The end of May is not too late to plant and enjoy edible plants in your garden.
Growing your own food is about more than the traditional vegetable garden.
Incorporating edible berries, fruits, herbs and vegetables into the landscape is a more practical way to enjoy freshly grown produce. Just in case you cannot attend the class I’ll be teaching at Windmill Gardens June 4, here are some ideas for adding edibles to your own landscape.
Why grow an evergreen and ever boring hedge when you can have blueberries?
For the biggest return on your energy investment, plant a hedge of blueberries. Blueberries grow better in Western Washington than anywhere else in the world. They love our naturally acid soil and cool summers. These nutritious berries are also long-lived and can provide a bountiful harvest for more than 50 years. Details about how to plant and grow blueberries will be in a future column — but when it comes to an edible but attractive landscape, start with a blueberry hedge — or even a pair of blueberry bushes in a container.
Why plant a patio pot with petunias when you can harvest dinner?
A large half whiskey barrel and a sunny spot are all you need for a summer dinner. Plant an upright or determinate tomato variety in the center of the container — sweet 100 or a similar variety — and surround your tomato plant with a few basil plants. Add Mediterranean herbs such as rosemary, thyme and oregano to the edge of the container if you still have room. Now you have all the fixings for home-grown tomato or pizza sauce. In August you can slice your ripe tomatoes, layer with mozzarella cheese and the basil leaves, sprinkle with fresh oregano and rosemary then drizzle your caprese salad with olive oil. Try doing that to a bunch of petunias.
Why battle moss and weeds when you can enjoy mojitos?
Mint is an invasive plant that should be grown in a pot or planted in the death zones of your garden where nothing else will thrive. Under the canopy of large cedar or fir trees is where I grow chocolate mint for adding to fruit smoothies and ice cream, and spearmint to flavor summer mojitos. You can also snip mint leaves and add them to a teacup with boiling water and enjoy the benefits of fresh mint tea.
Why accent an urn with a green spike of dracaena when you can add color with Swiss chard?
Formal urns or entryway planters look best when designed with a tall, symmetrical plant in the center of the pot. This year instead of the traditional green dracaena spike, plant a Rainbow Delights Swiss Chard in the middle of the pot as your focal point. The upright growth form and colorful leaves make an attractive and edible focal point. You can harvest the lowest leaves of the Swiss Chard all summer and even into the winter months. In our climate, Swiss chard will produce for up to two years without replanting. Snipping off the lowest or older leaves not only provides a nutrition boost to salads, soups and stews but also keeps the plant upright with fresh new growth.
Why add a border of bloomers when you can have a salad garden?
The traditional front yard has a lawn framed with blooming annuals — marigolds in the sun, impatiens in the shade. This summer, plant colorful red and green leaf lettuce as a border in the more shaded areas and carrot seeds to create a feathery border of green to edge the lawn in the sunny spots.
Growing your own food is the answer to a more beautiful and bountiful landscape.
Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at binettigarden.com.
June 4: 10 a.m. at Windmill Gardens, 16009 60th St. E. Sumner. Marianne’s lecture will be about the “Incredible, Edible Landscape.” Fee of $5, register at windmillgarden.com or 253-863-5843.