Posts Tagged ‘Edible Ornamentals’

Edible Landscaping Secrets

I get so many questions from people about permaculture, edible landscaping, Robinhood roses, and “permaculture in pots” that I thought I’d list some of the top things I’ve discovered here. This is by no means a comprehensive post — just sharing some of the beauty and a handful of general tips. (If you would like personal assistance with your own situation, this month’s Property Reading Special can include that.)

Combine Flowers with Veggies:

One of the easiest ways to sneak edibles into a “regular” landscape is to intermingle them with flowers. Passersby will notice the blooms but not the edible. This purple iris and columbine camouflage purple and green radicchio. The taller, vibrant plants distract critters from the radicchio, while the lower radicchio covers the soil and keeps it from drying out so fast. The radicchio is so well hidden that I forgot it was even there, until I found it un-nibbled and happy in the slight shade provided by the purple maple and taller flowers:


Even trickier, you can plant edible flowers like nasturtiums, violets, hibiscus, borage, and roses. Many herbs like sage and lavender flower as part of their life cycle, and squash blossoms are not only beautiful but delicious!

Consider Color:

Many vegetables come in unusual colors beyond what you find in the grocery store. Sources like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds specialize in rare and colorful varieties of garden classics. Even standards like red chard can play nicely with coordinated snapdragons and pansies like we have approaching our front door:


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Garden Firsts: Columbine, Iris, Sea Kale, Rhododendron, Roses, and the Portable 2017 Garden


Stunning columbines this year! It is crazy windy today, so some of these photos aren’t as clear as I’d like. Too pretty to keep to myself, though. 🙂


Flowering sea kale, is an edible perennial that looks good all season. Even better, you can eat every single part from roots to shoots to leaves to buds to flowers:


The first of many varieties Continue reading

Edible Flowers

I just got a newsletter update from the Phoenix-based Agriscaping with Justin Rohner. We have snow on the ground here in Indiana, and I know much of the East Coast is undergoing “Snowmageddon.” Who doesn’t like flowers, though? If you live in a warmer climate zone, you can grow these now. If you’re shivering inside, you can start planning for spring or just enjoy the virtual blooms:

Seen Today in the Garden

The fairy tale pumpkins are just starting to grow, so imagine my surprise when my eyes fell upon this huge green striped cushaw squash!

green striped cushaw

I thought I’d show some different perspectives today, since I usually shoot from the front of the yard, facing back. Here’s the view through the back gate, in an archway of poke:

through the back gate

The back alley is also starting to fill in, although next year, the forsythias will be more than little twigs. Wildflowers, day lilies, and Maximiliam sunflowers bring welcome touches of color to an otherwise weedy spot. I’ve got cold hardy gladiolus and hollyhocks on the perpendicular side of the garage, facing the apartment’s parking lot.

back alley

I almost never take photos of the ugly view across the street, but these sunflowers have so kindly faced their most beautiful blooms at the best angle to distract from the ugliest view, while I await the growth of my serviceberry and rose hedges up front to shield this yuck. Vertical gardening projects abound in this yard, buffering views on three of four sides, but the front has resulted in a riot of color. The yarden has grown so lush that it actually feels like a complete non-sequitur to look from one side of the street to the other:


Along with sunnies, we have plenty of bunnies, pictured here with black raspberries, patty pan squash, tomatoes, calendula and borage:


The area behind our garage (the back garage by the alley actually belongs to our landlord) has turned into quite the companion planting party, with even an animal transplanted watermelon groundcover twining around a currant bush:


The backyard beds still look lush from behind. Sometime, we’ll have a gazillion parsnips since I let this one go to seed. I can’t bring myself to cut it down, since it looks like a tree and has cucumbers and pumpkin twined all around it.

back beds

The cardoon looks just as impressive as my friend Patricia promised me it would — very popular with the bees, too!


