Flowerbeds with edibles

Locally grown produce for sale in Sonoma County, California, May 2003

Locally grown produce for sale in Sonoma County, California, May 2003

“Creating your own urban farm is as simple as planting your flowerbeds with edibles.” — Greg Peterson

Given my failures at trying to keep the squirrels out of our tomatoes, I tend to doubt that it’s as simple as Peterson makes it sound.  Still, I find the idea intriguing.  I don’t want to give up my flowerbeds, but maybe there is space for a few edibles alongside them.

This quote is more interesting to me after an experience I had last week at my parents’ home near Atlanta.  My brother Al was cooking dinner for Mama and Daddy, and he invited me to go out and pick kale with him.  To my surprise, he did not lead me down to the large garden area at the rear of their lot.  Instead, he pointed me to a square yard of ground beside the patio, just outside the back door, where his sons planted kale several years ago.  Apparently those plants have been growing, being harvested, and putting food on their table ever since.

I’m normally not a fan of kale, but I know it’s trendy now, and I got a kick out of picking it.  Al cooked it up with some pasta, herbs and Parmesan, and I have to admit I really enjoyed it.  It was one of the few times I have eaten anything (other than a tomato) that I literally picked myself less than an hour earlier.

This was not an urban setting by any stretch of the imagination, but that patch of kale could easily be fit into a tiny urban lawn or flowerbed.  Have you ever created a windowsill herb garden, or a tiny vegetable patch in a small urban or suburban yard?  Tell us your success stories!  We’ll all be healthier and happier if we can eat food that is more fresh, local and nutritious.  And you can’t get much fresher or more local than right outside your door.



  1. raynard

    Julia, while we have gotten away from” veggies in a can”,( why am I singing ” The Farmer in the Dell, ” Hi ho the merry -o the Farmer in the dell” I digress.. I was reading somewhere last year how farmers now use milk machines to milk the cows. I believe we have some organic farms here in Delaware besides corn fields…. I live near to huge farmer’s markets.When I can remember is all I’m going to say lol. Spinning” the Wheel of Fortune/ The Price is Right Wheels”. This weekend A, Virginia Beach, B Niagra Falls, C Dad’s house in Western P. A. ” The Shadow Knows… lol.. Be Blessed

    • Raynard, after reading your comment, that song started playing in my head and I kept making up alternative words to it. “Hi ho for GMO, that’s what the grocers sell.” hee-hee. I digress too. I picture Delaware as having lots of rural areas. I’ve only driven through there a couple of times, but it seemed like it might have some nice farms there. I hope Virginia Beach won’t win the spin this week since we won’t be anywhere near there. Niagara Falls is fabulous. You have probably been there but even if you have, it’s a great choice (of course it’s hard to beat Dad’s house). Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

  2. Good morning, Julia!
    First glance at your email notification w/o my readers – I thought it said Powerbeds and edibles! Now, I’ll admit that you’re very creative, but when I looked again and read “Flowerbeds” I thought, oh yes! This is Julia’s page! 🙂
    Indeed, I do have a potted cherry tomato plant and basil in the breezeway outside my door, next to the flowering potted plants. And I’m already lamenting that I bought such a small baby plant, when I could have been much closer to harvest if I’d have splurged on a larger-to-start-with plant. (I don’t possess the requisite patience to start from seeds very often!)
    Enjoy this Memorial weekend!

    • Susan, I love basil and have considered trying to grow some. Your success with it will inspire me. I had a very healthy cherry tomato plant, but the squirrels thought I had put it out as an offering to them. It produced a lot of fruit, but not one stayed on the vine long enough to get ripe. Happy Memorial Day to you too!

  3. Jack

    My wildflower expert mom (who passed along the gene to me), appalled years ago by her first sighting of my pairing hybrid and heirloom tomatoes with wildflowers and a magnificent climbing rose in my backyard, now jumps at the chance to go pick tomatoes when she regularly comes over for dinner on Saturday night. Unfortunately, the rose and the tomatoes haven’t gotten their clocks synchronized, May roses and June tomatoes is the norm so far. It’s outside the box gardening by my thinking, pretty pedestrian for my purist mom. But, as I said, she still picks AND eats the tomatoes….art is in the eye, more so apparently, of the creator than the beholder.

    • Jack, I think a lot of artists would agree with you on that. But the taste of home-grown tomatoes trumps aesthetics even for purists! Personally, I think a garden with roses AND tomatoes would be the best of both worlds!

  4. I hope I can get my area done soon enough to plant some edibles too. Nothing quite like bringing in dinner. 🙂

    • It’s so much fun, isn’t it? I hope you are able to grow some delicious treats soon.

