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How To Blend Edible Landscaping With Ornamentals

Unlike formal gardens, which usually separate those areas where they grow edibles, blending edible plants with your ornamental landscaping can be not only aesthetically pleasing but actually good for your flowers and food!

Referred to as ‘foodscaping’ by some (yes, we are serious!), the idea of mixing edibles and ornamentals was not ‘always’ considered ‘acceptable’ by horticulturalists. But we at Toemar take a different approach to things, and we believe that the idea of mixing edibles and ornamentals, given the tiny size of many Mississauga backyards, is a good and necessary thing.

The Practical Advantage Of Mixing Edibles And Ornamentals

First, and most importantly, the big advantage is that pollinators love gardens with mixed plantings.

If you’re interested in maintaining a garden to support healthy habitats for food supply pollinators (fancy term for ‘bees’), mixing your edibles and flowers is a great idea.

Pollinators—again, ‘bees’—will go from your rose bushes to your chives and to other herbs quite happily, and spread pollen and nectar from and to both.

If you grow your edibles with your ornamentals, instead of growing them separately, there is an even greater chance of bringing in those pollinators to your food garden. This is a WIN for everyone.

Having different flowers mixed in with edibles will help to attract insects that help to protect edible plants, and they can also distract other insects, like aphids, from attacking your edibles (if you have an apartment garden close to tree tops, you’ll know what we’re talking about!)

It’s one of the reasons that you’ll see rose bushes at the end of rows at a vineyard: The roses attract aphids more than the vines, and the bushes also serve as early warning signs for problems like rot and mildew, as they’ll suffer from those ailments before the vines suffer them.

With the variation on what’s available for those pollinators, they’ll stick around or visit again and again, as there’s value in cross pollination with different types of plants.

This will enhance the growth of your entire garden to a greater degree, which is ideal if you want to have greens and herbs, tomatoes and veggies, throughout the growing season.

The Aesthetic Advantage Of Mixing Edibles And Ornamentals

In addition to improving the pollination of your various plants by maintaining a healthy habitat for pollinators, mixing your edibles with your other flowers, grasses and vines provide texture to balance your garden.

Instead of having rows of edibles, all neat and tidy, mix them in with your annuals and perennials for a look that changes with the seasons.

After all, you probably don’t need a tractor to get through your rows of beans, so there is no technical reason not to mix things up a little.

If you’re partial to protected rows for your edibles, you can also go half-way and do a little of both. Sow some rows, then mix in your florals to add visual distinction to your vegetable patches.

The point in foodscaping is to grow edibles in a more natural and visually pleasing design, giving those who look at your landscape (including YOU!) a reason to linger.

After all, they might not notice the squash vine right away, nestled in near your favourite perennial blooms, but a second glance will have them counting your bright, showy  gourds blossoms.

Choosing the right combinations of colours will enhance your garden: from the blue-purple of lavender and violets to orange pumpkins and red peppers and tomatoes, there’s no lack of colour choices in the edibles to make your ornamentals pop even more. Rainbow swiss chard, anyone?

The Best Of Both Worlds: Edible Flowers

There’s nothing more attractive in a summer salad or frozen into ice cubes for summer sippables than edible flowers.

Zinnias, for example, are an excellent edible flower that come in a range of colours and can be mixed in with other edibles, to create a beautiful visual in your garden.

Your  handy list of edible flowers include:

  • Nasturtiums
  • Pansies
  • Chive blossoms
  • Violets
  • Elderflower
  • Marigold
  • Snapdragon

Gardening Basics When Mixing Edibles With Ornamentals

Most edibles require lots of sunshine to grow successfully, so you need to consider that when choosing with which plants to mix them. An excess of shade from trees or bushes will not yield a good crop, plus they also need nutrient rich soil, so fertilizing those areas is important, as is plenty of water.

One way to encourage growth in a partially shaded garden bed is to keep edibles to the outer edges of the beds where there is more sun, and it’s easier to water them.

Alternate between medium-high grasses and edibles, leaving the centre of the bed for bushy florals and climbing vines. You could also alternate with different herbs in a repeating pattern, creating an edge to your flower bed.

Another option is to plant your edibles in pots and then place them in amongst your flowers, keeping some distinction between them, while getting the benefits of a beautiful and bountiful mixed arrangement.

