Elegant Edibles for Gardens in the Midwest

Bring beauty to your vegetable garden with these clever design ideas.

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Gardeners in my neighborhood have taught me that small city lots can yield big harvests. Last summer, a neighbor a few blocks away planted an impressive line of okra along the south side of her curving front walk and a complementary swoosh of alternating basil and pepper plants on the opposite side.

A block away, another gardener quietly kept an herb garden of oregano, rosemary, thyme, and basil among sedum and coreopsis by her front steps. My friend Betty grows curly parsley as a frilly edge to the flowerbeds across the front of her house; it looks wonderful, and she has enough to share with a voracious colony of swallowtail butterfly caterpillars.

Designers at the Chicago Botanic Garden plant colorful lettuces in large hanging baskets lined with sphagnum moss, poking the lettuce plants in through the sides of the wire baskets. Salad greens make a striking crop in porch planters or window boxes, too.

I've grown my share of cantaloupes in the rose garden, but this year I will not allow tomatoes to sprawl through my flowerbeds: I'm going to corral them in a bed of their own with a disciplinary ribbon of bright marigolds around the edge.

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