Add edibles to your planting mix, for goodness sake!
Rosalind Creasy, the godmother of edible gardening, says integrating flowers and vegetables keeps your garden healthy by attracting beneficial insects. "It's just good horticulture," she says.
To get started
Starts vs. Seeds: Rosalind Creasy advises growing from starts, not from seed. Keeping an eye on tiny seedlings can be a nightmare, and nurseries are full of healthy starts.
Herbs: Try planting cilantro, parsley and dill in the fall to keep them going longer; they tend to bolt when the weather warms up. Creasy recommends Aussie sweet basil.
Greens: Lettuce, rainbow chard, kale and mustards are nutritious, pretty and easy to grow. Creasy buys beautiful mustards at the Kitazawa Seed Co. (www.kitazawaseed.com/), thought to be the oldest Asian seed company in North America.
Tomatoes: In our cool climate, Creasy suggests growing cherry tomatoes and skipping heirlooms because they need so much warmth to ripen. She trains her current favorite, the dwarf 'Sweet Baby Girl,' up a red trellis. 'Early Girl,' 'Green Zebra' and 'Stupice' are good full-sized bets.
WHEN ROSALIND Creasy, the godmother of edible gardening, judged the Northwest Flower & Garden Show this past winter, she had lots to say about the vegetables in the display gardens.
"Why can't we get past isolating vegetables in raised boxes?" she asked, disappointed not to see more food growing alongside shrubs and flowers.
In the late 1970s, Creasy dug up her front lawn in Los Altos, Calif., and planted strawberries, lettuces, kale and cabbages. It's quaint now to think how revolutionary this seemed when one manicured lawn flowed into another, and vegetables, if grown at all, were banished to the backyard.
In 1982, Creasy wrote "The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping," and we never saw our gardens in quite the same way again. She liberated vegetables from their tidy rows, and advocated trimming beds with lettuces, hedging with blueberries, and planting pots of herbs. We probably owe the breeding of colored cauliflowers and rainbow chard to her belief that edibles had the potential to be as ornamental as any other plant.
Besides, Creasy says, integrating flowers and vegetables keeps your garden healthy by attracting beneficial insects. "It's just good horticulture," she says.
Creasy recommends kiwis, grapes and blueberries for those new to growing food. "Blueberries are full of nutrients; they have year-round interest, and very few pests bother them," she says. Herbs perk up your garden and your cooking; she recommends easy-to-cultivate thyme, oregano, rosemary, sage, parsley and chives.
Lately, Creasy has turned her energies to garden design with an ecological emphasis. Her current project is creating edible gardens for Adobe's corporate headquarters in San Jose. Some of the garden area will be devoted to P-Patches, with master gardeners enlisted to teach employees how to grow food for their families and local food banks.
While Creasy is gratified at the renaissance of young people eager to grow fresh food, she differs from urban-farming advocates. She thinks about color, texture, shape and form as much as productivity. "If it doesn't look pretty, it'll just be a phase," she says. "People seek out beauty in their lives."
Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of "petal & twig." Check out her blog at www.valeaston.com.