These beds have overflowed, and you can’t even see the sweet potato vines starting to climb the trellis behind the deadheaded elecampane:

side backyard

Our Guarden Bed’s cold frame support needs repair before the other two hinge points break. I’ve got the parts, just haven’t had the time yet with David to implement the switch. Meanwhile, garlic chives have flowered, and a slow start “zinnia” turned into a sunflower, joining masses of cucumbers and fairy tale pumpkins.

Guarden bed and garlic chives

That’s all the photos for now. I was outside observing the yard next door while Gardener’s Supply has their Summer Clearance sale happening, just in case I need, you know, more garden stuff. 😉 Yesterday, I picked up an inspiring copy of “Foodscaping,” by Charlie Nardozzi, and I can’t wait to get that yard going!

Garden Update ~ Sunflowers, Sun Oven Brownies, and Sunny, Oh, My!

OK, let’s get this out of the way first: despite all the lovely photos I’m about to share, the coolest thing to come out of the yard this past week was … Sun Oven brownies! Gluten-free vegan, moist, filled with chia and black bean goodness, melt in your mouth delicious Sun Oven brownies, to be more specific.

sun oven brownies

Even better? I made them for our friend Sunny’s (of Sunny’s Korean Restaurant in Mishawaka) Fourth of July potluck, which was an amazing mix of people Sunny has met over the years, mostly through her restaurant. We love her, and apparently, a ton of other people feel exactly the same way. She has possibly moved more concrete and rocks by herself than I have in order to create a backyard garden sanctuary, but she’s got chickens, so she wins the prize. Or at least some eggs. 🙂 Anyway, we had a great time, and the brownies were a hit. They tasted way better than when I baked them indoors for the Faery Workshop. Note to self: the Sun Oven makes everything better!

Speaking of sun, today, our first sunflower of the year opened:

It's a little guy, only 2.5 feet tall right now.

It’s a little guy, only 2.5 feet tall right now.

Things are blooming like crazy:

coneflowers, liatris, cardoon, and yarrow

coneflowers, liatris, cardoon, and yarrow

Carrots gone wild. The level of “good bug” activity in this bed alone is off the charts. It’s like mini-Manhattan for umbrel lovers.

borage and black eyed Susans next to the elecampane I needed to tie to a trellis because it kept flopping its six foot tall self over the Susan's

borage and black eyed Susans next to the elecampane I needed to tie to a trellis because it kept flopping its six foot tall self over the Susan’s

hollyhocks and lilies still going strong

hollyhocks and lilies still going strong

zinnias started flowering last week, but the red ones just came out -- shown here rhubarb, parsley, tomato, collards and calendula

zinnias started flowering last week, but the red ones just came out — shown here rhubarb, parsley, tomato, collards and calendula

another zinnia getting cozy with kale, nastrutiums, borage, bell peppers, beets and basil

another zinnia getting cozy with kale, nastrutiums, borage, bell peppers, beets and basil

brassicas loving the bed now almost cleared of the earlier pea and fava bean cover crop

brassicas loving the bed now almost cleared of the earlier pea and fava bean cover crop

cukes going up AND down the trellis

cukes going up AND down the trellis

our first cucumber from a few days ago, pictured with lacinato kale, cilantro and peas. peas, peas, peas ... tasty, but tedious!

our first cucumber from a few days ago, pictured with lacinato kale, cilantro and peas. peas, peas, peas … tasty, but tedious!

potatoes still looking good in their bags -- one of this year's experiments

potatoes still looking good in their bags — one of this year’s experiments

south side of that same trellis

south side of that same trellis

basil, peppermint, and soaker hoses, because it finally stopped raining long enough to need to install such things

basil, peppermint, and soaker hoses, because it finally stopped raining long enough to need to install such things

fairy tale pumpkin going gangbusters

fairy tale pumpkin going gangbusters

Nasturtiums, malabar spinach and cushaw squash race to the trellis. Who will win?! Looks like the cushaw's bowing over and out (of the bed)

Nasturtiums, malabar spinach and cushaw squash race to the trellis. Who will win?! Looks like the cushaw’s bowing over and out (of the bed)

The front yard's so lush now. This view's from the driveway.

