Vegetable gardens are often dismissed as utilitarian and boring, but at Powell Gardens’ Fun Foods Farm we like to embrace bold color and whimsy. Color is easy to overlook when planting a vegetable garden; however, a little planning can add so much to the garden aesthetic and your dinner plate.
Yellow tomatoes and purple basil taste great and add bright color to the garden.
Fantastic sunflowers tower over red okra, squash and soybeans, creating depth and dimension.
Fennel and anise hyssop are excellent for attracting beneficial insects like pollinators that are necessary for pollinating squash and melons. These lovely, edible blooms not only boost your garden beauty but improve fruit set on your traditional crops.
Bolting cilantro has frothy, white blooms that soon mature to coriander; both are fantastic in Mexican and Asian cuisine. Other herbs like dill, lavender, mint and thyme have lovely blossoms and fresh flavor.
Amaranth is a beautiful plant that can be harvested young for salad greens or you can harvest its seed heads for grain. If you’re really adventurous, try mixing the heads into cut flower arrangements.
Edible flowers are a great addition to the vegetable garden. ‘Alaska’ Nasturtiums have bold color and flavor. They need a little afternoon shade to help them last into the summer, which makes them a good choice for filling shady spots your sun-loving veggies will not thrive in.
Sunflowers are real showstoppers, and the seeds are delectable to birds and humans alike. They come in many colors and sizes. This year we love the ‘Short stuff’ and ‘Lemon queen’ varieties.
Dazzling orange and yellow marigolds, planted as companion plants, accent neighboring vegetables with their vibrant colors. Marigolds attract pollinators and deter some nasty pests like root nematodes.
Many ornamental peppers can be used for cooking, too. Two favorites are ‘Black Pearl’ and the mild ‘Sangria.’ Even traditional peppers like mini bells are highly ornamental.
Crops like okra, Swiss chard and eggplant have pretty flowers and/or brightly colored stems. They also are packed with flavor; I prefer the taste of red okra to the more common green.
Legumes like beans often have attractive blooms. Scarlet runner, purple hyacinth, yard long noodle and striped ‘Rattlesnake’ pole beans all dazzle in Fun Foods Farm.
Squash, melons, cucumbers and gourds also have fetching blossoms. Vining types can be trained to cover fences and arches. One of my favorites is the diminutive ‘Mexican Sour Gherkin,’ which will quickly climb a trellis and cover it in adorable grape-sized cucumbers.
For more inspiration, visit Fun Foods Farm youth education garden and the Heartland Harvest Garden and check out what we are growing. It’s never too early to start planning for next year’s bounty!