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Here’s how to create an edible garden

Nasturtium is an edible flower.
Nasturtium is an edible flower.

Q: I would like to change my front yard to an edible garden. What can be done now?

Francine, Atascadero

A: This is a good time to get your front yard prepared for planting spring edibles. To start, turn off all the irrigation lines at the water source. Next, remove the drip tubing, soaker hoses, etc. Now you can dig out all the scrubs and plants without damaging irrigation lines that you might want to re-install.

Once all the plants are removed, take a soil sample and send it to a lab for an analytical soil test. The results generally come with recommendations on how to improve your soil fertility. Take the soil printout to a trusted nursery or agriculture retail supplier and stock up on soil amendments.

Unless you already have a high percentage of organic matter (see test results), add some quality and well-cured compost to your soil. Incorporate amendments into the compost. In general, you will add small quantities of micro and macro minerals that are lacking in your soil.

Spread a 4-to-6-inch layer of compost plus minerals onto the top soil. With a large garden fork or spade, work the compost into the top 6 to 8 inches of your soil. If the soil is very compacted, you need to loosen the soil first and then fold under the compost.

It is helpful at this stage to draw the layout of the planting area, orienting the garden towards the south. Mark pathways and irrigation lines and indicate areas that are shaded from the sun. This pre-planning will help you when selecting the right plants for this area of your edible garden. Group water-loving plants together, arrange herbs close to garden entrance for easy access.

Check out books and garden magazines and order seeds of edible flowers: Nasturtium, borage, calendula, pineapple- sage, tulips, scented geraniums, roses and begonia. Trees that have edible flowers and fruit include apple, orange, elderberries, pineapple-guava. All flowers that bloom from herbs are edible — and don’t forget the flowers from vegetable plants.

My tip: Only plant what you and your family like to eat!

Jutta Thoerner is a UCCE Master Gardener.

Got a gardening question?

In San Luis Obispo call 781-5939, Arroyo Grande, 473-7190 and Templeton, 434-4105. Visit us at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo/ or email us at anrmgslo@ucanr.edu. Follow us on Instagram at slo_mgs and like us on Facebook. Informative garden workshops are held the third Saturday of every month, 10 a.m. to noon at 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo. Garden docents are available after the workshop until 1 p.m. To request a tour of the garden, call 781-5939.