The front yard’s so lush now. This view’s from the driveway.

Stay tuned for a very exciting announcement regarding the blue house. More to come after my PA trip.

Cheers and happy harvesting!

Early August in the Gardens

Some photos from today’s wandering in the yard. 🙂


So far, I love everything about this Serpent Gourd plant! A single plant has covered my 4′ x 8′ trellis, and then some. The leaves are edible; the flowers are innocent and delightful; it’s completely resistant to normal curcubit diseases; and from what I hear, the young gourds are like a white version of zucchini. This will be fabulous, since we mainly use zucchini for making raw food “pasta” or dehydrated “French fries.” We won’t need to explain the green to any skeptical guests.


The Fairy Tale Pumpkins have also begun to blossom, and they look so pretty in their polyculture with Scarlet Runner Beans, red geraniums, borage, sea kale, peppermint and calendula.

From the north

Even the view from the north side of the gardens looks lush. This peppermint has flowered, and continues to provide many, many iced teas for me, David’s sister and other guests. The zinnias seem to like it, and some beans have claimed the mint as a trellis! To the left, you can see a watermelon bed, more zinnias, borage, and to the upper left, my new periwinkle blue raised bed. I couldn’t resist! I have wanted one of these since I saw a similar wooden one years ago on the cover of Gaia’s Garden. When Gardener’s Supply put them on sale, I figured I can always use another raised bed. Plus, it will provide much needed color in the winter.

apple tree

In other exciting news, my 5-in-1 apple tree, which I planted bareroot a couple weeks ago, has new leaves! You can see it here with one of the strawberry plants that will eventually provide groundcover over the mulch.

Cottage garden and Mini Mt. Mulchmore

Speaking of mulch, here’s part of the front yard cottage garden, looking out toward the street. On the easement, you can see Mini Mt. Mulchmore, which will hopefully disappear today, only to be replaced by its larger cousin as I continue to mulch out pretty much the entire yard before replanting. That very front area with Mini Mt. Mulchmore will eventually become a dedicated hummingbird garden to appease the little guy who now calls our yard home.

butterfly garden

Our butterfly garden up front appears to be more popular with the bees than the butterflies.

Butterfly on Liatris

For some reason, the butterflies appear to prefer the same plants in other parts of the yard.

morning glory

No matter, though, our entire yard is a pollinator’s delight!

Bee and Butterfly garden

I am seriously considering a beehive next year, but I’d rather get on the list for the guy in South Bend who keeps wild bee populations all over Elkhart and St. Joseph’s Counties.


Once this cardoon (a relative of the artichoke) blooms, we should be even more popular with the bees.

Guarden bed

In case it seems like mostly flowers growing, rest assured, we have a lot of food, as well. The “Guarden” Bed cold frame supports have become a summer cucumber trellis, with vinyl trellis wrapped around them and reinforced by bamboo poles. I still haven’t decided if I’m pleased or disappointed that my “Brussels sprouts” plants from Whole Foods turned out to be very large cabbages. I think I’m pleased, since David’s sister found two fermenting crocks for me. We will have some yummy sauerkraut, and unlike the Brussels sprouts, those cabbages can come out soon enough to plant fava beans for winter soil replenishing.

Also shown in the above photo: some prolific Red Russian kale, marigolds, geraniums, mint, cilantro, garlic chives, parsnips, carrots and lima beans, plus in the far background, sunflowers, cantaloupe, basil, mint, zinnias, calypso beans, grape vine, calendula, borage, watermelon and pumpkin. We will have loads and loads of cantaloupe and a respectable crop of watermelons, but they are not ripe yet. Alas, every day, I sniff the cantaloupe, but it’s not ready. As my friend Raven tells me, “Patience, grasshopper!”

Blessings and abundance to you!

