Ornamental and edible gardens and containers

Boost the flavor and beauty of your landscape by adding a few ornamental edible plants to your garden beds and containers. Look for opportunities to substitute ornamental vegetables, fruit, herbs, and edible flowers for ornamental but nonedible plants.

A vertical garden filled with purple pansies, chives, and a variety of lettuce plants. Photo by Melinda Myers.

A hanging basket of semi-determinate tomatoes like Lizzano and Torenzo or Pot-a-Peno peppers can dress up a deck or porch and keep the harvest within reach. Peppers like Quickfire and Cayenetta hot peppers, and sweet ones like Pretty N Sweet along with Patio Choice yellow cherry tomato are suitable for containers and small gardens.

Use asparagus as a backdrop in gardens. Look for disease-resistant cultivars like the recently introduced Millennium that is long-lived, cold-hardy, high-yielding, and adaptable to a variety of soils.  After the harvest, the ferny greens create a nice backdrop and add a welcome texture to any flower garden.

Rhubarb makes a nice temporary shrub in sunny locations. The large leaves add bold texture and the colorful stems of Crimson Red and Canada Red varieties provide a bit of color to the garden bed. Just cut back the plants at the end of the season and watch for their return in spring.

Use strawberries as a groundcover. The white flowers, tasty red fruit, and fall color brighten the ground level of any full-to-part sun location in your landscape. Choose day-neutral or everbearing varieties to enjoy several harvests throughout the summer.

Include colorful tomato and pepper varieties in mixed borders and flower beds. Use decorative obelisks and supports when needed for added beauty in the garden.

Provide seasonal screening or add vertical interest to gardens by training the vining types of squash, melons, and cucumbers up supports. Growing vertically increases airflow and light penetration which helps reduce the risk of disease and increases productivity. Just sling heavy fruit to the support to prevent it from damaging the vines.

Purple, wax, and other colorful pole beans are another seasonal option that provides vertical interest in a garden bed or screens a bad view. You’ll find it easier to harvest and enjoy an extra picking with pole beans. Add colorful flowers and boost the hummingbird appeal by growing scarlet runner beans.

Or try Mascotte bush beans in containers. Grow this plant in a pretty container and, if needed, elevate it on a support for easy picking. You’ll enjoy a plentiful harvest of crisp slender beans held above the foliage for easy picking.

Dress up meals with edible flowers like nasturtiums, daylilies, and calendula. Just be sure they have not been treated with pesticides and remove the reproductive parts that can add bitterness to your meals.

Maximize the productivity of vegetable plants with proper care and regular harvesting, picking vegetables at their peak.

For more tips on growing ornamental fruits and vegetables watch my webinar and download the handout.

About Melinda Myers
Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Midwest Gardener’s Handbook, 2nd Edition and Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” instant video and DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers’ website is MelindaMyers.com.