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Do veggies, flowers and herbs make good neighbors?

Violas, Allysum, Beets, Kale, Sweet Peas, and more are growing happily in one container garden

Whether we find ourselves gardening in a small space, or just wanting to extend our “yard” onto our patio, deck, or balcony, gardening in containers can be an excellent approach. Beautiful annuals, aromatic herbs, and many of our favorite vegetables can be right at home in medium to large pots.

But can we successfully mix and match these three types of plants when we combine them in a single pot? It depends on our expectations.

What’s more important? A pretty container or a productive one?

Let’s talk about “edible landscaping.”  It’s a trend that gets more and more popular every year. The concept involves integrating edible and ornamental plants into the same place, usually in garden beds or raised beds.

For example, over the past couple of seasons, I’ve planted a portable raised bed at Tagawa’s with lots of cool-weather plants including kale, lettuce, pansies, bok choy, peas, radishes, and Swiss chard. They looked quite pretty! All of the veggies were grown organically and eventually went home with some of our staff for a small salad or side dish, one or two servings at most.

But by putting in so many plants, I knew there wouldn’t be much of a “harvest.” This project was all about eye candy! Creating a similar garden in a single large pot… planting different flowers, veggies and herbs all together, can work if your priority is something eye-catching rather than actually feeding your family.

For something both pretty and productive, keep it simple

If you want both beauty and a decent amount of edibles from the same container, keep it simple. Don’t stuff the containers full like the overflowing flower pots so many of us favor each spring and summer.

Image Credit: Pamela Crawford, from her book “Easy Patio Veggies & Herbs”

The design above is one of many mixed container gardens featured in a book called Easy Patio Veggies & Herbs: Gorgeous, Edible Container Gardens by Pamela Crawford. You can learn more about her work and view her books here! She’s graciously given us permission to use some of her photos for educational purposes.

In this picture, Crawford’s used what appears to be two or three tomato plants fronted by several large yellow zinnias.  That’s it!  Simple and beautiful!  By limiting the number of plants and giving the tomatoes plenty of room to grow, Crawford has reduced the plants’ overall competition for food and water, giving the tomatoes have a chance to grow big enough to actually produce a lot of fruit.

Note: Crawford gardens in Georgia, so she definitely benefits from a long growing season, but by choosing plant varieties carefully, we can adapt her vision to our shorter season, too.

There’s another way to create a collection of flowers, veggies, and herbs

Just as a container with only one variety of flower can be beautiful on its own, so can a large container with just one type of vegetable. Especially if it’s given some extra TLC…  groomed or perhaps trellised to be a showpiece and still provide a good harvest.

Image Credit: Pamela Crawford, from her book “Easy Patio Veggies & Herbs”

This is another eye-catching picture from Pamela Crawford. It’s an example of how beautiful food plants can be. This dynamic container certainly doesn’t need any co-stars, but it could work quite nicely as the centerpiece, anchoring a display of other smaller containers of interesting flowers and herbs. They’d be in the same area, but not sharing the same pot.

Be inspired!

I’ll never give up my pots of flowers on my deck! But re-imagining what our summer container gardens can look like is a great way to tap into the adventure that gardening is supposed to be!

If you choose to combine veggies, flowers, and herbs into the same container, just make sure their cultural needs, like light and water, are similar. Then have fun!  We’d love to see your results this season! Share photos of your mixed containers on the Tagawa Gardens Facebook page and tag us in your posts on Instagram.