By Kimberly Toscano
My grandmother’s Italian dishes call for a ready supply of basil – lots of basil. So I grow it right outside my front door in mixed containers alongside flowering annuals, trailing vines, and showy cordyline. I also plant plenty of basil in the vegetable garden, but the containers outside my door are where I go most often when cooking. These containers are perhaps the simplest form of a kitchen garden and a fine example of why this type of garden is so important.
In addition to meeting those urgent recipe needs, kitchen gardens are a great way to promote healthy eating. It is hard to resist plucking a handful of blueberries when growing a container of Bless Your Heart™ Rabbiteye Blueberry on your patio. And with today’s stylish cultivars, edibles add panache to the mixed plantings rather than looking lost among ornamentals.
If my front door containers are any indication, location matters when it comes to the kitchen garden. As the name implies, these gardens are best located as close to the kitchen as possible to allow easy access to herbs and produce. Incorporating edibles into beds surrounding your patio or lining the back porch with containers are great ways to bring herbs and veggies close to the action.
Many herb and fruit plants are as beautiful as they are useful. Chef’s Choice® Culinary Rosemary adds texture to mixed garden beds and takes on the formal air of boxwood when lined up in containers. ‘Little Miss Figgy’ Dwarf Fig boasts gorgeous deeply-lobed foliage and makes a lovely focal point. Think about the ornamental features of edibles when incorporating them into mixed beds or container plantings. Take advantage of structural elements such as the long flowing limbs of Prime-Ark®‘Freedom’ Thornless Blackberry and feature bright colors of fruits and vegetables in your garden’s color palette. Provide colorful accents with edible flowers such as Scent First®Raspberry Surprise Dianthus and ‘Longfields Pearl’ Daylily.
Create a shady oasis with a pergola supporting RazzMatazz™Grape. With rapid growth and broad sculpted foliage, grape vines have long been used to form a sheltering canopy of foliage and fruit. Careful pruning will allow you to enjoy both shade and fruits. Train vines to the top of the pergola then maintain vines with annual spur pruning to encourage fruit production. Complement the romance of grapes and add cut flowers to your kitchen garden with Yellow Lady Banks Climbing Rose along one corner of the pergola.
Find Your Personal Style
A kitchen garden can be as simple as a collection of pots or as detailed as a formal knot garden, and can easily accommodate any design style. Add structure to cottage gardens with shrubby fruits like Takes the Cake™Rabbiteye Blueberry and ‘Osage’ Thornless Blackberry, or edge formal gardens with Phenomenal™Lavender. Be bold in experimenting with unique combinations of edibles and ornamental favorites.