The Garden Life: Edible garden a treat for the eyes, taste buds




All new plants need frequent watering until they are growing well. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. Provide a steady supply of water from planting until harvest. Rows or beds of seeds and young seedlings need moisture without flooding. They might require sprinkling as often as two or three times a day if weather is very hot. As transplants and seedlings grow and their roots reach deeper into the soil, you can water less often. Be sure to moisten the entire root zone when watering.

If you plant fruits, vegetables and herbs in your garden, add an assortment of plants with great color and form. An edible garden can look as good as it tastes. Remember, we can add a later crop of cool-season vegetables that will come to maturity as summer turns to fall. Check catalogs and nurseries for this year’s newest introductions. Here is a short list of vegetables and herbs with structure and colorful presence.

• Blue gray: Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, “Russian kale,” “Silver

Shield” sorrel. Brussels sprouts are sculpture in the late fall and early winter garden. The plant is called Brussels sprouts because they are named after the Belgian city of Brussels.

• Bronze: Bronze fennel, “Revolution” lettuce.

• Orange: Calendula, marigolds, nasturtiums, peppers, pumpkins, Swiss chard, tomatoes.

• Purple: Basil, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, eggplant, lettuce, ornamental alliums, peppers, perilla (shiso), scarlet runner beans.

• Red: Apples, beets, “Giant Red” mustard, lettuce, peppers, sunflowers, Swiss chard, tomatoes.

• Silver: Artichoke, curry plant (Helichrysum italicum), dwarf garden sage, santolina, sea kale (Crambe maritima).

• Variegated foliage: Comfrey, sage, salad burnet, “Sweet Dumpling” winter squash, thyme, variegated watercress, “White Anniversary” oregano, kohlrabi “White Vienna’.”

• Yellow/lime: Apples, beans, golden hops, golden oregano, lime thyme, marigolds, peppers, sunflowers, Swiss chard, tomatoes, zucchini, golden lemon balm (Melissa officinalis ‘Aurea’). Keep this one in a pot so it can’t invade the rest of the vegetable garden.

Pick your dinner

Get in the habit of harvesting vegetables and herbs as a part of your evening meal preparation. A few freshly picked sugar snap peas, a sprig of parsley, sage or rosemary will not only enhance your meal but also give you one more chance to putter around in the garden. A patch of garlic chives will season family meals with a heady bite and continue in the garden for many years.

Planning beds, borders

Here are a few points to keep in mind when you are planning a new bed or border for your garden. Whether you are creating a vegetable plot or a decorative flower border, try to make each garden space a complete entity. Begin gardening in a small area and then expand when you are pleased with the results of your first efforts.

• Create focal points. Place a large container, an obelisk, a trellis or a sculptural object somewhere within the boundary of the planting area.

• Plant in patterns. Arrange plants with interesting form, color and texture in triangular groups of three or five. Mix veggies, herbs and long-flowering perennials such as chrysanthemums or fall-blooming asters. Plant low, edging plants in semi-circles around taller, full-bodied perennials. Repeat these patterns in large beds.

• Repeat some plants throughout the garden. In a large or small garden, it’s important to carry one type of plant or one strong plant color throughout many of the garden areas to tie the overall picture together. Rhythm is created by giving the eye a series of like images to carry you through the garden picture.

• Grow vertically. Take the interest of the flower border up by planting on garden structures. Grow flowering vines like clematis up the trunk of a tree or through a deciduous shrub. Trailing types of cucumbers and squash can take up a lot of ground space. Instead, train them up an arbor or trellis.

• Frame the space. Surround the perimeter of the bed or garden area with some type of edging such as a brick border or decorative wrought iron. You can always fall back on the old flower garden standby, the picket fence.

Embrace weather

When it’s not sunny, there will always be someone to complain about the incessant rain. When we begin our seasonal dry spell in late July, there will surely be a hullabaloo about the lack of moisture. Those of us on our hands and knees, weeding in the garden, take the days as they come and do our best to hold our tongues. By now, most of us have made the connection between our weather and the perfection of our gardens. We know better than to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Robb Rosser is a WSU-certified master gardener. Reach him at