How to Make Your Vegetable Garden Beautiful

By Cheryl Harrison, Master Gardener

I was recently browsing through a hard copy April, 2009 issue of the “Fine Gardening” magazine.  I came across an article, “Who Says Your Kitchen Garden Can’t Be Beautiful”… to see the full article check the link here.   The author, Jennifer Bartley,  planted her raised vegetable garden for the edibles that it produced but in such a way that the garden was also beautiful! 

This appeals to me because vegetable gardens are definitely not my passion.  However, I do love to eat my own fresh veggies and so I have a vegetable garden.

I have raised vegetable beds where I have intermittently practiced square foot gardening (see square foot gardening for more information).  I have also planted marigolds and nasturtiums amongst my vegetables which are pretty but also serve a purpose….the marigolds for insect control and the nasturtiums because they are edible.  For more information on flowers for your vegetable garden check the link here. I have been inching towards trying to make my vegetable garden more visually appealing without realizing it.

Ms. Bartley talks about using “four simple design tips” including:

  • Arrange bunches of bold colour.
  • Plant snug beds.
  • Smooth out the edges.
  • Define your space.

Arrange bunches of bold colour – I do a planting plan ahead of time every year.  Try grouping your vegetables, flowers, fruits and herbs together so that you have lots of colour and texture (different leaf shapes).  For example, you may edge the bed with the leafy fronds of carrot followed by beets and parsnip, maybe you plant some asparagus in the centre for the height or an obelisk in the centre and plant runner beans to climb it.  You could use yellow, green or purple bush beans to fill in the blanks.  I grew some purple Brussel sprouts last year and the leaves were spectacular!

Plant snug beds – This tip works well with raised beds.  There is no need to plant your vegies in rows.  Instead, group the vegetables together close enough to cover the soil when they are grown but not so close that they will crowd each other to prevent proper maturity.  Covering the soil helps with moisture retention and weed suppression.  Thinning your carrots allows them to mature properly and provides the delicious “thinnings” for your salad.

Smooth out the edges – Just like your flower beds, vegetable gardens are at their best when they are clean and pathways are clear.  I use straw in my pathways because it is available and my garden is wet in the spring so the straw covers the mud between the raised beds.  You could use bark mulch, gravel, brick or whatever you have. 

Define your space – We humans like a certain amount of order and proportion in our world.  If a space is too big, or too small, it can make us feel uncomfortable.  The edges of a raised bed help to define the space.  In our garden, we have several raised beds so have a defined entry to the garden and a wooden cedar fence to further define the space.  You might choose to use a pot filled with herbs at your entry, a rock or cedar stump on either side or a berry producing shrub.

It is also a great idea to have a bench in the garden where you may rest and admire your work.  Also, don’t stop with just a scarecrow … you may choose to add other garden ornaments in order to make your own beautiful vegetable garden!

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