Late Afternoon in the Garden

This is one of my favorite times of the day in the gardens — not due to the temperature, but due to the quality of light. I love how it seems to stream from heaven over all the flowers. Too pretty to keep to myself:

back gardens 7-13

back beds 7-13

bed bed 7-13

tomatoes, pumkins, gourds and melons

more maters 7-13

purple coneflower with lavender in back 7-13

white lilies

front herb bed 7-13

scarlet runners


front flowers 7-13

looking over the back beds 7-13

Blessed Be!

Lasagna Gardening and Fall Garden Update

It’s that time again! Most people think of Autumn as the time that gardening goes to sleep, but did you know that Fall offers a fantastic time to let Nature do (some of) next year’s garden prep for you? If this year’s fresh produce has ever had you vowing to start a garden next Spring, only to feel the enthusiasm wane when next year rolls around, now is a perfect time to lasagna garden — also known as sheet mulch. Instead of hauling away your leaves now, and then constructing a raised bed and buying expensive soil to fill it in a rush next Spring, you can use Fall’s bounty of leaves and yard waste to begin preparing and fertilizing next year’s garden.

It’s actually very easy! Just lay down a several layers of newspaper or one layer of thick cardboard over whatever area of lawn you’d like to turn into garden. If you’re using newspaper, pick a non-windy day, or make sure you have something to weight down the papers. Otherwise, you’ll just make a mess. 🙂 On top of the newspaper/cardboard, start layering up natural waste: leaves, straw, unfinished compost (i.e., whatever fresh kitchen scraps or compost that hasn’t had time to rot down yet). Mix that up with some peat moss and some kind of minerals (rock dust, vermiculite, etc.), or just keep layering organic matter. Then top it off with some kind of untreated mulch. Surprise, surprise, I’m using wood mulch, as inspired by the film, Back to Eden:


Believe it or not, that’s my fifth(!) pile of wood mulch since April, and I’ve already moved half of it before taking this photo. I’ve been so happy with the wood mulch’s ability to retain water and keep weeds at bay. I’ve only watered our front herb and flower garden twice this year:


When you layer several inches or more of wood mulch on top of a lasagna garden, then everything rots down over the winter, enriching the soil. When I recently divided some of the creeping thyme out front, I found five earthworms within about four square inches of surface soil. Every time I move anything around in this wood mulched area, I find earthworms, a true sign of healthy soil, and I didn’t even lasagna garden the herb bed! I just put a layer of mulch on top of our landlord’s layer of mulch from last year. Nature did the rest. Since herbs prefer poor soil, I didn’t want to waste my time making it too rich with amendments. If you want to grow a decorative and culinary herb garden, laying down some wood mulch this Fall will get your plot ready for next Spring’s seeds or transplants.

I share many of my crazy gardening projects on this blog, because people keep telling me they enjoy the Mad Scientist Gardening experiments, but I do want to note that you can have a fantastic garden without the level of work I’ve put into our yard. We just moved into a place with a tremendously ugly, damaged, weedy, sad, neglected yard — a yard we eagerly accepted because our landlord gave us permission to do whatever we wanted with it. For me, this yard has represented a blank canvas to turn something completely overgrown and forgotten into something gorgeous and functional. It’s a creative outlet much like painting the discarded doors into potent portals. I “paint” with flowers and use plants as form, with food as the function and intention. But anyone can garden in any setting, whether on a small patio in containers, a sunny backyard plot, or turning your front yard into edible landscaping. Lasagna gardening or sheet mulching just represents one more way of enriching the soil to ensure success.

front yard

This latest batch of mulch has gone towards lasagna gardening/mulching out a huge swath of front yard, turning it into four beds with a circular path and three side paths for easy plant access. I love the energy going around the circle with my cart full of mulch! It’s quite fun and a big contrast to the straight lines and rougher look of the rest of our street. This last load included two different types of trees, so I decided to use the lighter, harder wood for the paths, and then the darker, softer wood for the top lasagna layers. I’ve planted mums at the edges of each path so that I remember the boundaries next Spring in the event that everything sinks down over the Winter.