  5. bobmielke

    It’s amazing how much work men do off their “honey do” list. I put in two 1,000 square foot vegetable gardens in my backyard in South Carolina, not for my wife & I but for her 3 older boys in college. She said “we” needed to do it just in case they came over and needed some fresh, healthy and free food. I tilled the soil that started like concrete, mixed in the right amount of fertilizer and built soaker hose watering systems for our “raised bed” garden. I put down black cloth to minimize weeds. I put up electrical conduit poles and stretched hog wire netting for pole beans that climbed that fence and created an arbor overhead covered in 8-10″ long green beans. It was a thing of beauty. What did my wife contribute, nothing. She said it was too far to walk the 100 feet down the grade to that garden so she didn’t pull weeds, pick produce or even eat the food, neither did the boys. I processed the food into freezer bags in our chest freezer, just in case the boys came over and wanted some. I could have fed the school system from what I grew. I ate well but nobody else ate anything.

    • Bob, perhaps eating well can be the best revenge! Seriously, that garden does sound like a thing of beauty. I love the idea of having the arbor covered in beans. I keep dreaming of putting up a pergola over part of our deck. Some of our neighbors have them, and they’re beautiful. I hope more and more folks will discover what you did — that lots of food can be produced at the local level and we can have hobbies that are practical as well as fun. You have given us a great blueprint for a raised bed garden! Thanks for sharing your story, which I do consider to be a success story, no matter how little appreciated it may have felt at the time. You are healthier today for having eaten its harvest.

      • bobmielke

        To me nothing is as good as freshly picked, freshly cooked green garden beans. Add butter and a tad of salt in the boiling water and you’ve got the most delicious meal imaginable.

        • Bob, green beans and spinach are my favorites among the green vegetables (not counting lima beans, which really aren’t very green). I like to toss in some slivered almonds with them too.

  6. Sheila

    I’ve bee missing you, my friend! Here I am in ATL terminal after leaving Paris/CDG at 11:00 AM. ✈️ We are anxious to be home after 12 days away. I will catch up, I promise! Until tomorrow, Sheila

    • Sheila, I have missed you too, but I have been happy imagining you running around London and Paris. Hope the jet lag is easier coming this direction, as I always thought it was. Don’t rush through catching up here…you will have much to catch up with at home! I’m sure Walter and Jack will have big plans for your time. Welcome back!!!

  7. Lovely story, Julia. It’s quite extraordinary eating what you grow. My first vegetable garden was grown in a dusty border of a rental house. I grew corn and beans. The beans didn’t have enough light to survive, and the corn never should have grown under such terrible conditions, but I got a few ears of corn, and from that time on I was hooked. I’ve grown herbs indoors and on a patio. Once we put down roots at this house, I started growing tomatoes. I’ve since added basil, pumpkins and corn, a few herbs and tried peppers as well. I’ve gotten better at understanding the needs of the plant, dealing with bugs organically and have the utmost respect for anyone that makes a garden thrive.

    We’re dealing with mandatory water rations come June of 30%. The one thing I do know is vegetables like water. Sigh.

    I’m excited about all the urban garden initiatives and the plant a row programs as well. We’re getting back to our roots…quite literally.

    • That last sentence would make a good quote for this blog. Wow, nothing like fresh corn on the cob to hook a person on homegrown dinners! Jeff’s father used to grow the best corn. I was disappointed when Mama and Daddy quit growing it. For years, Mama used a golf cart to travel down to their huge garden area at the back of their land, but now they can’t even manage that; Daddy has to limit his time outdoors because the pollen plays havoc with his severe COPD. But they came up with a nice alternative in the form of these “Grow Boxes” that are perfect for a patio-sized garden. It’s almost like a hydroponic system. I wonder whether they wouldn’t be a good solution to a restricted-water situation? This is the first year they’ve used them, and already they are getting spinach from one, with peppers and beets on the way. Mama says the plants are thriving and beautiful. Now I would like to try putting some on my deck, but wonder whether the squirrels will attack them? 😀

  8. LB

    About the only thing I grow is Basil. I can never get enough! I love that you enjoyed the Kale and I’m sure the picking and preparing it yourself made it even better!

    • LB, I’ve always said that if I start an herb garden, I’ll start with Basil (I LOVE IT) so now I know where to get my advice! But it’s easier to be lazy and get it from Darla, hee-hee. Yes, picking and prepping always makes the flavor better. Every time I cook from scratch (chopping and sautéing and seasoning) I think “no wonder I haven’t been enjoying cooking — I haven’t been doing it right!” Of course, the reality is that there’s not enough time for that every day, but that makes it more special when we do take the time. Thinking of you! Thanks for being here.

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: