Have fun planning an edible garden

Are you overwhelmed when thinking about planning an edible garden? Many people are, so I’m going to offer a few tips to help you take a daunting task and make it reasonable and fun.
First off, the obvious thing to consider when planning vegetables or fruits is to grow what you will eat. Your family doesn’t like beets or brussels sprouts? There is no need to use garden or pot space for them. For the occasional treat, or to satisfy a craving, purchase at the farmers market.
Be realistic about the time you plan to spend gardening. If you love to get out in the evening after work to deadhead your perennials but don’t want to spend hours digging and planting and tying up tomatoes, then bring your garden down to a size you have time to manage.
There’s absolutely no reason you can’t grow edibles in pots near the back door to make them easy to access and take care of. Or, try square-foot gardening in a small raised bed. A family of four can be fed easily from a 10-by-10 bed.
You also don’t have to stick to tried-and-true favorites. Why not be a bit adventuresome and try a new variety? You can always get paste tomatoes for preserving at the farmers market, but you might not find black cherry tomatoes there.
If you want to try your hand at preserving, you certainly can grow the vegetables you’ll need, but you can also buy in bulk at the farmers market. This lets you save your garden space for a wider variety of vegetables. Instead of growing 20 paste tomato plants, use your space to grow the basil, oregano and onions you will use for your sauce, and buy a bushel of tomatoes at the farm stand.
Make sure you understand your climate and the seasons. Growing vegetables that will thrive makes gardening a lot more fun and interesting than fighting to grow what doesn’t work well. Plant lettuce in early spring and don’t try to keep it going in summer. It simply doesn’t like the heat.
Most of us love the taste of fresh fruit, but often, we don’t want to put the time and effort into growing a fruit garden or orchard. Why not use fruits for landscape plants? This gives plants two purposes — to beautify our homes and to provide us with fruit straight from the vine.
For example, currants make beautiful foundation shrubs. Fruit trees can replace ornamental flowering trees and give the bonus of fruits to eat. Vining plants like grapes can serve as a screen plant or cooling shade on a pergola. Strawberries make a beautiful and delicious groundcover. And don’t forget about hanging baskets. Instead of petunias, consider growing cherry tomatoes, sweet alyssum and edging basil for a beautiful, fragrant and edible basket.  
— Kate Jerome, a Kenosha resident, holds a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin and is the Urban Farm director at Gateway Technical College. She writes a column on the National Gardening Magazine website: www.garden.org.

Tks & Rg,

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