You might start off with a few potted herbs or an annual crop of greenhouse tomatoes, but “growing your own” soon becomes addictive. Happily, there is a wealth of ingenious options for making even a small plot productive.
Mixing crops into flower borders, English-garden style, is useful if you
don’t have a dedicated vegetable plot, and certain leafy crops are just
as good-looking as they are flavorful. Runner beans produce delicate
flowers, and the blooms and fruits of apples, cherries, and strawberries
are as attractive as any grown for ornament. Red currants, followed by
the autumn foliage of blueberries, also create eye-catching displays.
Kitchen and formal knot gardens are dramatic, and even raised beds with
decorative edging can make a statement. Maximize your culinary space by
training fruit against walls, and by growing vines and climbing
vegetables against a trellis. In a courtyard or patio garden many crops
can be grown in pots or hanging baskets.
Break up expanses of green with a line of purple cabbages and a colorful
border of flowers.
Key Design Elements for a Productive Garden
- Crops in containers: Even in the smallest garden you can grow a variety of crops in pots, growing bags, or window boxes. Choose compact vegetable types and dwarf fruit trees; tender ones in pots can be moved under cover.
- Decorative plant varieties: There are many delicious and ornamental vegetables to choose from, with colorful foliage, fruits, or flowers. Cabbage, kale, and chard are highly ornamental and look striking grown in a kitchen garden.
- Chickens: If you have room for a small fenced in area, hens make excellent pets. It’s best to confine them since they produce a lot of waste and will scratch up the garden looking for worms. You don’t need a rooster to get eggs.
- Wall-trained fruit: Espalier- and fan-trained trees crop better than freestanding types and look beautiful too. Use any vertical space—varieties are even available for north-facing walls. Also try training fruits such as gooseberries.
- Productive baskets: Mixed displays of herbs, edible flowers, and trailing strawberries or tomatoes are full of color and are convenient for harvesting if hung by the back door. Try using novel containers, such as an old colander.
- Raised beds: On heavy or very stony soils, raised beds can provide you with enough quality topsoil to grow a wide range of crops. Add compost and manure to the surface to develop a healthy, fertile soil full of worms.
- Crop covers: Use polytunnels, cloches, or cold frames to extend the growing season and provide vulnerable crops with frost protection and extra warmth. Use barriers like fabric or netting to deter pests.
Other Additions to Consider:
- Edible flowers: Try petals of sunflowers, roses, and pot marigolds, or blooms of violas and nasturtiums.
- Herb garden: Create a formal herb garden edged with clipped box, santolina, or lavender.
- Climbing crops: Use trellis, arches, and pergolas to support climbing squash, zucchini, and runner beans.