A tasty courtyard
Edibles can be grown all over the garden, not just in the vegetable patch. Consider edible hedge plants, such as feijoa; plant pretty, tasty, red-veined sorrel as a filler in the front of the flower border; edge the front path with parsley; and pto up some citrus. Here, at Huka Lodge in New Zealand, potted cumquats mark out the boundary of the outdoor eating area, which is covered in summer with edible grapes growing over the wooden pergola. Take extra care when growing groundcovers in potted citrusas they don’t like to share. Treat them to plenty of water and citrus food.
Strawberry fields forever
Woven cane cloches keep the birds away from most of the strawberries in Paul Bangay’s vegetable patch at Stonefields in Central Victoria. Less attractive but equally effective measures include covering individual plants with the mesh covers you use to keep flies from the pies at a picnic, or constructing a cover from bird net slung over flexible pipe hoops. For best flavour ease up a little on watering as the fruits develop so as not to dilute the sweetness, and leave them to colour completely to the calyx before picking.
Thyme fills spots in this crazy-paved terrace at Curry Flat in the Monara, providing flowers that bees love, and making it easy for the cook to get access to emergency herbs for dinner.The best varieties forculinary use are garden thyme, Thymus vulgaris, and lemon thyme, Thymus citriodorus. With an abundance like this, you can trim it, dry the cuttings, and add them to your next fireside party - the ancient Greeks believed the smoke from burning thyme was a source of courage!
Espalier is the ultimate space-saving edible growing technique. The easiest espalier is an informal one, like the fig shown here,in which the aim is simply to fill a flat plane with branched growth through selective pruning. Formal espalier, like the bay tree shown here, is a bit more complex. Either way, maintenance pruning is best undertaken in spring and summer when the plant is in active growth. It may seem counterintuitive but pruning in winter, as is usual for fruiting plants, will produce too much new growth.
The Ideal Patch
The vegetable garden at Curry Flat is completely enclosed in bird netting, keeping possums, wallabies and birds out of the patch. At the back, an undercover bench holds all the tools and products required for cultivation, while propagation benches are positioned under shade cloth. Beds are raised to a comfortable height for cultivation and harvest. Reo frames allow for climbing vegetables to grow on the southern sides of the beds, allowing all plants maximum sunlight. The front beds contain annual plants, rotated each season for better plant health, while the back beds hold the perennial vegetables, such as asparagus, rhubarb and artichoke.
Heronswood, the Diggers garden on the Mornington Peninsula, is an inspiration for growing edibles as if they were ornamentals. Here, the textures and colours of the vegetables are set off by a fringe of edible violas. Other delicious edible flowers include nasturtium, pot marigold, dianthus, borage, sage, mint, daylily and lavender. Of course, when growing flowers to eat, ensure no chemical sprays are used.