Combine flowers and vegetables for a beautiful garden that includes nutritional as well as decorative plantings. Plant a year-round foundation by including perennials in your garden plan. Annuals add color during summer months and crops, such as winter cabbage, provide greenery during winter. In his book, "Great Garden Designs," author Tim Newbury says features such as patios, fences and trellises add interest and allow you to increase your space for a vegetable and flower garden. Use a pergola for vine plants to grow on, use raised beds for herbs, plant climbing vegetables and berries near a fence and use containers for both vegetables and flowers throughout the space. A good garden design allows you to produce a maximum amount of edible fruit and vegetables, but it also allows for growth. Plant the basics, then add different elements each year, Newbury suggests.
Preparing for planting
Spread a thin layer of organic fertilizer on your flower beds, then use a tiller to till ground and work the fertilizer into the soil. If you have existing perennials, work around these plants and incorporate new plantings.
Measure the area where you want your herb garden, and mark it using a small amount of lime, sand or nontoxic spray paint. A raised bed can be set in the center of a large patio or can even form an "island bed" in the center of your yard.
Use a saw to cut railroad ties to size and lay them wide-face side down in the area marked. If you want a taller bed, add another layer of railroad ties.
Attach railroad tie sections with angle brackets screwed to the inside of each corner.
Measure and cut heavy plastic to fit inside the bed, allowing for about 1 inch from the top inside walls.
Lay 1 inch of gravel or stone chips in the bottom of the bed. Cover with mulching fabric.
Fill the raised bed with potting soil. Lightly water your garden area before planting.
Fill two large pots or containers with potting soil. Put gravel down first if pots do not have good drainage. The containers can sit on a patio or in the corner of a garden. Pots work well for a mixture of greens, such as lettuce or kale, and annuals. Tomatoes also grow well in pots.
Select plants for your existing flower beds that allow a maximum of edible produce. Woody plants, such as junipers or hydrangeas, should be planted first or left in place if you already have plantings. Plant other perennials next, then plant annuals, such as vegetables and flowers like marigolds in between the perennials in random, informal drifts.
Plant perennials in your garden beds. Perennials come in all shapes and sizes. Be sure to check with your county extension office for a list of plants that grow well in your region.
A few suggested perennials that work well in a vegetable/flower garden:
Astilbe--grows best in shade and dappled sunlight; blooms in late spring through summer; flowers are pale to dark pink.
Campunala--sunlight and dappled shade; blooms mid-winter to spring; white flowers.
Dianthus cultivars (Carnations)--needs full sunlight; blooms spring to early fall; flowers are pink, white, salmon, red or bright crimson.
Hydrangea--prefers morning sun, afternoon shade; blooms from mid- to late-summer; flower varieties are white, pink and blue.
Hibiscus--grows well in full sun; late summer blooms are pink, blue or white.
Jasmine--does well in both full sun and shade; pink and cream flowers bloom in summer and winter; some varieties are climbers and do well by walls or fences.
Golden bay laurel--needs a sunny spot; good evergreen shrub that can be used as an herb and makes excellent topiary.
Add vegetables and flowering annuals to your flower beds. Grow what you and your family likes to eat. A huge crop of tomatoes won't do much good if no one in your family likes tomatoes. Once you've decided what vegetables you like, consider plant needs such as sun, shade or trellises or fences for climbers.
Some suggested planting combinations:
Heat-loving plants that thrive in full sun:
Cucumbers--needs a trellis or fence, or a spot where vines can hang
Calendula (marigolds)--a beneficial plant that repels pests
Callistephus (China aster)
Ornamental cabbage or kale--great for adding color to winter garden
Tomatoes--need stakes or trellis
Partial shade (most vegetables need plenty of sunlight, but these do well in cooler corners of your yard):
Beans, climbing varieties
Create your herb garden. Herbs add aroma to your garden and your food. In your raised bed, plant thyme, rosemary, oregano, salvia (for color,) dill, sage, tarragon, parsley, basil and mint. Add a few marigolds to help repel pests. Herb gardens are a good place to plant bulbs such as tulips and day lilies to add color.
Grow salad greens in containers. If you won't need a lot of tomatoes, plant a tomato plant in one of your containers, Add carrots, onions, parsley, peas or sage to the container. Salad greens such as spinach, lettuces in several varieties and Swiss chard can be grown in your second container. Add a liquid organic fertilizer at the base of plants every 2 weeks.