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Mixed Gardening?  RSS feed

 
Angelica Harris
Posts: 48
Location: Statesboro, GA
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I have a question for everyone, especially you experienced gardeners out there!

I'm in love with flowers, fruits, and veggies all the same, and it leaves me in a dilemma of how to combine them all. Is it possible to plant traditional flowering plants in the same area of edible plants and fruit-bearing plants? I dream of a ginormous garden, you see, with nasturtiums in one corner and adirondack blue potatoes in the other... Or at least something like that, I hope you can get the picture. However, I'm just a beginner and I'm not even sure if it should be done. I mean, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

Does it affect pollination? Will my creeping flowers choke out my vegetables? Does companion planting work between fruiting and flowering plants?

I have no idea. Does anyone have any incite on this?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I like growing two separate gardens: A perennial garden, and an annual garden. Or some annual beds, and some perennial beds. I don't much like mixing the annuals and perennials because their life cycles can be way out of balance with each other.

I only grow food and medicinal herbs. I have a profusion of flowers in my garden. I grow my own seeds. Every plant that produces seeds also produces flowers. Some of the flowers are more noticeable than others. The spinach flowers are unobtrusive. The edible dahlia flowers, the carrot flowers, and the sunroot flowers are the talk of the neighborhood.

Pollination tends to be more effective if clumps of the same species are flowering close together.
 
Hans Quistorff
pollinator
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Location: Longbranch, WA
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Some vegetables have beautiful flowers or very attractive background foliage. So try to make a garden plan that arranges them to take advantage of their height and color. The purple potatoes have some purple in the stems and the flowers are a lavender blue makes a beautiful backdrop for a white flower. Make sketches and take pictures and each year will be able to make your garden a better work of art.

I container garden. attached is an example. The hardy plants have come out to there summer abode but soon there will be no gaps between the barrels. some are flowers, some herbs, some vegetables like chives and green onions that I want to grab quick for my pizza.
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later it will be a solid row of barrels some blooming at railing
 
Roy Hinkley
Posts: 264
Location: S. Ontario Canada
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I'm so deep in the suburbs that unless I have all the flowering plants I barely get any pollinators in. Borage is a great one, garlic chives, calendula, nasturtiums and more I can't think of right now.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9741
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I plant everything in the same garden. I have fruit trees, perennial flowers, herbs, annual flowers, perennial vegetables, and annual vegetables all in one fenced garden.

An historic example of this kind of garden is the traditional French potager.
 
Casie Becker
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Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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There's actually an entire gardening movement built around this idea. Doing a search for edible landscaping will get you a lot of suggestions. It's popular with people who are trying to sneak vegetable gardens into areas where they're banned. It's also my favorite way to garden.

If you're using edible plants instead of traditional landscaping plants it helps to know what kind of plants you're looking to replace.

A lot of fruit trees and shrubs make great replacement for nonproductive ornamental trees. Both spring blooms and the ripening fruit can be visual stunners. Blueberries are probably the poster child of this with spring flowers, summer berries and fall color. Citrus is very tolerant of pruning to fit a desired size and shape. I have espaliered peaches in my front yard.

A lot of varieties of beans are attractive flowering vines. Last year I grew a couple of different varieties of long beans from Thailand. They were pretty going up the trellis, had purple flowers that were about an inch across, the beans were visually interesting, and the whole planting was very productive. They taste better stir fried than boiled, but you can use them just like traditional green beans.

Last year I grew snake melons as a combination flowering plant and ground cover. Unlike the other melons and squash I tried, this plant never got unattractive powdery mildew and it was covered in star shaped yellow flowers for more than six months straight. It was also very productive despite a lot of neglect on my part. They look and taste just like giant cucumbers, so you don't need any exotic skills to use them.

Another option, though they didn't develop flowers in my garden, is the sweet potato. Very dense ground cover that looks similar to ivy. The leaves are a nutritious and mild cooked green and of course, there are the roots if you dig them up in fall.

