Gardening with Natives & Veggies – Part 3 – From a Native Gardener’s View

My native gardening friends tend to prefer the “low maintenance” of native perennials for their garden. They love to feed the wildlife and so do I, to a point. My neighbor three doors down has a managed native meadow for a front yard and it is always fun to walk by and see what is blooming, or what birds are munching on the fall seed heads.  These are some of the delights of growing natives. They are not so picky about what soil they have, if you add compost each season or what native they are planted next to.

Yet, the low maintenance native garden approach leaves more time for other endeavors, and this is where the native gardener can grow a few things for them to eat.

swallowtail butterfly on queen anne's laceOne of the challenges a native gardener might have is all the wildlife they attract. This can be viewed as a problem, but it is my experience that an abundant mix in the right places gives everyone bounty. So here are my suggestions for native gardeners to add a few veggies for themselves without compromising their native gardens.  Native gardeners already tend to attract pollinators and other helpful insects to their gardens, which can give them an immediate advantage.

  • Containers on the deck: Adding one, two or a few containers on your deck is the first place I would recommend growing some veggies, or herbs as a native gardeners. This will not take up your native bed space, and be right out the back door for easy access. This is also the place least likely to be visited by larger animal critters.  You can grow anything you like to eat in a container, so choose a couple things you live to eat and start there.  You might want to give your tomatoes a screen to protect from birds, but small animals that would go onto your desk don’t tend to bother cucumbers, melons or squash.

    container garden on your deck
    Grow veggies on your deck away from deer
  • Let winter squash and pumpkins meander through your native beds. These crops are super low maintenance too.  They have a long “days to maturity”, meaning it takes a long time for them to ripen.   You can put in the plants, let them ramble and harvest them in autumn.  Then you’ll have some yummy squash in storage to enjoy all winter.

    large winter squash
    Let winter squash ramble like these Upper Ground Sweet Potato Squash next to native Asters
  • Add in a small fenced veggie garden close to one of your flowering native beds. Adding in a small veggie garden, with protection from wildlife can bring much joy and healthful food to your table. It is satisfying to sit at your table, eating some fresh picked veggies and watching all the buzz of life in your native garden beds. If you are new to veggie gardening, and want some tips, get in touch, I’d be happy to help!

    Native flower bed next to a veggie bed
    Native flower bed next to a veggie bed

Hope you have enjoyed this three part series on growing natives and veggies.  If you missed a part:

  • Part 1 covered three reasons to grow both natives and veggies.
  • In Part 2 we looked at the topic from the point of view of the veggie gardener, and
  • Here in Part 3, we saw three ideas for native gardeners to add some veggies.

Happy gardening, and if you have any topics you’d like me to cover, let me know.

Container Garden your Way to Yummy Food

grow great tomatoes at home
Container Grown Gold Roma Tomatoes

Happy Spring!

Tis the season we starting dreaming of gardening – what don’t have much time or space to garden?

No problem – Container garden.

Container gardening is a great place to start gardening and easy to add if you are an experienced gardener.

For the new gardener, it allows you to learn on a small scale. It is often where I recommend people start gardening, especially those who feel overwhelmed by gardening for the first time.

Experienced gardeners (and all of us really) can enjoy the convenience a container garden can provide, consider…

… 5 Reasons why container gardening is a great idea:

  1. It doesn’t take much space
  2. You can move the containers to where the sun and rain are
  3. You don’t have a big area to maintain
  4. You can grow loads of food
  5. You can grow food year round

Lets take a peek at each of these 5 reasons.

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Grow lots of food in a containerContainer gardens can be a various sizes and shapes and tucked into or onto most any place, making they great for small space gardening. Even if you have a large yard, growing food on your deck is convenient.

Live in a townhouse where the sun is limited. You can move your container garden around from place to place to follow the sun, getting more or less light depending on what you are growing. You can move them under the eves in a big rain storm, or under the sky if they need watering.

Many people seem to not have much time these days, so having a smaller area to maintain fits with many people’s lifestyles and still allows them to eat some food from their own place.

You can get a huge yield from a well planted container garden. Amazing really how much bounty you can haul in. You can grow pretty much anything you would grow in the ground in a container.

All those crops that grow in fall and winter can grow in containers too, so you can four season garden !

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Companion & Follow-on Planting for Containers

Companion planting in containers works the same way as companion planting in your garden bed.  Plants are grown together or in proximity to each other so they can provide different benefits to each other.

Follow-on planting is choosing certain plants to be planted in the same space or very close to each other through the seasons.

Companion planted container garden in mid spring.
Companion planted container garden in mid spring.

In this photo there are two types of kale and one type of broccoli that were planted last fall.  In early spring the lettuce was planted.  Most of the lettuce was harvested by the time this photo was taken, althoguht one is in the right container.  Other kales had been harvested to plant the lettuce.  By harvesting the lettuce we made room to plant tomato seedlings, so …..

  • Fall planted kale – harvested in late winter and into spring made room for
  • Spring planted lettuce (and there were radishes too) which, when harvested made room for
  • Spring planted tomato seedlings
  • Once all kale and broccoli is harvested, put a few scallions, a basil, a marigold or more lettuce around your tomato
  • As your summer crops die back, are harvested or are no longer productive – plant kale again and start over !