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Mid-Atlantic Gardening: Unexpected Edibles

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Make room for edible plants in your landscape, says gardener Julie Martens. You don't need a large garden to savor a delicious harvest.

Who knew? Lavender and lettuce look lovely together!
Lettuce, coreopsis and baptisia make beautiful bed partners.

The serendipitous partnership began in February, when I discovered two practically empty packets of oakleaf lettuce seeds. I scattered the 6-year-old seeds into cottage-garden snowdrifts and promptly forgot about it.

When spring arrived, a volunteer lettuce crop sprouted among perennials. I savored and shared the harvest and let a few plants go to seed to fuel this year's sowing.

Fast-growing lettuce is a perfect edible to tuck among other plantings. With shallow roots, it doesn't disturb established plantings.

I plan to repeat the tactic this year. It's an easy way to squeeze in a tasty crop with virtually no work. My kind of gardening!

A butternut squash vine growing on the compost pile is a surprising way to enjoy this flavorful veggie.

Butternut Bliss

The nutrient-rich compost pile provides another wonderfully unexpected garden spot - this time for sprawling butternut squash vines.

Years ago the first vines appeared unplanned, but I've since developed a system.

Compost provides rich nutrients for squash to grow with vigor.

How I Grow Compost Squash

1. In March I grab the saddest-looking two butternuts from my winter squash stash and whip them into a savory soup.

2. I bury squash peels and seeds in the sunniest end of the compost pile. I don't disturb this section of the compost until after autumn squash harvest.

3. As temperatures warm, seeds sprout.

4. I thin seedlings, transplanting a few into the vegetable garden.

5. The compost pile stands along a deer trail. Plastic netting clothes-pinned in place protects vines and ensures a crop.

Here's my ready-to-harvest butternut squash with no effort!

I'm roasting butternut squash and garlic (both homegrown) as I write this, savoring the aromas and getting hungry. I'm anticipating those sun-ripened flavors on a wintry day - yum!

Even if you don't have lots of room to grow edibles, you can shoehorn them into the landscape.

What creative ways are you growing edible crops?