THE GOOD EARTH

Megan Cain Gardens in Full Color
By Rachel Werner | Photographed by Hillary Schave

A stroll around Megan Cain’s Madison yard makes it clear: The lot is as much—if not more—about her garden as it is about the cozy home she shares with husband Mark Sundlin.

And that’s fitting. Cain is passionate about gardening, and about sharing her knowledge with others with her classes, books and website, The Creative Vegetable Gardener, where she promises visitors will get “practical, actionable gardening advice.”

A city girl to start, Cain decided at a young age to become a gardener. She met Sundlin, now an arborist, on a farm where they were both learning how to garden. He regularly works alongside her on their home plot.

“We really want to help people love gardening, and get over the beginning mistakes so you can move on to more advanced ones,” Cain says of her work as a garden educator. She says novices—and even more experienced growers— might see seedlings, or even full plots, fail from time to time. “That’s just a part of it,” she says.

The first thing she and Sundlin did when they bought the East Side lot in 2014 was set about creating their garden, now a peninsula of growth around their home.

It’s carefully planned to maximize productivity but also to be easy on the eyes.

Raised beds and paths, a fence with a cute gate and creative trellises enhance the look.

Cain also recommends adding high-quality garden art. “Think local artists and art fairs. Invest in a few quality pieces instead of lots of little things that crowd the garden. Then, search out unique and fun varieties of your favorite vegetables and experiment!”

“It’s extremely important to me to have an efficient and productive garden,” Cain says on her website. “I want to get a lot of food from it. But it’s equally important to create a garden that is stunningly beautiful.” She calls it “gardening in full color.” creativevegetablegardener.com.

MEGAN CAIN’S TIPS FOR A DIY GARDEN

1. Create an overall garden design. Instead of tilling up a patch of grass in the backyard, incorporate the vegetable garden into your home landscape.

2. Add tasteful garden art. Skip the tchotchkes at any garden center or big box store. Scout out small local vendors, Etsy or get crafty and make your own.

3. Mix in flowers for added color. Sprinkle annuals like zinnias, rudbeckia and salvia among vegetables. Or, make a border or frame an entrance with perennials.

4. Use plants of contrasting shapes. This is a building block of garden design. The visual contrast is eye catching.

5. Plant for color and taste. For example, ditch the dark purple globe eggplant and grow neon purple, bright orange or white eggplant instead.

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