'Scarlet Emperor' runner beans, sprouting in a container.It’s drizzly and gray and a touch chilly in the garden this morning. In other words: perfect. The garden is packed with recent transplants and just-started seeds and seedlings. Everything could do with a little drink. Even if today’s precipitation doesn’t amount to much, it’ll at least moisten the soil and encourage my just-planted nasturtiums to sprout.

Speaking of sprouting, my pot of sticks has come to life! The ‘Scarlet Emperor’ runner beans are sprouting enthusiastically. Some of these are from last year’s purchased seed packet, but most of them are growing from seeds I saved from the ‘Scarlet Emperor’ plants in last year’s garden. Seed saving, for the win!

Soon, these beans should start climbing up those sticks. And that’s a good thing. Because, from the street, it still looks like I’m growing sticks in a pot. I suspect I’m developing a reputation in the neighborhood…

That’s actually something I try to remember as I plant and tend this not-allowed vegetable garden. The neighborhood, and its impression of me and what I’m doing. I use that as a guide. Because — let’s be honest — I am breaking the rules here. And, I want to continue breaking the rules. The easiest way to do that is to grow a garden that makes people happy.

So, I plant vegetables that look good. Honestly, that’s not very hard to do; most vegetables look good. Like, red cabbage:

red cabbage is an excellent choice for edible landscaping

A good looking plant, eh? Actually, this red cabbage (sorry, I forget the variety name) is part of my favorite planting group in the entire garden right now. Here’s the view from the yard, which is essentially what the neighbors see from the street:

Red cabbage looks stunning in the vegetable garden when paired with bloody dock, leeks and asparagus

red cabbage and bloody dock in the vegetable garden

Not bad, right? Here’s the gardener’s perspective:

red cabbage, bloody dock and leeks in the vegetable garden

Not quite as pretty when looking straight down, but still a happy and healthy clump of plants. That’s the red cabbage on the right. The green and red plants are bloody dock, which is also known as red sorrel. Pretty, perennial and edible — not a bad combination! Then, there are three clumps of leeks in this planting. They stand tall above the other plants. Finally, in the background is a teeny tiny pepper seedling. There are actually two young poblanos back there — soon enough they will be visible from the street too, peeking out from behind the dock and cabbage.

This is not the type of planting you’d see in a typical vegetable garden. The plants are much too close together (according to all the rules), and there’s no straight lines or clear rows. Incognito vegetable gardening involves a lot of coloring outside the lines and making it up as you go along.

Here’s that bloody dock again:

bloody dock is an excellent choice for edible landscaping

Such a fun plant! I definitely need to figure out how to cook with it. Any ideas?

Speaking of planting too close together:

bean seedlings

I’ve got a mixed patch of yellow, green and purple bush beans that’s coming along nicely. The plants are definitely more tightly spaced that the books recommend, but that’s ok. Yes, I want to harvest bunches of beans for fresh eating and freezing. But, I also want to grow a garden that bursts with life, and impresses the neighborhood. It’s a balancing act, I’m learning.

By the way, purple-podded bush beans are a great choice for edible landscaping. In addition to purple pods, I’ve found that most varieties also sport purple-tinted stems and purple flowers. Nice!

Speaking of flowers, the blooms continue to burst.

Culver's root and parsley

The Culver’s root is looking great. If you haven’t grown this native yet, I highly recommend it. The various species and cultivated varieties range from about three to six feet in height, and erupt with these spikes of lavender flowers in early summer. Easy to care for, attractive, and the pollinators adore them. Definitely worth a try!

By the way, the patches of yellow in the background there are the flower umbels on one of my parsley plants. They’re all done blooming, and have taken on this lovely yellow cast that illuminates the garden. Soon enough, I should be harvesting parsley seed!

But, first, back to the flowers:

Monarda (aka bee balm) attracts hummingbirds and pollinators to the garden.

And, then there’s the monarda (aka. bee balm). Or, as I like to call it, hummingbird bait. I’ve got several clumps in the garden and on the wildflower hill, and they’re all just beginning to bloom. If I remember to keep the plants dead-headed, I should be able to convince them to bloom for a long time. Anything to keep the hummingbirds happy!

Finally, I saved the best for last:

Artichoke flowers are absolutely stunning.

The artichoke is blooming!! Holy crap, is that gorgeous or what!?! There’s no contest: This is definitely the coolest thing I’ve ever coaxed to bloom in my garden. It’s a shame we eat the unopened flower buds. Wouldn’t it be great if artichokes were like okra, and we ate the seed pods instead? Because, look, so pretty!

And, that’s it for the weekly garden stroll. How are things growing in your garden?

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10 Rules for Breaking the Rules in Front Yard Vegetable Gardens

FREE GUIDE!

10 Rules for Breaking the Rules in Front Yard Vegetable Gardens

Feeling rebellious? This guide includes ten tips that will help you plant a front yard vegetable garden without upsetting the neighbors or worrying the HOA board. 

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