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:
- Chive blossoms
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:
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!