Consider also the height of your edibles, when deciding where to place them. Climbing beans or peas will be taller and should be mixed in with other tall ornamentals that like sun, like sunflowers. Mid-range edibles like peppers and tomatoes mix in well with lavender. Low plants like squash are nice in the front of a bed, intermingled with smaller florals, like Pansies and Sweet Williams.

Edible perennials are a good bet, to avoid replanting every year. Varieties include:

  • Asparagus
  • Chives
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Currants
  • Lavender
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Rosemary
  • Strawberries
  • Rhubarb

Whatever combination of edibles and ornamentals you plant this spring, do a little planning to ensure that the edible plants get the soil, water and sun that they need without compromising the flowers and grasses that make a garden beautiful.

Do you have a beautiful Mississauga garden that you’d like to share? Share a pic on our Facebook page! We’d love to see it!

5 Ways to Attract Bees, Birds And Butterflies To Your Garden

Butterflies and birds add so much natural beauty to a garden, which is a great reason to attract them, in and of itself! But there are other good reasons to plan your garden in such a way that you attract all manner of winged creatures: producing a healthier garden, enhancing food production and, in general, being very good for the environment.

As Humans, We Need Bees, Butterflies And Birds

Unfortunately, due to climate change and destruction of biodiverse habitats the world over, the bee populations, in particular, are in decline. Does that matter to you and me? Of course! Bees are what’s known as a keystone species: other species, including humans, need them to survive. Bees pollinate more than one third of the food supply around the world, so without bees, we don’t eat. While experts don’t seem to be able to pinpoint a single cause for the loss of bees, the effects will, if not stopped, be dramatic.

Birds, such as hummingbirds, provide excellent long distance cross-pollination and development of different plant species, as well as protection against encroachment by insects, like aphids. Butterflies, in addition to being beautiful, pollinate your garden as well.

Southern Ontario is a richly biodiverse part of Canada, with a lot of farming as well as urban development. With the latter pushing greater boundaries in Mississauga and beyond, planting a garden that attracts these all important pollinators is a great way to do your part to keep the environment thriving.

5 Ways To Attract Pollinators To Your Garden

1. Avoid chemicals — herbicides and pesticides are the number one way to ensure that pollinators will not frequent your garden. If you love the idea of growing vegetables, or even an extensive herb garden, you need pollinators to come and help!

2. Attractive plants are best — if you want to attract birds, bees and butterflies, it’s best to choose plants that they like. That doesn’t mean that your garden has to be entirely made up of those species, but just that including some in your garden beds and designs will help bring the pollinators in. A few examples include: daylilies, black eyed Susans, morning glories, crocus, cornflowers and lavender. If you want to add trees, any that are flower or fruit bearing will definitely be of interest to the pollinators. Hummingbirds are attracted to red—it’s why so many of the feeders for them are red—bee balm and coral bells are particular favourites! All three species enjoy sun flowers: in the winter, the heads become a chickadee friendly haven! Choose plants that flower at different times throughout the season, to ensure a continuous source of nectar and pollen for your pollinators. One great option? Wildflowers. They are nectar rich and easy to grow.

3. Group your flowers — pollinators like to do the work of collecting nectar and pollen and sharing these around but it’s better if you make it easier for them. Grouping like plants and flowers makes the trip from one bloom to another a lot easier, particularly for the bees. Since butterflies thrive on warm, sunny spots, creating several of these will help to bring them to your space.

4. Make habitats that are friendly to all three pollinators — trees, shrubs and vines on trellises are a good start. Each species enjoys a certain amount of shelter, both as safety from predators and to hide from the elements when they need to. Bird and butterfly houses are a great addition: they look nice and will definitely attract more creatures. Butterflies need warmth, so placement of their house in a sunnier part of the garden is ideal. For birds in particular, having a water source, like a bird bath or water feature in your garden, will make your garden seem like the perfect place to visit. Many varieties of bees are ground nesters, so having a patch of ground that you leave messy and more or less undisturbed and free of mulch, will entice bees to call your garden home.

5. Feed the creatures — while adding seed to the birdhouse is an obvious way to make sure the birds get a good meal, you have to be more careful with butterflies. As caterpillars, they will tend to eat the plants you are hoping to attract them to protect, so what you want to do is make sure you have some butterfly friendly plants available, planted away from your favourite garden beds. Such as? Milkweed, parsley and dill are among their favourites!

As you can see, planning your garden can include so much more than just aesthetics. You can do a lot to encourage pollinators to visit your yard, enhancing not only the beauty within, but promoting sound ecological practices for all of us.