Want to grow vegetables and herbs? Why not hit two targets with one shot and take advantage of your garden to incorporate plants that also feed pollinating insects, butterflies and birds?
An Edible Garden can be a traditional kitchen garden that integrates flowers and berries or an ornamental garden enhanced by vegetables and herbs. It allows you to grow your own food and gives you a chance to feed insects and birds. And that means feeding biodiversity!
And if all you have is a balcony? It’s every bit as easy to grow food plants in containers.
What are the criteria for getting Edible garden certification?
If it respects the three criteria below, your garden is eligible for certification.
- Grow a diversity of edible plants (vegetables, herbs, edible flowers or berries), depending on available space.
- Integrate plants that produce flowers, fruit or seeds, providing a source of varied food for useful wildlife (pollinating insects, butterflies and/or insects) throughout the season.
- Tend in a way that respects biodiversity by following the basic principles of organic gardening.
How do you plant a blossoming garden?
To plant a kitchen garden, or better still, an edible garden, there’s nothing simpler! Tailor what you’re growing to the space at your disposal and don’t be shy about mixing herbs with edible flowers, berries with nectar-producing plants, vegetables with flowers. By following the steps below, you’ll not only enjoy a wonderful harvest, but a variety of wildlife as well.
Step 1 – Choosing edible plants for your garden
There are some for every taste! Depending on the available space, the features of the site and your gardening experience, your edible garden can take different forms.
Whether you dream of a traditional kitchen garden adorned with flowers, an ornamental garden speckled with fruit and vegetables or a kitchen garden in pots on a flower-decorated balcony, here’s the key: mix edible plants with nectar-producing plants.
A few tips to help you plan your blossoming kitchen garden:
- Select your edible plants according to how much sun your garden gets. Gourmet fruits and vegetables, for example, require 6 to 8 hours of continuous sunshine, whereas some herbs and leafy vegetables grow well in partial shade.
- Check the richness of the soil used with a texture test, and amend your soil naturally as needed. The quality of the soil is crucial because it is the invisible theater where the success of your garden is played out. If you introduce new earth, choose a blend especially designed for kitchen gardens.
- Create favorable alliances. Learn about companion planting and observe from one year to the next the good-neighborliness of your plants. Some attract beneficial insects, and others coexist perfectly by fitting into unoccupied spaces in the garden.
- Observe the visitors (wildlife, pollinators) passing through or those who live fulltime in your garden. That way you’ll know which arrangement and which plants are the most inviting for your natural allies.
- Integrate ancestral varieties to sustain biodiversity right to your plate. It’s an opportunity to discover little-known strains and to preserve the genetic diversity of the plants that you consume.
To guide you in your planning:
- TOP 5 tips for plant sisterhood
- A lot of material on the vegetable garden
- Vegetable selection for the kitchen garden
- Container gardening
- A little glossary for choosing your seeds
- Multicultural gardens
- Blog series: The food-lover’s garden
Step 2 – Inviting flowers into the kitchen garden
Feel free to blend herbs with edible flowers, and berries with nectar-producing plants. In a word, make your arrangement bloom! At the same time, you’ll be promoting the production of fruit and vegetables. A win-win partnership between insects and humans.
Harvests to share
Grow a diversity of edible plants that will please your palate but that will also provide treats for a variety of highly useful living organisms. Your plants could for example supply nectar for insects but also serve as a support for their life cycle, without compromising your harvests.
Little patches of flowers like islands to be visited by pollinating insects
To invite bees, bumblebees and other pollinating insects into your garden, integrate flowers that are rich in nectar and in pollen. A number of herbs can play that role if you let them flower. Opt for plants with single flowers: their nectar and pollen are often more abundant and more readily accessible for pollinators.
For butterflies to take up long-term residence in your little neck of the woods, grow host plants that caterpillars feed on, but also nectar-producing plants that will attract the adults.
Browse our lists of recommended plants:
- A kitchen garden for biodiversity
- Choosing the right plants for the butterfly garden
- The TOP 12 plants for a blossoming vegetable garden
Discover the host plants for butterflies in Québec in these books (in french):
- Papillons et chenilles du Québec et des Maritimes
- Papillons de nuit et chenilles du Québec et des Maritimes
Our very own beauties
Rediscover your floral Québec by introducing, as much as possible, native plants into your corner of paradise. These species offer shelter, food and spawning ground to indigenous wildlife. But find out how much they spread over the years and choose their location carefully based on the space they’ll take up.
To check on whether a species is native to Québec, consult VASCAN, the Database of Vascular Plants of Canada.
Step 3 – Tending the garden in an ecologically responsible way
To garden in harmony with nature, follow the basic principles of organinc gardening.
Did you know that…
- Flowers turn into fruit thanks to the pollinisation. The pollinating insects are responsible for a large part of thise phenomenon through foraging. They contribute to the transportation of pollen from one flower to the other. This flower-pollinator “partnership” is vital for your kitchen garden. By adding flowering plants, you provide pollinators with a source of nectar and pollen.
- Once in your garden, the pollinators will also visit your edible plants. Their flowers will be pollinated in turn, fostering the production of vegetables and fruit. A win-win exchange of services!
- Many Québec seed companies offer these varieties. These are well-guarded secrets and marvels. You can encourage them by taking part in a local Seedy Weekend. Then, learn to harvest the seeds at the end of the season, and trade them with other gardeners. Pleasant and useful connections, and economical for the next season!