Many herbs are evergreen and frequent trimming to use them in the kitchen actually improves their appearance. Every time you snip a little for your dinner you encourage a bushier and so lusher looking plant. A lot of garden experts recommend snipping off any flowers that try to form because the plants are less flavorful after flowering, but if you're growing your own, I'd suggest letting them flower. If you end up needing more flavor, just snip a little more. Growing your own should mean you have plenty.

Let me know if you want me to go on, really I can, but I've already taken up a lot of your time.

spelling and grammar corrections
 
Karen Donnachaidh
pollinator
Posts: 750
Location: Virginia (zone 7)
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I've read that the more diverse your plantings are,the less likely you are to have pest issues. If you plant rows and rows of the same thing the pest who enjoy that one type of plant will just go from one plant to the next and never want to leave.
My problem is that I believe this but my husband doesn't. Last year we planted many rows of tomatoes (like 80+ plants.) He wants even more this year, so how do you plant that many if you don't do just row after row of tomatoes?
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9741
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I think you need a very large garden so you can dot the tomatoes amongst the other plants!

I have few pests even though Texas is a very buggy place, and I think it is because almost all of my plantings are polycultures. Also, I've noticed any "pest" problems are actually indicators of plant stress, such as drought or crowding. Crowding is my worst gardening problem, because I try to cram too much into each bed.

 
Roy Hinkley
Posts: 264
Location: S. Ontario Canada
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The tomatoes are a good example of a how mixed gardening strategy is not only possible but a darn good idea.
Common companion flowering plants for them are:
Borage to help repel hornworm - flowers and leaves edible- they're huge plants though, mine can need as much space as a tomato plant if I let them get full size - plenty of compostable material.
Marigolds to repel pests and their roots repel a soil pest.
Calendula - edible leaves and flowers - never tried them
Nasturtiums - also edible- spicy like mustard
 
Karen Donnachaidh
pollinator
Posts: 750
Location: Virginia (zone 7)
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Our garden spaces consist of:
Lg. Main garden: 22x20 ft.(2/3 planted in tomatoes last year)
Sm. Main garden: 24x9 ft. (All tomatoes last year)
Squash/pumpkin garden: 25x20
Herb garden: 25x5
3 Raised beds: 8x3
Cold frame: 8x3
4 Stop n snack stations (cherry tomatoes and peas mostly) around property
We have the space. We just need to figure out how to mix in 100 tomato plants instead of always in rows. The only thing planted with them are marigolds.
I created a monster (husband) when I started canning cocktail juice. That's why he's saying plant more tomatoes.
 
Angelica Harris
Posts: 48
Location: Statesboro, GA
food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
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Thank you everyone! You all are so helpful. I'm certainly taking note of everything being said. So don't be surprised by my seeming silence. I've definitely looked up the helpfulness of certain plants like the borage and calendulas being mentioned, and I think they make gorgeous additions, but for sure I'm most concerned about the flowering plants that I want that aren't edible ones at all. I just think they're pretty for lack of better words, like poppies and sweet peas.

Some of the varieties I've found myself keen on are reported to be great attractors of bees, hummingbirds and butterflies, so if for no other reason than pollination, I'd feel a little justified planting them heh, but otherwise I just dig lots of flowers and want to do my best trying to incorporate them into my garden with all my incredible edibles too. I really am going to look into the French potager idea.
 
Karen Donnachaidh
pollinator
Posts: 750
Location: Virginia (zone 7)
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Thanks! I've never tried borage. Sounds interesting! I do plant hundreds of marigolds everywhere and basil is close to my tomatoes. I did have hornworms last year so maybe borage will help.I love nasturtium and have saved lots of seed from last year. I just haven't had it in the veggie garden in many years. I used to plant it near the summer squash to repel squash bugs (we had tons of squash bugs last year) but the nasturtium quickly got shaded out by the squash leaves.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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A beautiful plant which I grow specifically for hornworms, who grow up to be the spectacular hawkmoths, is Devil's Claw, the only non-nightshade which hornworms will eat. It has lovely flowers, and its pods used to be pickled and sold commercially. They are edible but rather bitter. When I find hornworms on my tomatoes, I move them to the Devil's Claw.

