Out Of The Box Ideas For Growing Vegetables

While growing vegetables in a raised bed or the conventional straight lines of the normal kitchen garden layout is the most efficient means of crop production it is not always the most attractive. From a garden designers point of view this can be regarded as boring and uninteresting. This article by Genevieve Schmidt which I found on the Garden Design Magazine website discusses several ways that you can combine form and function to grow your food in an attractive setting.

For the design-oriented gardener, growing your own vegetables brings to mind a functional but dull row of neatly-planted rectangular raised beds. While they certainly work for growing high-yield vegetables, these boxy garden standbys are like the broccoli of the design world: nutritious but lacking in panache. With food gardening?s resurgence in popularity, savvy gardeners are looking for ways of growing vegetables without sacrificing aesthetics.
In Niki Jabbour?s book Groundbreaking Food Gardens (Storey, 2014), she profiles 73 plans, from landscape designers and accomplished vegetable gardeners, that bring together both form and function. We spoke with Jabbour to get an inside look at five of the enticing edible garden designs featured in her book.
Marjorie Harris? Partially-Shaded Checkerboard

Shaded Checkerboard Garden Garden Design Calimesa, CA

Illustration by Elayne Sears

When confronted with shade, many would-be edible gardeners give up before they even start. However, famed Toronto gardener Marjorie Harris created a fresh, modern checkerboard design that offers the light-challenged gardener more than just good looks. ?The light-colored pavers reflect light, giving plants a boost,? says Jabbour. ?They also absorb heat throughout the day, so they help stretch the growing season by keeping the soil warm.?
With an obelisk at the center and pots set towards the back for vertical interest, this flexible garden plan can be amended for small or large gardens. Square, 2-by-2-foot pavers are set on sand, with 2-foot garden plots in between. Harris suggests planting shade-tolerant leafy crops like kale, spinach, lettuce, beets, Asian greens, and Swiss chard, which can thrive with as little as 3 to 4 hours of sun per day. Another advantage to this patterned approach is that the pavers give you something to kneel on when tending the plot.
Amy Stewart and Designer Susan Morrison?s Cocktail Garden

Cocktail Garden Garden Design Calimesa, CA

Illustration by Mary Ellen Carsley

When author Amy Stewart began researching her latest book, The Drunken Botanist, she quickly realized she needed a place for the dozens of obscure cocktail ingredients she now wanted to grow. However, the narrow side yard off the kitchen was only 7 feet wide in some places, presenting a challenge: how would she make this almost-unusable strip into a cocktail garden where people would want to hang out? Designer Susan Morrison was up for the task.
Morrison specified a series of unfinished wood containers in varying sizes and shapes to provide upright interest with a small footprint. The containers were painted, making it easy to keep to the blue-green color scheme, and the larger planters became home to more sizable plants such as columnar apple trees and calamondin citrus. Stewart hung framed mirrors and windows on the wall to make the space feel more expansive. Jabbour says, ?I love how this shows that good design doesn’t have to cost a lot. They painted inexpensive wood containers, then upcycled pallets, mirrors, and other decor. The results are both gorgeous and attainable.?

See more at the Garden Design Magazine
Feature image by Mary Ellen Carsley