I’ve had so much fun rereading “Edible Front Yard” now that I know something about gardening! I first read that book from the Madison Public Library back when I didn’t know anything about planting zones, soil building or microclimates. It makes sooo much more sense now, and I actually recognize many of the edible ornamentals she mentions. It’s fun to imagine how different shapes, heights and colors will combine in each of the four beds in order to create a burst of beauty that also just happens to be edible.

I didn’t get my intended roses and fruit trees planted this Fall; that will need to happen next Spring, as I’ve run out of time for the tasks I’ve already begun. I still have five raspberry bushes/canes to plant out back. Poor things, they’ve sat in pots for two seasons! Speaking of seasons, I’ve also enjoyed figuring out how to bring hints of color and beauty to the yard year round. I found Goshen quite grim last Winter, especially our street, so this year I’ve prioritized delighting my senses even in the middle of December, January and February.

Again, you can have a fabulous garden without needing to figure out all these angles. Moving into this refurbished cottage with the blank slate lawn in a forgotten corridor of Goshen was quite the artistic challenge. I’ve chosen to explode creativity all over the yard, because we’ve had nothing to lose. A more normal setup might just require a bit of creativity to keep a small front yard plot looking good enough for an HOA. I, on the other hand, am in process of shifting a mixed industrial neighborhood plot (formerly the most neglected in the entire neighborhood) into a magical faery paradise. It’s happening, and it’s what I feel called to do … but I don’t want to intimidate people with the level of work I’ve expended. Any efforts to grow even some of your own food and to beautify the world even just a tiny bit have positive ripple effects in your life and in the world. I just enjoy a challenge. 🙂

winter Guarden

Thus, we have another Fall/Winter “Guarden” crop coming in, which will soon be covered by a cold frame. Planting these babies in early August resulted in lots of greens and root crops coming in now.

back yard gardens

I finally cleared out the cherry tomato plant from the InstaBed, a plant that had spread to three beds and my asparagus! I forgot we even had a gnome beneath all that fruit and foliage.


We’ve also got some HUGE chard these days. Massive leaves.

back garden

You can see I still have a few “starts” to transplant. It might be too late, but no sign of frost quite yet.

amish paste

Our Amish paste tomatoes continue to grow and have, more importantly, confirmed to me the suspicion that our ground soil is low in calcium. I had heard that a) lots of dandelion flowers means low calcium soil and b) that tomato plants are excellent indicators of soil health. I did not water these with milk as often as others, because I just wanted to see what happened. Sure enough, the dreaded blossom end rot has struck some of the bigger tomatoes just before they ripen. Blossom end rot is a sign of calcium deficient soil. I’ll add lime and other amendments as I prepare various in ground/trellis beds for next year. Thank you, Nature, for confirming without a soil test. 🙂 I also know that my special, secret soil treatment for organic farms will pay big dividends, since that formula’s loaded with calcium. Yay!

front bed from back

As I walked back around the yard, I caught a glimpse of the front lasagna garden from behind. Just like flower arranging in a vase, I enjoy flower and plant arranging outside in ways that please from all angles. The center bed will change dramatically this weekend as I add a mix of compost and mulch to the flowers. Instead of sunflowers there next year, I plan to have decorative alliums — very Seussian — and zinnias for butterflies, with “Evening Sun” sunflowers on the North side and this year’s Lemon Queen out back. A foretaste of next year’s edible front yard:

Evening Sun image from the seed packet

Evening Sun image from the seed packet

purple opal basil

purple kohlrabi from Seed Savers Exchange

purple kohlrabi from Seed Savers Exchange

scarlet runner beans

scarlet runner beans




And, probably out back:

Mandan Bride Corn

Mandan Bride Corn

Fairy Tale Pumpkins

Fairy Tale Pumpkins

On the front trellis (with the star pictured above):

vining, non-bolting Malabar Spinach

vining, non-bolting Malabar Spinach

Can’t wait for these, some golden fennel and the rest of my medicinal herbs, too. If all goes well, I will have enriched the soil enough and mulched enough to have a relatively low-maintenance and low-water feast for the eyes, nose, mouth and belly.

Happy Gardening!