Peanut butter and jelly … macaroni and cheese … Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds.
Perfect combinations make life a little happier. Just like favorite flavors and power couples, your garden can benefit from great combinations, too.
Who says veggies need to be relegated to the backyard? Beautifully blending veggies, fruit, herbs, and flowers means you can show off your gorgeous combinations wherever you like: in the front landscape, planted along a walkway, dressing up your traditional kitchen garden, or placed on patios, porches, or balconies.
No matter the size of your garden (or lack of green space), you can grow delicious edibles combined with ornamentals for garden-to-table meals and pretty displays. (Plus, have you seen some of the latest veggie introductions? They’re too beautiful to hide in the backyard!)
Mix-and-match edibles and flowers for gorgeous combinations and a productive garden
Brighten your beds with landscape combination plantings
Give these landscape combinations a try:
Pretty delicate, spring flowers, scrumptious berries, and lovely fall foliage—what’s not to love about blueberries? While gorgeous all on their own, try combining them with other acid-loving plants, like azaleas, rhododendrons, Japanese anemones, Pieris japonica, camellias, or hydrangeas.
While blueberries are self-fertile, planting a second variety helps boost harvests. Creating a rich, multi-layered bed or border filled with beautiful fruit and flowers makes a stunning addition to landscapes.
While you may typically line a walkway or garden path with charming pansies or colorful impatiens, why not add interest and texture with pretty, practical salad greens planted with annual flowers? Some veggies, like Swiss chard, make a striking display on their own, with a beautiful, vase-shaped structure and brilliant, colorful stalks. Others, like different types of lettuce, add an adorable display of charming, petite heads, neatly lining a path. Or plant cut-and-come-again lettuce for an ongoing, regrowing display and harvest.
Who doesn’t love homegrown fruit? Whether you prefer an apple a day to keep the doctor away, sweet cherries, or plump pears, the darling spring blooms of fruit trees delight pollinators and excite gardeners, anticipating delicious treats to come. The pretty flowers, followed by tasty fruit and colorful autumn foliage makes fruit trees a great choice for foodscaping.
Considering pairing fruit trees with flowering plants known both for fixing nitrogen in the soil, as well as attracting pollinators, such as blue false indigo, lupines, globe thistles, yarrow, and artichokes. Artichokes make a terrific conversation starter: they add architectural interest to the landscape, produce delicious flower buds, and attract pollinators when allowed to bloom.
Choose companion plants with similar needs, such as light, soil, and moisture.
Elevate your raised bed harvests with combination plantings
If you’re looking for a way to pack more punch into your raised beds, consider mixing up your usual neat rows of veggies with companion plants. You’ve probably heard the conventional wisdom that “tomatoes love basil,” or perhaps you know the native American story of the Three Sisters. While there’s not much scientific, peer-reviewed evidence on the benefits of companion planting, most gardeners believe that adding flowers and flowering herbs to veggie beds helps boost harvests by attracting pollinators, while other plants produce scents that repel pests. Some plants work together for mutually beneficial results, like beans that fix nitrogen in the soil to benefit plants, like corn, that need it for good growth and harvests.
Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a pretty veggie garden, with beautiful blooms mixed into homegrown goodies? When you plant your raised bed with a combination of veggies, fruit, herbs, and flowers, you’re maximizing the space for high production—and pleasure.
Why not tuck in pretty coneflowers or daisies among the tomatoes, peppers, and beans? They’ll attract pollinators, plus these homegrown flowers make a great garden-to-vase display to adorn garden-to-table meals.
Give these raised bed combinations a try:
Warm Season Garden
Indeterminate tomatoes can produce fruit throughout summer and into fall, but their tall vines may be unwieldy. Make sure to stake the plants to maximize space in your raised beds. Consider planting tomatoes in the middle of the bed (or towards the back, if the bed is against a fence), then surround the tomatoes with shorter veggies, herbs, and flowers.
Tomatoes need full sun and rich, well-drained, evenly moist soil, so choose plants with similar needs. Layer the raised bed, with the tallest plants in the center (or back), surrounded by mid-sized plants, finally adding short or trailing plants along the outer edge of the raised bed.
Try a combination such as:
- Center: Tomatoes
- Middle: Basil, borage, peppers, eggplants, bush cucumbers, or bush beans
- Edge: Strawberries, nasturtium, marigolds, trailing verbena, or dwarf basil
Do not use pesticides on edible flowers in your combination plantings. Not only can pesticides harm beneficial insects, but the flowers also won’t be safe for human consumption.
Cool season garden
Extending your harvest season is a top priority, right? Summer’s waning days shouldn’t signal an end to homegrown treats. Instead, transition your raised bed garden to cool-season crops.
Try a combination such as:
- Center: Brussels sprouts
- Middle: Cabbage, Swiss chard, cauliflower, lettuce, snapdragons
- Edge: Carrots, radishes, parsley, cilantro, pansies, violas
Make sure to provide good airflow for plants. Combining plants provides many benefits, but don’t overcrowd your bed. Plants still need good airflow for best health.
Create beautiful, practical gardens anywhere with container combinations
Think your garden is too small for homegrown food and flowers? Think again! With new introductions of dwarf, petite edible plants, you can enjoy an abundant harvest from patio containers, balcony windowboxes, or even hanging baskets!
The key for these small spaces is to keep the combination simple: choose two or three plants to grow together for best results.
You’ve probably heard of the container design principle of “thriller, filler, spiller.” Well, it applies to growing edibles and ornamentals together, too. Choose a taller plant for the “thriller,” some mid-sized plants for the “filler,” and trailing, vining plants for the “spiller.” Remember: select plants with similar light, soil, temperature, and water needs to keep the plants healthy and productive.
Let your imagination run wild…
Love pizza? Combine a tomato plant (thriller), basil (filler), and oregano (spiller) in a container for homegrown ingredients.
Eat salad at every meal? Plant peas on a center trellis (thriller), lettuce (filler), violas (filler), and strawberries (spiller) together for a sweet, healthy, pretty treat.
Adore roses but lack garden space? Add a gorgeous miniature rose shrub to a container, then surround it with strawberries to spill over the sides.
Or maybe you love packing flavor into your culinary creations. Plant drought-tolerant herbs like rosemary, oregano, thyme, and lavender in a container with delosperma as a “spiller” for a lovely, practical herb garden.
The possibilities are endless. Find more at our Combinations page.
Containers in shade
No matter your space, you’ll find hundreds of veggie, herb, and flower varieties that make great combinations. Enjoy playing matchmaker in your garden: it’s fun to see which marriages produce the best results!
Article courtesy of the National Garden Bureau