Get inspiration for designing your own edible garden with these handy tips
1 of 10Jennifer Cheung
A private farmers' market
Conor Fitzpatrick, who grew up eating fresh from the garden in his native Ireland, didn’t let city life dissuade him from turning his Los Angeles backyard into his own private farmers’ market. “There’s no better fruits and vegetables than from your own garden,” Conor says. He’s passionate about getting people to grow organic food, so he created MinifarmBox (minifarmbox.com), a line of easy-to-assemble raised-bed kits.
2 of 10Jennifer Cheung
Do the hard work up front
Reshaping a sloped part of his backyard into two flat terraces was backbreaking but worth it for the easier access to his produce.
3 of 10Jennifer Cheung
Plant close to the kitchen
You’ll take better care of your edibles and waste less produce. When Conor sees something ripening, he automatically starts planning a meal around it.
4 of 10Jennifer Cheung
Say no to hand watering
“It requires more work,” he says. “If you have one hot spell and you lose a crop, it breaks your heart.” Set up an auto irrigation system.
5 of 10Jennifer Cheung
Plan for how you'll pick
Conor tucked his perennial edibles, such as rosemary and artichokes, in with ornamentals. And he planted annual herbs in the corners of the beds where they are easy to harvest.
6 of 10Jennifer Cheung
Conor believes opting for heirloom over hybrid promotes biodiversity. And the flavors are better. He often buys seeds for their names, like the ‘Mortgage Lifter’ tomato.
7 of 10Jennifer Cheung
Mulch all bare ground
Doing so helps retain the soil’s moisture and minimizes weeds.
8 of 10Jennifer Cheung
Create harvest stations
Conor keeps large buckets of water near edible beds to pick and rinse produce on a moment’s notice.
9 of 10Jennifer Cheung
Build raised beds
Growing in raised beds provides better drainage and aeration than in the ground and makes harvesting easier, Conor says. In his garden, one 4- by 4-foot raised bed produces 80 pounds of tomatoes.
10 of 10Jennifer Cheung
Save and savor
$0. That’s roughly the produce bill from summer through fall for Conor and his partner, Elizabeth Goodman. He does occasionally purchase specialty items like raspberries and avocados. “You can’t grow it all,” he says. However, you can whip up quite the garden-to-table treats. Conor’s fresh-from-the-vine tomatoes become salsa, gazpacho, bruschetta, and sandwich fixings. He marinates eggplant in olive oil and garlic, then fries it with onions. He makes a drink using his mint, plus fresh lime, sugar, and vodka, that’s served over ice and consumed by the gallon at parties.