As a raised-bed gardener, I want to use every square inch of my beds to grow food. To achieve this, I grow vegetables, herbs and flowers along the margins and sometimes even over the sides of my 16-inch-tall beds. Here are five of my favorite plants to grow as edible edges.
'Fantastico' tomato is an excellent variety to grow in pots and hanging baskets—or raised beds. The determinate plants cease growing at just a foot tall, but they cascade up to two feet over the side of a bed. Each plant can yield up to twelve pounds of supersweet, grape-shape fruits beginning in midsummer. The plants are also tolerant of late blight.
Parsley is an essential culinary herb that lends a fresh flavor to salads, pastas and so much more. While I grow a lot of ‘Giant Italian’ parsley, it’s the more compact curly parsley that I like to tuck along the edges of my raised beds. Curly parsley plants grow only a foot tall and up to 18 inches across. We harvest the tender, deeply curled leaves often during the growing season and dry any extra for winter use.
Unlike Genovese-type basils, which can grow up to two feet tall, the dense rounded growth of Greek basil varieties reach just eight to twelve inches high. Also called little leaf or globe basils, they pack deep flavor into their tiny leaves and add a formal element to the food garden. My favorite varieties include ‘Spicy Globe’, ‘Aristotle’ and ‘Pluto’.
Winter squash plants can take up a lot of garden real estate, so I prefer to grow varieties with short vines that can tumble over the side of my beds. ‘Butterscotch PMR’, All-America Selections winner, is a mini butternut squash that produces pint-size one- to two-pound fruits. The productive plants are also resistant to powdery mildew.
Nasturtiums are the perfect annual flower to plant in a vegetable garden. Not only are the flowers, leaves and seeds edible, but those brightly colored blooms attract pollinators and beneficial insects. I grow at least a dozen varieties each summer, tucking the seeds along the edges of my beds in late spring.
Image courtesy of All-America Selections.