5 Creative Vegetable Garden Ideas
Who says a vegetable garden has to feature neat rows in the backyard soil? Seeds and seedlings are just itching to grow, and they will do so just about anywhere you put dirt. Be creative about your vegetable garden design to come up with something unique that fits your mood and your living space. Here are some cool ideas to get things rolling.
1. Veggies in Hanging Baskets
Do you love homegrown vegetables, but find you're short on garden space? Take your vegetable garden to new heights by planting in hanging baskets. Although most wicker or wire hanging baskets you see on patios are filled with flowers, veggies work just as well. You can hang baskets in any corner of sunshine, from a sunny porch to a fire escape landing. And the height keeps veggies out of range of slugs, snails, moles and ants.
Most small veggies grow happily in a hanging basket, but a few work particularly well. Lettuce is one, since you can easily pick off leaves for salad without bending over. Cherry tomato plants and strawberries also grow well and look charming when spilling from hanging baskets. Or, put together an herb hanging basket with basil, parsley, sage, thyme and chives.
2. Veggies in Containers
Some backyards have no garden space but lots of level areas like patios, pool areas and sidewalks. If that sounds like your home, consider planting your veggies in containers.
Your aren't limited in your choice of containers. Consider big pots, plastic buckets, vintage cans, wooden wine crates or even bathtubs. Make sure each container has multiple drain holes, fill it with good quality potting soil and place it in the sun.
Almost any veggie can be grown in a container, including green peppers, beets, tomatoes, beans and chard, but choose "bush" or "dwarf" varieties for sprawling plants like tomatoes or beans. Frilly carrot foliage and bright young radishes are especially attractive in wooden crates.
3. Veggies on Pallets
It sounds wacky when you first hear about it, but growing a vegetable garden on a wooden pallet is trending around the country. The vegetable garden layout can be horizontal or vertical. For a horizontal layout, lie the pallet down on worked soil and press it into the soil to stabilize it, then add soil to the open rows for planting. They are the easiest raised vegetable garden beds ever.
For a vertical layout, lean the pallet against a wall or attach it to the wall with L-brackets. But first, staple garden fabric tightly across the back side of the pallet, then add thin plywood to make it more secure. Fill the open rows on the front of the pallet with quality potting soil. Add the seedlings, placing their root balls between the slats with soil tucked firmly around them.
4. Veggies Intermingled With Flowers
Many gardeners keep their flower beds and vegetable garden separate, but there is no law that says you can't mix and match. The mixed garden will be prettier and more colorful than a regular veggie garden, but that's not the only benefit. Experts agree that having flowers as neighbors helps veggies grow better.
How so? Planting your veggies with a profusion of flowers helps control insects and encourages pollination. That's because those bright blossoms are designed by nature to attract beneficial insects and pollinators. And, the mixed fragrances can also confuse some bugs who are looking for a particular type of vegetable.
For example, if you plant marigolds with your veggies, Japanese beetles will flock to the flowers instead of the vegetables. Pluck the beetles off the marigolds in the morning and toss them into soapy water.
And, adding violas may attract female lady beetles or green lacewings who are looking to lay eggs. The larvae, when hatched, will happily polish off the aphids eating your broccoli.
5. Veggies in Hanging Shoe Organizers
Hanging shoe organizers may or may not work well in your closet, but they are super-cool in the garden. Use a canvas organizer and hang it on a sunny fence or south-facing wall in your backyard. Fill those deep pockets three-quarters full of good potting soil, then install plants. Peas, cherry tomatoes and strawberries are particularly gorgeous with their foliage spilling out over the top of each pocket. This also works perfectly for a vertical herb garden.
- Southern Living: Fruits and Vegetables You Can Grow in a Hanging Basket
- Good Housekeeping: 7 Fruits And Vegetables You Can Grow In Hanging Baskets
- DenGarden: Dress Up Your Garden With a Wine Crate Herb Box
- New England Today: How to Make a Wood Pallet Garden
- Growing a Greener World: Creating a Pallet Garden
- Master Gardeners of Napa County: Growing Flowers with Your Vegetables
- Burpee: Growing Vegetables and Flowers in Harmony
- Mother Earth News: Wise Pairings
- Birds and Blooms: Shoe Organizer Herb Garden
- Instructables: VERTICAL VEGETABLES: "Grow Up" in a Small Garden and Confound the Cats!
Teo Spengler is a docent with the San Francisco Botanical Garden and a staff writer with Gardening Know How. She has written hundreds of gardening and plant articles for sites like eHow Gardening, Gardening Know How and Hunker. She holds a JD in law from U.C. Berkeley, an MA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing.