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Central Midwest Gardening: The Taste of Spring

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

You don't have to be a farmer to harvest a big crop of delicious vegetables. Lettuce, broccoli, radishes and other crops flourish among the flowers and thrive in pots.

Tuck in herbs amid flowers in containers and add pretty plant markers to call them out.
Combine lettuce and blooming pansies in a bowl for a fresh spring centerpiece.

Spring is coming: I can taste it.

The quickest way to get a start on the new gardening season is to plant lettuce and other spring greens. I like to plant a big pot on the front porch with parsley, salad greens, and colorful cool-season annuals. Lettuce comes up fast from seed, but if you start with transplants you'll be able to pinch a few greens for a delicate salad almost immediately.

Lettuce makes a cheerful display in a pot with pansies, dianthus and other spring annuals. Even during the muddy season I can count on a healthy harvest of salad without tramping through my flowerbeds or tracking mud into the house.

The truth is I don't have a vegetable garden separate from the rest of my garden. I make room for parsley around the marigolds, plant peppers side-by-side with zinnias, and stick a few cherry tomatoes in between the peony plants. It's surprising how comfortably they share space in the garden. And how great they look together.

Some of my companion-planting ideas are inspired by the beautiful combinations in the Heartland Harvest Garden at Powell Gardens near Kansas City. Nasturtiums weave their way through herb gardens, garlic chives bloom under the apple trees, and wands of pale-purple anise hyssop flourish in between rows of grapevines.

I try to work herbs and a few tidy food crops among the garden flowers wherever possible, but growing vegetables in pots is my favorite way to put fresh food on the table. As my friend and garden designer Lauren Mackin puts it, "There's less prep and more style." You don't even have to dig a hole. Lauren lives in an apartment; she makes room for crops in handsome pots on her balcony in Kansas City.

What are your ideas about how to weave vegetables into your garden plans?

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