Category Archives: Flower Gardens you can EAT

Salad Garden in One Square Foot

Building a Square Foot Garden
You don’t need much room to grow a salad garden. In fact, salad gardens are perfect for the Square Foot gardening technique first developed and popularized by Mel Bartholomew about 10 years ago.  A square foot garden can comfortably live just outside your kitchen door, or on your back patio, as long as it gets plenty of sun and water.

The Square Foot Garden Theory
The idea behind square foot gardening is to maximize growing space by subdividing a garden plot into one foot squares, and replanting them as soon as you finish harvesting the crop from the last plant. This keeps the soil in use, and by paying attention to which crops you grow in which square, you avoid depleting the soil of important nutrients.

A Square Foot Salad Garden
Start by building a four foot by four foot raised bed for your plants. Place it where it gets southern light so that there’s as much sun as possible throughout the day. If you’re gardening directly on the ground, all you’ll really need is a 4×4 foot wooden frame, though you certainly can get decorative with rock walls and other methods of building raised beds.

Fill with high quality soil mix enriched with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer – or use good organic compost, depending on your own beliefs in gardening. I personally recommend composting as both less expensive and healthier.

If you choose to start your plants from seed directly in the bed, plant immediately after the danger of frost is past. In northern states, this really isn’t as feasible – the growing season will be far too short. Start plants indoors about four to six weeks before the last frost is expected, and transplant outside after the last frost.

Divide the bed into one foot squares – you’ll have sixteen of them. Each square can support one of the following:
1 tomato plant
4 lettuce plants (plant several varieties)
6 onion sets
6 garlic sets
6 chive sets
2 cucumber plants
4 marigold plants
16 carrot plants
4 herb plants
4 nasturtium plants
4 mini cabbages (Cole slaw anyone?)

Plant tomato plants and other taller plants toward the back of the bed, with shorter plants progressively planted toward the front. Keep well-watered throughout germination/growing season.

You can begin harvesting lettuce and greens as soon as they have 8-10 leaves – pick just enough for a salad, making sure to leave at least three leaves on the plant for them to regenerate. By harvesting leaves instead of entire heads, you’ll get to eat the greens far sooner, and prolong their growing season for weeks. Harvest tomatoes and cucumbers as they ripen, being careful not to let them go to seed too early to extend the growing season. Marigolds and nasturtiums are both delicious in salads, but they serve the additional purpose of helping to keep your garden pest free. Harvest the flower heads frequently once they start opening to keep the plants blooming.

As plants go to seed, clean out their square and replant with a different variety to cycle the nutrients in the soil. Dig in compost when you replant, but otherwise, your salad garden should need little care other than regular watering and harvesting.

And do harvest often – the more you harvest, the more they’ll produce. Bon appetit!

Herbs for a Spaghetti Garden

One of the more popular types of kitchen gardens is a spaghetti garden. Oregano, basil, garlic, bay and parsley are such easy to grow plants that it’s a pity for anyone to use dried and bottled herbs if they have a sunny patch of ground or a window-box. A few square feet of garden space can easily yield all the herbs that you’ll need for delicious Italian meals. They’re even easy enough to grow in a sunny window for year round use.

Bay Laurel

Bay leaves add a piquant hint of spice to stews, soups and especially spaghetti sauce. The bay laurel is a small tree that grows slowly – about a foot per year – making it eminently suitable for growing in a container. Unless you live in a mild climate zone (where the temperatures don’t drop below 25 degrees in the winter), you’ll do best to keep the tree in a pot and bring it indoors during the winter.


Basil is an annual, but it seeds itself so easily that I’ve never had to buy another after planting my first year. There are many varieties of basil, but all grow fast and require frequent pinching back to keep them from growing leggy and tall. To harvest: when the plants have reached about 6-8 inches tall, you can begin harvesting. Simply use your thumb and forefinger to pinch off the top 1/3 of the plant, just above a leaf intersection. Be sure to pinch off any flower buds before they go to seed. Six to eight plants will provide enough basil to make pesto for the entire neighborhood.


Garlic is possibly the easiest plant in the world to grow. Simply break apart a clove of garlic (yes, right from the grocery store!), and plant the cloves about 4 inches apart, 2-4 inches deep in light soil. Water lightly, and watch them grow. Harvest when tips of leaves turn brown – do NOT let them flower. To harvest: dig up the bulbs, and use them. In the interests of keeping a fresh supply going, plant one or two cloves from each bulb!


Parsley is easily the most used herb in the world. It comes in both flat (Italian) and curly varieties, and complements the flavor of everything from delicate sauces to hearty stews. It’s often used as a garnish on plates, or chopped and added to soups, dressings and salads. It adds vitamins and color, and subtly brings out the flavor of other ingredients in the meal. The parsley plant is a biennial, flowering in its second season. It prefers a little shade on a hot sunny day, and should be kept well watered to avoid wilting and drying. To harvest: pinch back woody older stems all the way to the base, allowing new leaves and branches to grow.


A perennial ground cover plant, oregano is a prolific grower that can send out shoots that grow up to six feet in a single season. If encouraged with pruning and bunching, oregano can grow into a small border plant. It prefers light, thin soil and lots of sun, so keep it on the south side of your garden. Harvesting can start when the plants reach 4-5 inches. Simply pinch back as you would basil. The young leaves are the most flavorful part of the plant, and are actually considerably stronger dried than fresh. To dry, lay the harvested leaves out on newspaper or drying screens in the sun until the leaves crumble easily. Dried oregano will retain its flavor for months.

How to Candy Flowers from your garden:

Violets and pansies can be candied whole. Roses should be separated into petals. Most recipes for candied flowers call for the use of raw egg whites. Because of the danger of salmonella, I recommend using a confectioner’s powdered egg white instead.

Mix powdered egg white according to package directions (equivalent of one egg white).
Spread a cup of superfine sugar in a flat bottomed pan. Carefully dip each flower into the egg white, then press into the sugar. Use a fork to gently turn the flower so that all surfaces of the petals are covered. Lift out of sugar and lay on a screen or drying rack till completely dry. Apple and cherry blossoms can also be candied the same way.

A Candy Flower Garden for Your Sweet Tooth

Violets aren’t the only flower that can be candied! Many of the spring flowers with small, delicate blossoms have a sweet, slightly spicy flavor that is enhanced by dipping in sugar. It goes without saying that any flowers that you gather for eating should not have been sprayed with any pesticide – by growing them yourself, you can be sure that they’re untreated. A Candy Flower Garden that blooms throughout the summer can include:

Violets – of course! Purple, blue or white, violets are among the first flowers to bloom in the spring. They spread easily, and grow readily when transplanted into a garden bed – and you do want to confine them to a bed unless you love the look of a full carpet of blooms spreading across your lawn.

Pansies – A relative of violets, pansies are just as delicately flavored and can be used in most recipes that call for violets. They make beautiful border flowers, with their bright painted faces.

Angelica – These delicate, lacy white flowers can be sprinkled in salads – but the stems and shoots make a delicious traditional candy that tastes a bit like minty licorice.

Roses – yes, roses! Candied rose petals and rose syrup were mainstays in Victorian cooking. Sweet delicately flavored rose syrup gives baklava its characteristic flavor, and is a perfect foil for cardamom in Indian recipes.

How To To candy flowers from your garden