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?
Whether it’s a traditional kitchen garden that integrates flowers and berries or an ornamental garden enhanced by vegetables and herbs, the creation of an edible garden not only allows you to grow your own food but also 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. To understand what this type of gardening involves: How to plant an environmentally friendly garden.
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. You’ll not only enjoy a wonderful harvest, but a variety of wildlife as well.
Step 1 – Choosing the right 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:
- Choose your edible plants according to how much sun your garden gets. Tomatoes, for example, require 6 to 8 hours of continuous sunshine, whereas a number of herbs grow well in partial shade.
- The quality of the earth is crucial beause the soil is the invisible theater where the success of your garden is played out. Check that it’s rich enough with a soil test, and add amendments to your soil naturally as needed. If you introduce new earth, choose a blend especially designed for kitchen gardens. The initial cost will be largely paid for by the quantity and quality of your harvests!
- The arrangement of plants in the garden may create favorable alliances. We love it! Learn about companion planting and observe from one year to the next the good-neighborliness of your plants. Some attract beneficial insects, and others naturally repel certain animals – which you don’t want to be sharing your harvests with.
- Nature doesn’t recognize frontiers! Throughout the season, 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.
- To sustain biodiversity right to your plate, think of integrating “heritage” or “ancestral” varieties. It’s an opportunity to discover little-known strains and to preserve the genetic diversity of the plants that you consume. 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!
To guide you in your planning:
Blog series: The food-lover’s garden
Step 2 – Inviting flowers into the kitchen garden
In the garden, we want to woo insects – and we’re also foodies. 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 (vegetables, herbs, berries or edible flowers) 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. Also think about catering to birds by putting in plants that produce fruit or seeds. Organize your planting in such a way that you’ll have plants in flower throughout the whole season.
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:
- 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. You can incorporate them into the arrangement or plant them as a border. But find out how much they spread over the years and choose their location carefully based on the space they’ll take up. You’ll remain good friends that way.
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 make the most of your soil and reduce the incidence of diseases and pests, practice crop rotation. The technique is simple: don’t grow the same vegetable (or even the same family of vegetable) in the same spot two years in a row.
Take our advice and tips for planting an environmentally friendly garden.
Did you know that…
Flowers turn into fruit thanks to the gatherings of pollinating insects, who 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!