Good weather calls for lunches and suppers al fresco, amongst your plants. Plus, it means the chance to grow fruit, veg and herbs that you can pick and enjoy right then and there. It's a common misconception that only those with large outdoor spaces can enjoy a kitchen garden. Vegetable plants, fruit bushes, edible flowers and herbs will all find excellent homes on a balcony or patio, or hanging in baskets as part of a living wall. Here's how to get started.
Edible garden plants
The flowers of some garden plants are surprisingly delicious to eat. Make sorbet ice cream with fragrant lavender flowers, or add cornflower leaves to herb butter and cake icing for a hint of anise flavour. Brighten up a soup or salad with violas and pansies, and add orange nasturtium flowers to lettuce to enjoy its peppery taste. If you're picking the flowers in your garden, choose fresh, young ones, where the flavour is concentrated.
Grow vegetables yourself
You'd be mistaken to think you can't grow vegetables from a patio garden or city balcony. Once the weather is warm, place vine tomatoes, aubergine, chard and bell peppers outside and let the sun and rain work their magic. Tomatoes can climb up frames or hang down in bunches, making them perfectly adaptible plants for small spaces. You can also grow peppers and aubergines in pots, with a stick for support when the plants get heavy. Attractive Swiss chard, on the other hand, will need ground space to properly flourish.
You may not have space for an apple tree, but a small citrus tree or strawberry plant will instantly transport you to sunnier climes and create a holiday mood. These plants will thrive on a sunny balcony, and with a bit of care they will be enjoyed for years. Grapes grown on the vine, looping round a trellis overhead, are also irresistable — but watch out, because birds have the same opinion, so shield the fruit while it grows.
Your very own herb garden
Once you've tasted fresh herbs from your windowsill, you'll be hard-pressed to go back to cooking with ones from a jar. The taste of homegrown chives or parsley is unforgettable and it's wonderful to be able to enjoy their fragrances when you're sitting outside. Think of the fresh pesto you could make with basil, the mint that goes into your tea, or velvet-leafed sage, ready to be cooked up with squash in a pasta or risotto. Rosemary, thyme and bay leaves are excellent additions to round off a well-stocked herb garden.