12 Tips for Pretty Vegetable Gardens That Yield Lots of Compliments


Grow your own food with style, and create unique, beautiful vegetable gardens that are as attractive as they are bountiful. Don't be surprised if you find yourself a little more eager to weed—you won't want to leave your pretty plot.

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Bring in Fruits and Herbs Too


Most people think of vegetable gardens as plots of green, leafy plants in boring rows. But you can think out of the box—even if you're planting in a raised bed. With a little planning, you can grow edible plants with a display that rivals the beauty of any flower garden. Although this garden is relatively small (roughly 20 x 20 feet), it includes mouthwatering fruits, vegetables, and herbs—as well as flowers. It's hard to be anything but stunning with a mix like that.

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Pick the Right Spot

Alicia Evans Garden

The key to success with your vegetable garden design is to make sure you have the right spot. Most vegetables do best with full sun—at least eight hours of direct light a day. No matter what kind of soil you have, your vegetables will thank you if you amend the ground with organic matter (such as compost) before planting. The greenery will also be more ample.

Here's a hint: Site your garden where you can easily access it. Harvesting fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs is less burdensome if you can quickly dash out and grab what you need (especially while you're cooking) instead of having to trek across the yard.

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Make an Entrance

Side Yard

Let your garden make a dramatic entrance. Here, a soaring white arbor bedecked with climbing roses does the trick. While these flowers are a classic choice for arbors, you can pick just about anything—from ornamental clematis or morning glories to edible scarlet runner beans or kiwi—for your vegetable garden landscaping.

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Just Add Flowers

dianthus spiked punch flower

Why have a separate flower garden when you could grow them alongside your veggies? Flowers, especially those in the daisy family, attract beneficial insects that will attack and kill pests like tomato hornworms or aphids. Other helpful bugs pollinate fruit-bearing vegetables, such as tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, cucumbers, squash, and melons, so you have bigger harvests. Even better, pick plants with edible flowers so they can do double-duty as food and eye candy.

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Protect Your Plants


If hungry deer, rabbits, or other critters frequent your garden, protect your plants so the pests don't harvest more than you do. For this little plot, 3-foot-tall chicken wire attached to posts around the perimeter keeps small animals out of the vegetable garden. Keep in mind, if rabbits, gophers, or other burrowing animals are a problem, your wire fencing will need to extend at least a foot below the ground to keep critters from digging under it.

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Grow Up with Raised Beds

watering vegetables in raised garden bed

If you need motivation to build raised beds, consider these benefits for your vegetable garden: You can fill elevated planting spaces with any type of soil you want (an advantage if your ground is full of clay, sand, or rocks). Raised beds warm up earlier in the spring so you can get a jump on the planting season. And, if you build your box 3 to 4 feet wide—so you can easily reach the middle from both sides—you'll never compact the soil by stepping on it.

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Think Like a Designer


Say this three times fast so you'll remember it: Repetition is the key to unity. This garden is a great example of this garden-design principle in action: Bright red poppies echo the round fruits of tomatoes. The climbing rose on the arbor is similar to the orange gaillardias and nasturtiums in the far corner. The throughline of warm color keeps the assortment of plants from feeling random.

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Grow in Containers

tubs with green and dark red lettuces

Add containers of edible plants to your vegetable garden design—or to decks and patios—to expand your growing space. In these galvanized tubs, alternating rows of green and dark red lettuces create pretty contrast. Everbearing strawberries also do well in pots or hanging baskets; the red fruits look enticing hanging over the edges and are easy to harvest. For even more visual interest, choose colorful containers for your plants.

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Make Sure You Mulch

Mulching Vegetable Pepper Plant

Mulch isn't merely decorative—it makes maintaining your vegetable garden easier. An inch or two of mulch helps your soil hold moisture during hot, dry weather and stops most weeds from sprouting. Plus, mulch keeps many soil-borne diseases from splashing up onto plant leaves and infecting them. Spread a layer over your pathways, too, so you won't get muddy feet when you're in the garden.

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Pick Pretty Varieties


Flowers aren't the only way to add color to your vegetable garden design—a number of vegetables can, too. For example, the Swiss chard shown here adds a bright note to the bed. Other attractive vegetables include eggplant, red cabbage, purple kohlrabi, and red-leaf lettuce. Different tomatoes and peppers bear fruits in shades of red, orange, yellow, cream, purple, and green. And many herbs, including thyme, chives, and parsley, can enhance the beauty of your vegetable garden landscaping.

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Bring on the Birds


Seasoned gardeners know the value of attracting birds to their vegetable gardens. Many common species, including robins, mockingbirds, wrens, and warblers, eat harmful insects. Include a source of water in your garden to entice your feathered friends to visit. Here, a simple birdbath set among herbs draws them in. Birds will also appreciate a source of shelter nearby, so if you can, plant a shrub or small tree near your garden.

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Add Ornamentation


Use garden ornaments—from birdhouses to statuary—to embellish your growing space. Anything goes, as long as it suits your personal style. This rustic birdhouse adds vertical interest, while also providing a spot for birds to live.

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