When choosing garden plants, a theme can help. I’m in the planning stages of a backyard redo. I’ve enjoyed my pandemic vegetable garden so much I’ve decided to make it permanent. But before I get a quote on fencing, I need to determine how large the garden should be. Making sure I get the most out of that space will require several levels of decisions.
Gardening is a learning process. Last summer, I researched plants for my growing zone, compared that to food I like to eat, and planted a row of summer squash and one of zucchini. Between fights with mildew and squash bugs, my harvest was good, but not great. And they limited the space I had for beans, lettuce, and carrots. This year, I’ve opted for more leafy greens, peas, and green beans. I know they’ll grow well and have a high volume of output for the space they require.
No matter what size your garden, choosing plants to fit the climate and space can be difficult. When dealing with small spaces, one way to narrow your choices is to consider a themed garden.
If you love pizza, meatballs, and moussaka, fill your garden with tomatoes, onions, garlic, eggplant, rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme, basil, and arugula.
If your preferences run to salsa, tacos, fajitas, and enchiladas, consider a Latin Garden with some combination of tomatoes, tomatillos, onions, garlic, jalapeños, sweet chili peppers, green bell peppers, cilantro, oregano, black beans, and lettuce. If you have a large garden space, you can also consider heirloom corn.
I love berries and it’s so hard to get fresh ones. Planting a berry garden makes perfect sense for me. Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries all grow well in my growing zone and I have plenty of fencelines to support trailing vines.
Red lettuce, green lettuce, arugula, endive, escarole, frisée, spinach, kale, and chard are all great in salads. You can also include my favorite salad green – mâche aka corn salad. Yellow squash, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, carrot tops, radishes, and bell peppers make great toppers. And no salad garden would be complete without green onions.
I only managed to grow one onion in my winter garden, but when I put it in a salad earlier this spring it shone! It was my favorite thing about the salad.
If all you have is inside window or outside balcony space, consider an herb garden. Herbs will thrive in pots making them easy to move around and perfect for small spaces. Before I started the vegetable garden, I grew herbs in pots. I choose a combination of my most frequently used herbs plus a novelty or two that changes each year.
My standards are basil, rosemary, oregano, sage, thyme, and mint. Some years, I grow dill or chocolate mint, and every year, I try cilantro. This year, I’ve moved the cilantro to the vegetable garden to see if I can keep it alive. For some reason, I’ve never been successful with it in pots.
Once I get past all the decisions and the prep, I love the early days of a garden when the weeds are at a minimum and I feel the anticipation of waiting for the seeds to germinate. That soon gives way to the excitement of watching tiny seedlings grow into mature plants. Then comes the sheer pleasure of plucking a sugar snap pea and popping it directly into my mouth to enjoy its sweet crunchiness!
With a harvest carefully chosen to fit both my space and my taste, the pleasure continues for months. Pleasure may be the best theme of all!