A few months ago, I wrote about foodscaping, an exciting gardening philosophy that I’ve been putting into practice in my own gardens and for some of our clients. ( Eat My Garden! July 24, 2019)
Foodscaping is simply integrating edible plants, like vegetables, fruits and herbs, into traditional, ornamental garden design.
With the clock ticking toward the first killing frost in Northeast Georgia, I’m rushing to get the last of my winter vegetable planting done by the middle or end of this month. And I’m looking for opportunities to plant my edibles where they’ll do double duty by adding structure, beauty and interest to my winter landscape.
Kale, cabbage and parsley are some of the go-to fall foods I always try to work into my ornamental gardens. Kale is especially easy to grow and there are many varieties that thrive in Northeast Georgia’s cool climate. Lacinato Kale has a stately posture in the garden. It has long, slender, but sturdy stalks with dark blue-green leaves that are highly textured. Kale grown in the cooler, fall temperature is said to be more tender and sweet than spring and summer kale. Packed with nutrition, kale is great in soups and salad.
Many edibles overwinter well in Northeast Georgia’s hardiness zones. With some extra protection and care, kale, parsley, cabbage, spinach and some lettuces will last through the winter months. The tall, handsome Red Giant mustard greens pictured above lasted long enough to provide contrast and texture – not to mention dinner – growing in a bed of early-blooming tulips.
Are you familiar with cardoon? It’s another beautiful fall food that is a perfect garden partner with flowering kale or a sensational backdrop for colorful bed flowers like snapdragons daffodils, dianthus and violas. It overwinters well in Northeast Georgia, and eventually, its gently-arching stems evolve into dramatic mounds of 3- to 6-foot-long fronds. Cardoon produces stunning, thistle-like, blue-violet or purple blooms for about 9 months of the year, returning perennially in the fall.
Native to northwest Africa and the Mediterranean, cardoon is just now making its way to the American palate. It’s related to the globe artichoke, and the edible portion—the thick, fleshy stalk—is said to have a mild, artichoke-y flavor. Search cardoon recipes; you may be tempted to plant some in your garden.
Beautiful fall foods can be planted anywhere: in existing flower beds, nestled between shrubs, at the bases of trees, in containers or in traditional veggie gardens.
Containers can be great if you have critters competing for your bounty. Deer and rabbits tend to shy away from edibles in pots. If you plant vegetables and herbs in containers, be sure the pots have drainage holes in the bottom and use good quality soil that drains well—no Georgia clay!
I think of foodscaping as an “I could have had a V8” concept. Why didn’t I think of that before? I could have planted some Lacinato Kale in that spot when I was looking for something tall and substantial with lots of texture—and then enjoyed it at the table with my family!
Have you thought about adding some edible plants to your ornamental gardens?