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Gardens can be more than eye candy

Book shows you how to create stylish space with edible plants

If envy were not such an egregious (and unattractive) fault, I'd be slavering wildly over a friend's property and the large food garden she has created.

Her farm acreage is an expanse of flat land, with cleared fields surrounded by forest, near the foot of a spectacular mountain.

She started out with a small, fenced vegetable garden and in recent years expanded it enough to include room for the family's vegetables and a large planting of garlic to sell.

On a visit early in the month, I was impressed with the long, straight rows of garlic, all trimmed of scapes and showing the first slight hints that the drying-off and bulb-maturing stage had begun.

Next to the garlic, a space of equal size wore a green carpet of buckwheat, which will be dug under as the plants begin flowering.

This area will house the new garlic crop, to be planted in early autumn.

There were several heads of cauliflower ready to harvest, on strong, stocky plants, and long rows of potatoes.

Against the barn were trellises covered with pea vines - towering Alderman with short-vined Mr. Big in front. The water table is high on the property and everything is grown in raised rows or in boxed plots.

It's a dream food garden: flat, with superb soil, no tree roots to deal with, and heart-lifting views of forest and mountain. What raises it all to perfection is my friend's appreciation for and honouring of this land.

Edible Landscaping, by Senga Lindsay (Harbour Publishing, 128 pages, paperback, $19.95). Food gardens, like my friend's farm garden, are beautiful. Here's a useful guide to incorporating edible plants into 15 types of stylish, esthetically delightful urban gardens.

Colourful plants with pleasing shapes like kale, Swiss chard and lettuce are naturals for enlivening a landscape.

Red and green lettuce growing alongside each other is garden art.

The author is a fan, too, of edible flowers - "great multi-taskers, providing food and cut flowers, attracting pollinating and beneficial insects, and working as companion plants that repel many plant pests and diseases."

For each section there is a plan detailed in a colour sketch with each part identified. Photographs provide further inspiration.

A Garden for Children has photos of a bean tepee and a "play tunnel" of sturdy mesh supporting food-producing vines, and a "pizza garden" sketch, with step-by-step directions for the projects.

Plans and projects are similarly presented for rooftop, boulevard, community, herb, balcony, enabling gardens for those with limited mobility and more.

A container garden section includes tips for utilizing the popular Thrillers, Fillers and Spillers method for edible plants: tall ones for height, trailing plants for the edge, and bushy plants in between.

There is a useful directory to edibles by colour and a guide to choosing a container size for different plants.

Edible Landscaping is a visually inspiring guide to having a stylish garden and eating from it, too.

Pistou. My most recent evening meals have been simple stir-fry affairs, starting with onions and other vegetables such as carrot and zucchini sticks and snow-pea pods, then cubed, cooked turkey, tofu or whatever is on hand in the fridge. After sprinkling the mixture with a light dusting of vegetable bouillon pow-der, I add a cooked grain - rice, millet, quinoa, barley or buckwehat - and a little water. Before covering the wok I toss in a small handful of minced basil, cut from a pot on the windowsill.

I seeded that pot in November, along with other dwarf varieties. None lasted as long as this pot of 'Pistou' (Veseys Seeds).

The little potted planting is just now beginning to look a tad frayed around the edges, but fresh flats are ready for moving into outdoor containers. This is usually done in May, but until last week the weather was still a bit dodgy for this heat-loving herb.

Pistou is the best smallleaved basil of dwarf, dense habit I've found for my smallish windowbox type planters.

It's clearly the best and easiest also for growing indoors through the fall, winter and early spring.


Eaglecrest meeting. The Eaglecrest Garden Club will meet on Wednesday at 7: 30 p.m. in the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre.

Laurene Ebbett and Rae Davis, members of the Mid-Island Floral Art club, will present Gorgeous Summer Bouquets. All Oceanside residents are welcome. More information at 250-752-5315.

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