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.

This post was first published seven years ago today. Since that time, I have moved to a neighborhood that features a fenced community garden where one can rent a small raised bed for a very low yearly fee, and grow one’s own vegetables with the convenience of full sun and irrigation for easy watering. There is even a greenhouse adjacent to the slope filled with neighbors’ gardens. I keep saying I’m going to have a vegetable garden there one day. Meanwhile, I’ve enjoyed the fresh vegetables from neighbors, and I love visiting the community garden where friendliness grows right alongside the produce.

The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Good morning, Julia!
    Yes, I have suburban gardens. The soil here is a heavy clay, so I’ve had to mix in a lot of purchased garden soil or top soil and soil made by composting, otherwise my plants are just bonsai-looking, unable to grow roots large enough to support normal-sized vegetables. I terraced a hill next to the driveway, which helped a lot. I also use containers on my deck.
    I plant things closer together than otherwise recommended, but keep them watered. I have had some good luck with spinach, tomatoes and zucchini, all planted in the same level of the terrace. About the time the spinach (which is early) finishes, the zucchini have started taking over the garden surface, while the tomatoes (which I’d started indoors a month or so prior) are occupying their cages along the north-west wall. That way, everyone gets lots of sun when they need it.

    • Susan, it sounds like you’re doing great. My current (and only) home has the most horrible clay soil, and I’ve about given up even on trying to grow as many flowers as I would like. I’m moving toward ground covers and a few reliable shrubs. I and my hired hands have done a good bit of soil amendment, and I had an underground drain system installed, but with heavy clay one can only do so much. Plants that love lots of drainage won’t respond well, it seems.

      • Oh, how disappointing, that gardening in your yard is such a challenge. Maybe you can create pockets of added soil to replace the clay, in key locations where you’d like to grow something special?
        Are you using the community garden at all, and do they have actual soil, as opposed to clay?

        • Yes, when the patio was built, I had them install some beds for me. One of them in particular is raised and filled with nothing but garden soil. Not surprisingly, it’s easy to grow things there. But I’m learning how to cope with the clay that lies underneath the few inches of soil that were installed in my front and side beds. One secret is not to over-water it. And certain things will probably never grow in it very well. The community garden does have raised beds with soil in them, along with irrigation nearby and fencing to keep out the “critters.” But thus far, with one thing and another, I have not carved out the time to have one. The fee for a year is quite low, but the demands are high, and those who request a bed are expected to keep it well tended. Maybe someday. Meanwhile, it’s impressive to see all those terraced beds, and since they also plant showy flowers here and there, it’s quite beautiful. Makes a lovely vista for Matt to look at while he’s on the treadmill, and the events lawn in front of it (where there are parties and weddings and such) no doubt appreciates having the nice backdrop as well.

  2. Judy

    The first year of this pandemic we had to have something unique to keep our sanity and so we delved into lots of vegetable gardening. Dug up and amended patches of our yard for tomatoes and peppers and we got big food grade buckets for growing lettuce and beans and potatoes. The videos on YouTube made it look so easy if you did what they said to do. We thought, “Great, this will be great! We’ll be urban farmers!”

    Well, the potatoes rotted in their big buckets, the lettuce began crawling with little black worms and the beans struggled to give us a handful. The peppers rotted. Our tomatoes went wild and turned into a jungle with some of the vines crawling up the fence and into the adjacent evergreen bushes, some reaching over 6 feet tall. But we had scads and scads of tomatoes to give away, so something went right after all.

    This year we scaled back, way back. Some beans and herbs, a few tomato plants, a better way to grow lettuce, and quite a few flowers because we always plant some flowers. We’ve learned to have a lot more respect for our local farmers. They really know what they’re doing! We’ll be getting a lot of our vegetables from them this summer 🙂

    • Judy, it sounds as if you’ve “been there and done that” with various gardening methods and learned what works! I would settle for being able to have some homegrown tomatoes, but we have too many critters (who eat even my lilies and alstroemeria) for me to have the heart to try. At previous homes I’ve tried container gardening for tomatoes on the deck but could never keep the squirrels from eating everything before it ripened. So like you, I have become much more appreciative of farmers AND of successful gardeners! I wish I lived close enough to relieve you of some of those tomatoes! 😀

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