Sorry, I think hornworms are adorable - look at their pudgy little feet!
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Leora Laforge
Posts: 55
Location: Saskatchewan
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Angelica, what you are describing sounds exactly like the garden I grew up with, a huge chaotic mix of veggies, fruits, and flowers.

I think the most fun method of gardening involves very little planning. Pick up what you would like to eat or flowers that catch your eye, and then jumble it up and put it somewhere in your garden. Some things will work and others will fail. if you do this for a few years you will get a sense of what works and what doesn't so can shift to what does work for you. This will not be the most efficient initially and might not be what you want to do if you have limited space, it is great for a large space especially if you like to experiment.

Perennials and annuals can do just fine together, you just have to plant your annuals around your perennials, it might take extra time, but that is not a big deal.

Perennial flowers, volunteer flowers, volunteer lettuce, volunteer spinach, and berry bushes, are used to mark the ends of veggie rows, because they are visible at planting time. Later in the season the flowers add some nice colour to look at while picking and weeding. Lettuce and spinach come very early and leaves can be picked right away making for those early spring greens. Then let them mature, go to seed, and die, shake the dead plant wherever you want them to come up next.

Regarding ornamental flowers, a lot of them are edible, just inefficient at producing food. For example poppies, after flowering have edible seeds. Pansies, roses and many other flowers have edible petals. I started eating flowers when I was young for the novelty, I still do so out of habit and enjoyment.

When there get to be too much of one thing, in this garden usually poppies, cornflowers, and lettuce, they can just be pulled out.

There are food plants that like to climb on something, a sturdy plant that might not produce food could be a great option for climbing on.

I think the most important aspect of your garden should be that you enjoy spending your time in it, because life is best enjoyed.
 
Casie Becker
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Seems like I was reading your intentions exactly backwards. I do have nonedibles mixed into my garden also. I do believe in the idea that there should be a living root in the ground at all times to feed the soil biology and so have perennial plants (usually flowers) interspersed and delineating the different areas of my beds. They can also be valuable edging plants to hold back encroachment of our very aggressive grasses.
 
Angelica Harris
Posts: 48
Location: Statesboro, GA
food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
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I honestly plan to have a huge garden, especially once I decide whether or not I want livestock of any kind. I wouldn't want any of my animal friends to get into/eat something that wasn't good for them. In any case, if I get a large enough space, I'll certainly be doing more than edging with certain species.
 
Jami Gaither
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Sorry, I think hornworms are adorable - look at their pudgy little feet! 


OMG!  I flicked back up to read why you'd posted the picture of this hornworm with an apparent ALIEN face - looks like a scary monster!!  But maybe he has cute feet  I still think I can't love them yet.
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
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Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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The last couple years before my wife and I purchased our property we were renting a place that had space for a small ~90 square foot garden in the front and a deck on the back where I had a couple wicking container beds that I built. The front garden had very poor soil (I amended it with 2.5 cubic yards of compost) that was surrounded by asphalt and only went about 6" before hitting a hard compacted layer. The back deck had limited sun exposure. All in all this was a very limited area for growing food but I love growing things so I decided to see how much I could get to grow in this space. This required a heavy use of mixed gardening.

In the front I grew salad greens from spring till my wife and I moved in late September. I also grew Ozette potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, snap peas, cilantro (also harvested seeds - coriander!), nasturtiums, marigolds, lavender, chives, onions, broccoli (only thing that did not produce well), and basil. The front bed and containers were all heavily mulched with straw and I also grew a living mulch of dwarf white clover between the other plants.

I think I would give the plants a bit more room in my future beds now that I have the space but I would say that in my experience a mixed garden can work really well. I found pests were not a problem and all in all it worked great!

