camilo Velasco of Barnie's CoffeeKitchen in Winter Park, Florida, confirms that edible flowers are on-trend in the culinary world and are becoming a staple in fine dining establishments. Camilo elaborates, "Edible flowers have been used in cooking since ancient times, but in the past year, I have definitely seen a resurgence — particularly when it comes to fine dining. I like to use edible flowers in my cooking at Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen because the flowers not only add to the presentation of the plate but also to the flavor profile."
"Most edible flowers come from flowering herbs. Garlic, chive and basil are all flowering plants, but the flowers are often tossed aside. The flowers taste like concentrated versions of their herb. For example, the purple basil flowers taste like a stronger version of a basil leaf. My favorite flowers to use in cooking are flowers from pea plants. Pea flowers taste sweet and are some of the best tasting flowers there are. Not to mention, they are beautiful."
Image: Miia Sample, Flickr
Whoever said that edible gardening had to be complicated? Monique Prince, MSW, LCSW, clinical social worker, parenting coach and gardening enthusiast, offers her helpful edible gardening hack, "For simple annual fruits, tomatoes and cucumbers in little half barrels or designed pottery are great additions to the front entryway, and they will climb where you lead them to."
Angela Price, Los Angeles garden designer and gardening lifestyle expert of Eden Condensed, insists that raised beds are the secret to simplified fruit gardening, "Raised beds (buy a kit or make your own) make edible gardening super easy. All you need to do is add potting soil, seedlings, some fertilizers and water. There's no heavy digging and no weeds to pull."
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According to Prince, a strategically placed herb garden is all an amateur chef needs to add a flavorful twist to any dish, "Putting an herb garden in along the walkway or stone wall is attractive, and put closer to the kitchen makes it convenient for snipping as you need."
Sottolano-Cain agrees, "Planting herbs is a great place to start when gardening with edibles. Perennial herbs like chives, lemon thyme and sage are easy to incorporate into the landscape. Basil, parsley and rosemary are great additions in beds or containers."
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Rafael Avila, natural health product expert and Manager of Research and Development at Natural Organics, Inc., advocates edible, healthy gardening in a multi-culture system. He explains that the process is much simpler than it sounds: "Grow multiple plants in the same location. This works great for suburban and urban gardens with limited space. A great example is the 'berry orchard.' This system uses the same small plot of land to grow grapes, strawberries and blueberries. Even a novice gardener can erect a simple grape trellis."
"Home Depot and Lowe's make preassembled pinewood deck railings in eight-foot lengths. Simply place one or more railing sections vertically, so that it stands eight feet tall. Each section can be affixed to a post or to an existing fence (must be sturdy). Arrange (train) the grapevine to grow up the trellis, pruning regularly. In the shade at the base of the trellis, plant blueberries and strawberries. The beauty of this system is that the gardener can harvest berries throughout the summer, and even into the autumn, depending on the variety of grape. Strawberries will be ready earliest, then blueberries and finally grapes. All three berries are tremendously healthful, packed with antioxidants and rich in vitamins."
Image: mwms1916, Flickr
Planning a diverse edible garden may sound exhausting, but Bryan Kratz of Natural Alternative, an all-natural gardening company, has a simple solution: Master veggies first. Kratz's top choices for the easiest homegrown vegetables include green beans, radishes, summer squash and tomatoes. He explains, "Green beans grow in almost any climate, have very little major issues with pests and can be eaten straight off the vine. Radishes are great crops for colder temps, and they grow fairly quickly — you don't even need full sun. Summer squash is a great crop for an easy edible garden as it grows quickly and is constantly producing fruit for you. Tomatoes are extremely popular for a reason — they produce a lot of fruit, and they are fairly easy to grow."
According to Price, beginners can take a shortcut by starting with seedlings first: "Garden centers carry lots of seedlings at this time of year. With a few exceptions, planting veggie seedlings saves a lot of time."
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