How to Grow Vegetables in Your Border


Vegetable plants can benefit from the extra shelter provided by a mature, established shrub border early in the season and from the partial shade in high summer. The downside is that they will have to compete for moisture and nutrients with established border plants and may not get enough sunlight.

You will have to abandon the convention for planting vegetables in neat rows. Patches of smaller vegetables or single plants of larger ones will look more natural in a border. Follow the cottage garden approach of just filling any available space with whatever vegetable or herb takes your fancy.

Long-term plants

Perennial vegetables are worth growing in a border as they can be tricky to accommodate in a small vegetable plot where annual crop rotation is practised. Globe artichokes and cardoons both look spectacular in leaf and flower. They are large plants, so put them towards the back of the border. Give them plenty of room and generous amounts of organic matter.

The feathery foliage of asparagus provides a backdrop for large border flowers. Rhubarb may not be an obvious choice for a border but its red stems and huge leaves are actually quite attractive and it is an effective groundcover; few weeds will thrive beneath it. Give it plenty of room to spread, adding a terracotta forcing pot for structural interest in winter and early spring.

Many of the shrubby herbs will thrive in a sunny border where the soil is well-drained. Rosemary and sweet bay have evergreen foliage and will contribute year-round interest. Both can be clipped into formal shapes.

Perennial herbs such as chives or low shrubby herbs such as sage or thyme can be planted at the front of a border as a colorful but neat edging.

Annual fillers

Treat summer vegetables just as you would bedding plants. Start the tender types off in small pots somewhere warm and stand them in a sheltered spot until you are ready to plant them out. Plant them with a trowel, using the spacings given in the A-Z section as a guide.

An easy alternative to sowing seed if you need only a few plants is to buy small plants from the garden centre.

Hardy vegetables such as lettuces, carrots, radishes and spring onions can be sown directly into the soil. If weeds are likely to be a problem, scratch a pattern of shallow lines into the soil and sow the vegetable seed into these. Cover them with soil and keep the area well watered. The vegetable seeds should come up in a pattern and be easy to distinguish from the weeds. Hand-weed a couple of times until the vegetable plants are well established.

W inter fillers

Borders that are planted with tender summer bedding have gaps over the dormant season – from late autumn to late spring. Winter or early summer vegetables such as kale or broad beans can be sown late in the autumn and will occupy the space before the herbaceous plants have emerged and before the summer bedding is planted.

If you can find the space in mid- to late summer, add a few hardy winter vegetables such as leeks, Savoy cabbages and kales. If you have not raised your own from seed, buy young plants and plant them where summer annuals will be cleared in autumn. Give them a good start by adding a little general fertiliser when you plant them.

Preparing the ground

A newly planted border should always be dug over and cleared of perennial weeds. If you intend to grow edible plants amongst the ornamentals, it is a good investment to work in some well-rotted organic matter at the same time.

When adding edible crops to an established border, you will need to take into account that the existing plants have a head start and will deprive your crops of sunlight, moisture and nutrients. To give them a decent start, fork the area over with a border fork to loosen the soil. Work in a little garden compost if it is available and add a scattering of general fertiliser. Water the area thoroughly before sowing or planting the vegetables.

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Related posts:

  1. How to Grow Vegetables with Allotments
  2. How to Grow Vegetables in the Greenhouse
  3. How to Grow Kale
  4. How to Grow Rhubarb
  5. How to Grow Spring Cabbage

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About the Author: Greenery always attracts Arthur Kunkle. He has a big garden where he plants many fruits and vegetables. His passion for gardening motivates him to write and share different tips on gardening.

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