Gardening: Let vegetables reign

By Leigh Bramwell

I used to be very fussy about keeping my garden compartmentalised. Decorative beds and outdoor living spaces were separated from the orchard and the vegetable beds, and the messy bits - compost bin, old pieces of timber, incinerator, broken pavers, collection of plastic pots - were hidden from view.

The problem now - and I suspect I'm not the only one suffering from this dilemma - is that, in spite of having a couple of acres, there's just not enough room.

Gardens, and in particular vegetable gardens, are like yachts, trailers and garden sheds: the second you've built one, you realise it should have been twice the size. Or three times, in my case.

And because there's not really the room to construct two more large raised beds in our garden, vegetables are being tucked into every available corner, sharing space with whatever's already in there. And interestingly, there are plenty of fruits, vegetables and herbs that enhance the look of your decorative gardens or outdoor living areas.

A dwarf fig in your courtyard or terrace, in the ground or in a tub, will offer food and shade. Feijoas - fruitful, evergreen, decorative and extraordinarily well-behaved - make the perfect mini-hedge, offering structure and privacy as well as tropical taste treats in the late autumn.

Oh, and stunning flowers, of course.

If there's an existing wall that captures the sun, make use of its passive solar-heating potential by growing a sun lover in front of it - such as blueberries. Their grey-green foliage will work well with your feijoa hedge.

And if there's a spare corner, create an elegant raised bed from timber or concrete blocks, and fill it with multi-coloured greens. Red oak leaf, lime frillice, dark-leafed rocket and spinach, orange nasturtiums and yellow-stalked silverbeet will create an artistic mix of colour, and you won't have to walk far to get all the ingredients for dinner.

Use herbs to fill any empty spaces - traditional parsley looks gorgeous when mass-planted or used to edge a path, and you can lift the odd paver here and there and replace it with other herbs such as camomile, oregano or thyme.

If your friends are anything like mine, they won't be able to resist pulling out the odd weed while they're enjoying their five o'clock drinks, so you'll be maximising the yield, and minimising the work.


Planting options

Hedge plants

Feijoa Apollo: Upright, vigorous and hardy. Flowers for Christmas and fruits April - May. Keep trimmed.

Chilean Guava: Likes partial shade or full sun. Mulch to protect roots and prune after fruiting in March and April.

Rosemary: Use upright variety, which is also best forcooking. Beautiful blue flowers throughout spring and summer.


Passionfruit: The common black-skinned variety will cover a very large area. Feed with granular citrus food and use a copper spray to control fungus. Will flourish on a warm and sheltered wall.

Grapes: Black Beauty for black grapes and Niagara White for white grapes are recommended as vigorous varieties. Grapevines need full sunshine, good air circulation, good drainage, good support and feeding in early spring.

Specimen Fruit trees

Meyer Lemon: the hardiest of the lemons, it likes the sunniest aspect and free- draining soils. It has stems without mean spikes and is quick to fruit. Glossy leaves, fragrant white blossoms and big, juicy fruit. No courtyard should be without one.

Tahitian Lime: Will keep you in juicy fruit for several months and sometimes all year. Pretty, purple-tipped flowers,

intoxicating scent from both

flowers and fruit.

Fig: Will enhance your outdoor space by conveniently losing its leaves in winter to let the sunshine in. Looks as fabulous without its foliage as it does with and, depending on the variety and the growing conditions, will produce fresh, luscious figs sometime between January and May.

- Hamilton News

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