Side note - a bit of information on Ozette potatoes which are a great potato for the Pacific Northwest:

"For 200 years the Ozette potato was a staple crop in the diet of the Pacific Northwest Native Americans of the Makah Nation. The potato was given the name Ozette as an homage to one of the villages of the Makah Tribe located near Neah Bay where the potato was first grown in North America. Traditionally the Ozette potato was prepared by the Makah people roasted in a fire pit."

"The Ozette potato first made its way to North America via Spanish explorers in the 1700s. The Spanish had been in South America and after their conquests there made their way to North America in efforts to expand their empire. In 1791, the Spanish established a fort at the most northwesterly point in the United States at Neah Bay in Washington State. As was customary at the time they planted a garden filled with crops they had brought from South America and Mexico, one of which was a potato that would later come to be known as the Ozette. After less than a year the Spanish abandoned the fort as severe weather made the harbor an unsuitable location for docking their vessels. The Makah Indians of Neah Bay maintained the gardens and quickly adopted the potato as it provided a much-needed source of carbohydrates. It was not until the 1980’s that the Ozette potato was cataloged and seed made available for growing outside of the Makah Nation. In 2005, the Ozette was recognized by Slow Food to be a historically significant potato and soon after a campaign was started in Washington State to increase awareness, seed availability, and usage of the potato throughout the Pacific Northwest. It is primarily grown today in home gardens and on a handful of small farms in the United States."

Ref: Ozette Potatoes
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The front garden bed in full production
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The potato harvest and a portion of the onion crop
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The back wicking container beds
 
chip sanft
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We tend to keep the purely ornamental flowers separate from the vegetables, mostly, I think, to prevent confusion of seedlings. Also because some of the flowers are perennials and my random digging and planting in the veggie patches could harm them. But there's no necessary reason to separate them as a rule: growing marigolds in or around certain veggies as a pest control thing is a longstanding tradition, for example.
 
Marco Banks
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My "garden" (if you can call it that) is a riot of every different kind of plant imaginable.  Flowers, annual veggies, fruit trees and bushes, vines . . . stuff I plant myself and all sorts of volunteering plants coming up throughout the season.

The mix of plants does a couple of things:

1.  Having something flowering all the time encourages the bees to come around constantly.  If you want bees to come around on a regular basis, give them a reason to do so.  Always have something in bloom, and preferably, a multitude of plants (like Thai blue basel) that are available for them to feed upon.

2.  I love the look of a non-rowed garden.  Little drifts of carrots, lettuces, beets, onions, herbs fill sunny spaces between fruit trees and other perennial food plants.  It's a much more peaceful look that orderly rows.

3.  Soil fertility is much higher when there are multiple roots from multiple plants, all pumping their unique formula of root exudates down into the soil.  Having a variety of plants growing next to each other (flowers included) contributes significantly to soil fertility and feeds a wider variety of soil biota.

4.  Flowers happen.  Poppies and nasturtiums are constantly coming up.  If you plant them once, you'll never need to again.  Bulbs (daffodils, tulips, friesias  . . .) come up every spring, and then lay their dormant for 9 months.  Tansy deters bad insects, and it volunteers all over.  Borage is almost invasive, it comes up so easily.  I like the mess of biomass that I get from borage.  I use it all the time in building a compost pile.   Once you start planting a few of these plants, you'll find that they easily come back year after year.

5.  In mixed gardening, its harder for harmful insect infestations to get a foothold.  Yes, the bad bugs may take out a cabbage or two over here or there, but as they attempt to move across the landscape, they'll find a lady bug, a praying mantis, a spider . . . waiting for them.  More flowers means a greater diversity of good preditory insects.

Mix it up!
 
m c nestor
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Because of space constraints (1/3 acre), my annual vegetable gardens and flower gardens are always squeezed into the various guilds and perennial gardens. Our back yard is sloped so that it is useless for anything but terraces. My husband and I have added one or two terraces per year for the last three years by sheet mulching and modified hugulculture. This year's major projects are  beginning  a food forest at the bottom of the slope and filling out some of our established fruit tree guilds. My goal is to delete all lawn from the property and grow all the fruits and vegetables we need with enough to share with area food banks.

 
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