- Now’s the time to plant fruit and vegetables
- Try slipping them into pots or borders rather than growing them alone
- Certain food crops are surprisingly beautiful
The grow-your-own movement is still on the march – and this is the time of year to get down to business. We’ll soon be developing a virtuous glow and taking some exercise, too.
Of course, the joy is – unlike supermarket produce – knowing exactly how our fruit and veg has been raised. But some crops need a lot of room and others are not pretty – who wants to gaze out over a garden full of old cabbage stumps or potato tops? Growing food is, therefore, tricky in a small garden. But blend productive plants with pretty ones and you can keep your garden looking lovely while enjoying fresh produce.
So if you’d like to try this, now is the time. Begin with a few edibles slipped into pots or borders.
Certain food crops are surprisingly beautiful. Most fruit is attractive, especially when there’s a spring bonus of blossom. Courgettes, leafy herbs and tomatoes make lovely features, as do chard, purple broccoli, salad leaves and strawberrie
You can grow any of those in containers or in the ground.
Coarser vegetables such as winter brassicas, leeks and maincrop potatoes are less pretty.
They taste the same, home-grown or not, so buy them.
Carrots, parsley and lettuce, however, combine well with floral summer bedding. They look good with orange calendulas, blue borage, tall-growing tagetes and other jolly annuals.
The crops also enjoy similar conditions, so thrive together. But they need varying amounts of space to reach maturity. Check seed packets for details and allocate enough room for each. Harvesting will leave gaps, too. Fill those with carrots from seed – sowable until July for winter harvest. Or sow rocket, radishes or salad in succession.
Chilli plants are highly decorative and handy for dotting about in a sunny border, perhaps alongside outdoor tomatoes. And like tomatoes, they also love life in a sunlit patio pot. Try south devonchillifarm.co.uk or suttons.co.uk for chilli plants.
Containerised food plants can be as pretty as ornamentals. Bush courgettes, for example, have huge stippled leaves and showy flowers as well as fruits. Include yellow-fruited varieties as well as green and plant one per large container.
Tomatoes, like courgettes, need full sun. Dwarf, trailing kinds such as Maskotka are great for hanging baskets, but grow taller cordon types in big pots with supporting canes.
For natural whitefly control and a lovely show, blend tomatoes with mid-height tagetes (marigolds) such as Naughty Marietta or Crown Jewels.
Strawberries are gorgeous in their own special planters, but look even better near pelargoniums or fuchsias.
Gooseberries crop well in big pots, too, as do blueberries, which are grown in ericaceous compost. They yield well and have gorgeous autumn colour.
Extra height brings beauty to almost any design. Pergolas or climbing frames can provide opportunities for crops as well as ornamentals.
You can train tayberries or blackberries on these, while runner beans will scramble up cane wigwams. Try red-flowered Wisley Magic. And include tallgrowing garden peas such as Alderman for variety.
Finally, no garden should be without sweet peas. They’re not edible, but for fragrance, colour and all-round charm they’re simply unbeatable.