A peaceful Sunday afternoon snooze in a hammock on my back patio was interrupted by a “tasty” dream. I imagined that it was a hot summer day and I was in the garden harvesting a giant beef steak tomato to make a luscious “mater” sandwich. I cut a 1-inch-thick slab of the juicy homegrown tomato and lovingly placed it between two soft slices of white bread liberally smeared with mayo. Each bite produced moans of pure ecstasy as sweet red tomato juice ran down my chin.
Soon, the dream will become a reality as the summer tomato harvest gets underway. Life offers no richer reward!
Sadly, only a small percentage of urban folks experience such culinary delight. They could, however, if they planted an “edible” landscape. I am not suggesting that city dwellers on small properties dig up half of their yard and plant a formal veggie garden. What I am suggesting is that veggies be included in the home landscape. Truth is that many veggie plants are just as pretty as their ornamental cousins.
One year, I planted carrots along the border of a raised perennial bed. The soft, fern-like carrot foliage was beautiful against a background of coreopsis, golden rod and salvia. And the colorful red carrots harvested that summer were fantastic!
Also, Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes add a tasteful touch to a lattice trellis. I enjoy training them against a sunny west wall or fence where they produce loads of great-tasting salad tomatoes. Last spring, I had a cherry tomato plant pop up beneath a large Youpon holly in my garden. Apparently, it was deposited there in bird droppings the year before. I almost pulled it up, but I’m glad I didn’t. By mid-summer, tiny red tomatoes hung from the shrub’s lower branches. They were delightful to look at, and they made for some very fine snacking.
And surely there is a spot in your garden for a few cucumber vines. Allow them to run along a sunny fence or weave their way up a trellis with clematis or some other ornamental vine. Vining Butternut squash also looks great running up a vertical support.
I love Oriental eggplant and often plant it in a perennial border. The large decorative leaves and long purple or white cylindrical fruit draws more attention from garden visitors than the perennials.
Culinary herbs also look great tucked into a traditional urban landscape. Creeping thyme, golden oregano and dwarf variegated sage make excellent ground covers. And be sure to include rosemary in your editable landscape. Rosemary grows into a gorgeous long-lived perennial shrub that looks great in a mixed shrub or perennial border. Plant it near a garden entry or patio where you can joy the intoxicating fragrance of its evergreen foliage.
Like strawberries? Consider using fast-spreading strawberry plants as a ground cover around boulders or allow them to spread beneath large shrubs in a border. They will not produce as much fruit used in this manner, but they will produce some fruit and greatly add to the nibbling opportunities in an urban garden.
Use your imagination and poke veggie plants throughout your landscape. You may be surprised by the beauty and interest they add to an urban garden.
Barry Fugatt is director of horticulture at the Tulsa Garden Center and Linnaeus Teaching Garden. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org