Vail Landscape Logic column: Bring on the edibles — no, not those edibles — vegetables
No doubt about it, growing veggies is not a passing fad. Edibles are taking over more of the landscape because our taste buds have come to enjoy vine-ripened tomatoes and the joy of picking our own fresh herbs and green beans.
Veggies are no longer tucked into an obscure part of the landscape or restricted to raised planting beds. The latest growing trend is to intersperse edibles in planting beds among other annuals and perennials and to grow them in containers placed just as prominently on the patio as the bright and showy flowers. Growing edibles in containers means almost everyone can enjoy homegrown varieties, even if they are short on space.
PREPARE THE GARDEN
It’s too soon to plant the tender annual varieties — tomatoes, beans, etc. But now is the time to prep and plan the garden you will soon enjoy. Take steps to get the garden off to a clean and healthy start:
• Clean out debris such as leaves and dead plant material that has collected over the winter.
• Till planting areas by double digging or even triple digging to loosen soil. This means digging down to the third shovel depth to till. This practice is common in Africa and has had amazing results in production.
• Add compost. Tilling plus composting will improve soil quality and help it hold moisture.
• Plan ahead to have mulch on hand when you plant. It lowers evaporation, keeps more water in the soil and helps deter weeds. Use wood mulch, straw or recycle newspapers and grass clippings.
To make your garden even more sustainable, consider these tips:
• Plant early, cool-season crops such as carrots, radishes, lettuce and spinach. Seeds can be planted as soon as the ground can be tilled. This can be done now along the Front Range and a little later in the high country.
• Grow more edibles than ornamentals. This means the water is going to a more productive use.
• When it’s warm enough to plant annuals, dress up veggies with companion flowers. Nasturtiums aren’t only pretty. They are a beneficial companion plant you can also use to brighten a salad and add a slight peppery flavor. Marigolds deter pests. Dual-purpose flowers provide more bang for your buck.
• Control weeds. They will suck up moisture your edibles need. Using mulch and keeping up on hand weeding means less water will be needed.
• Use containers with herbs to dress up the patio. Foliage-only containers are a popular trend, and again, your time, expense and water to grow them is maximized by providing more than visual interest.
Productive landscapes promote a healthy lifestyle and are a responsible use of our resources. Start planning and planting as soon as you can!
Becky Garber is a member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact them at 970-468-0340.