making an edible/sustainable garden...

Joined Aug 21, 2009
We put new front stairs on our house in the fall and in the process our front lawn has been ruined.  No big deal for me really.. it took more time to get out the lawnmower than it did to mow the stinking lawn.  So we are going to get rid of the rest of the grass and put in a garden.

I have an ornamental garden out front already and I am not going to get rid of those plants at all.  The shrubs all need trimming so tomorrow morning they're getting a haircut... sadly I lost my clematis and my rosebush when they did the stairs but that's ok.. I can start new ones in the backyard and I will. 

My plan for the front is to combine little beds of edible flowers, herbs, vegetables, some decorative perennials and by the city owned sidewalk some annuals and perennial grasses.  The beds are going to be separated by homemade stepping stones.  I have a ton of bric a brac that we have accumulated that honestly is sitting downstairs in boxes so I'm going to smash it and use it for the decorative bits in my stepping stones. 

What do you guys suggest for plants to grow?  I'm thinking beets, carrots and parsnips for sure but I have a fairly large amount of room so I'm open to suggestions!

Thanks in advance!
Joined Mar 12, 2005
Swiss chard, lots of herbs, tomatoes, cucumber, zuchinni, squash.

I tried planting beets a couple times but they never grew.


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
They have a rainbow stalked variety of swiss chard that is quite striking. Well, rainbow meaning red, yellow, orange and green. Color fades some on cooking.

There are some beautiful ornamental kales so perhaps there are some nice-looking edible ones too?
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Joined Aug 21, 2009
Thanks for the suggestions!  I'm doing lots of tomatoes in containers in the back and I'm going to do pickling cucumbers too.  In planter boxes on top of the fence out back I'm going to do peas, green and yellow beans and alternate them with planters of annuals for colour.  I'm an old school garnder and I wait until after the May long weekend (it was this past weekend) to plant anything new because up until then we could always get a frost.  I was thinking of leeks for the front as well.  I'm not looking for huge crops of anything, just nice looking beds of veggies.  I'm turning to vegetables mostly because of cost... I have spent so much on annuals over the years that look nice but are only good for a season.. why not spent the same on vegetables that will give us foilage and then food and alternate them with some perennials?
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Leeniek, there are several things to consider when putting in an edible landscape.

1. Aesthetics. Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. But the aesthetics will be determined not only by what you choose to plant, but by some of the factors below.

2. Plant hardiness. Many of the plants mentioned so far are, indeed, hardy. They can be planted before last frost (sometimes quite a bit before), and are not heat tolerant. So your early stuff will need to be replaced by "summer" types.

3. Growing season. You need to be aware of how long it takes for various veggies to mature. F'rinstance, you mentioned parsnips. They have a very long growing period. So, you might consider growing them as a perimeter border around the bed, with something else (tomatoes? Peppers?) in the middle.

4. Relative heights. This should be self-explanatory, and is no different than what you'd do with ornamental beds. An added concern: The appearance of support structures. For instance, I grow tomatoes in cylinders made from concrete remesh. Aesthetically, this is not the most pleasing approach, and I would not use them in an edible landscape.

5. Companionability. Some plants have a natural affinity for each other. Others are adversarial. For instance, tomatoes and basil benefit from being planted together. But legumes and alliums suffer from proximity. An awareness of this helps in planning your beds, especially small ones as you describe.

Something else to consider: If you truly intend the garden to be sustainable, that means open-pollinated varieties (so you can save seed) and organic methods. With the first, you need to know about maintaining seed purity and vigor. And, with the latter, you need to assure sources of organic materials.

Hey! Nobody said it would be easy. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif

There are several books about edible landscaping, and I would do a search and maybe pick up one or two of them.
Joined Feb 1, 2007
You should do fine with it, Abe. Although it's often thought of as a southern plant, it grew great for us when we lived in northern Illinois.

It's a very showy plant. Okra is related to hibiscus, and the flowers look just like them. Plus, many people think the pods, themselves, are pretty. In fact, the dried pods are often used in floral arrangements.

Depending on variety, the flowers can be white (with colored centers), yellow (the most common) and even purple and red.

It's a tall plant, comparable to tomatoes in size.
Joined Aug 21, 2009
At this stage anything i grow will be in  containers and in the front while I wanted an edible garden I am going to put in perennials and let it be.  I had a horrible discussion today with the owner of one of the rowhouses that we are attached to and basically she has walked away from her responsibilities.  I have an ant and roach problem because she did not care and rented her property out to crackheads.  I love this house and while we knew we were going to be selling in a few years I do not want my kids dealing with crackheads and the neighbour refuses to see that her tenants are less than perfect so we are saving up to move.  I would like to keep this place and rent it out... we are not the type to be absentee landlords.. but we'll see what happens. 

I think that Holland is going to have to wait again as I save for a new house.  We will keep this house and rent it out but as for living we need to move.  I could stilll do Holland next year.. it depends on what we buy and when we do it...
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