This Edible Vegetable Garden Has an Inspired Design

This kitchen garden expert has vegetable plots renowned for their fresh flavors and even fresher designs. Take a peek and see how her garden grows.

lush garden with pea gravel paths

When Ellen Ecker Ogden, author of 'The Complete Kitchen Garden,' planted her first vegetable garden, she was fresh out of art school and looking for a cheap way to eat. It was a process of trial and error, but the thrill of dashing to the garden to clip a few leaves of lettuce and beet greens kept her going. Her kitchen garden has evolved from long, straight rows to dramatic arcs and triangles, inspired by European kitchen gardeners and formal design.

Lately, she grows a compact four-square potager design in her southern Vermont backyard. The 25x25-foot garden yields produce for two with some extra to share or freeze. Each year starts with a plan on paper and the blank canvas of rich organic soil. Seeds and plants are her paintbrush.

Check out this vegetable garden guide for beginners.

garden arbor with trailing pole beans

It might seem an unlikely choice to train pole beans up an arbor, but Ellen wants her small backyard garden to have some visual rewards, too. Just because you eat it, doesn't mean it needs to look plain or practical. That's why her design made the shift from rows to shapes—it added whimsy.

See our favorite vegetable garden plans here.

lush garden with pea gravel paths

Pea-gravel paths separate the four quadrants and keep things orderly. Stepping-stones within the beds make it easy to navigate. Ellen always includes a bench in her gardens. It's great for a quick rest or to sit and watch the garden grow.

Make your own stepping stones with these DIY project ideas.

Native species in the perennial beds attract pollinators. Daylilies and coneflowers add height and pops of warm hues to the greenery. Terraced planting allows plants at every height to be seen.

wood obelisk and garden decor

The focal point wood obelisk is easily moved if needed each season. The combination of plants with large leaves, wispy grasses, and dainty stems gives this section of the garden tons of visual interest, and makes the plants in the mixed bed easy to differentiate.

Follow these plans to build your own garden obelisk.

viburnum tree as garden trellis

A viburnum tree in the center of the garden becomes a natural trellis for morning glories or red runner beans. Creamy white snapdragons add softness to the viburnum's trunk, and offers stark contrast to climbing purple morning glories tangled in the branches.

garden entrance with gravel pathway

'Lemon Gem' marigolds and artichokes lean out of their beds at the entrance. While the artichoke plant's leaves fall into the blue-green spectrum, the yellow-green hues of the marigold foliage adds distinct contrast. Deep green hedges define the garden's entry and are reminiscent of English garden landscaping.

Ellen's Favorite Kitchen Garden Varieties

square symmetrical garden plan illustration



Cucumber: 'Boston Pickling'

Eggplant: 'Rosa Bianca'

Sweet Pepper: 'Corno di Toro'

Tomatoes: 'Brandywine,' 'Big Rainbow,' and 'Green Zebra'

Cape Gooseberry: 'Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry'


Red Cored Chantenay carrots

Carrots: 'Touchon,' 'Chantenay'

Garlic: 'German Red'

Onions: 'Red Torpedo,' 'Walla Walla Sweet,' 'Summer Bunching'

Potato: 'French Fingerling'

Turnip: 'Gilfeather'

Leafy Greens

leafy greens growing in garden

Kale: 'Lacinato'

Swiss Chard: 'Five Color Silverbeet'

Collard: 'Champion'

Mesclun: cutting lettuce, arugula, mustard cress, chervil

Endive: 'Maraichere Tres Fine'


Artichoke Cynara scolymus

Artichoke: 'Imperial Star'

Broccolis: 'Romanesco,' 'Rapini,' 'Early Purple Sprouting'

Peas: 'Green Arrow,' sugar snap

Pole Bean: 'Trionfo Violetto'


Be the first to comment!

All Topics in Design

Better Homes & Gardens may receive compensation when you click through and purchase from links contained on this website.