All About Edible Landscaping
Everyone knows that a well landscaped yard can add beauty and value to your home. But why stop there? Why not enhance your yard with plants that are ornamental and edible?
Why not edible landscaping?
There are several benefits to planting not only to beautify your yard, but also to feed your family. Nothing beats the taste of fresh, fully ripened food that you grow yourself. Think of the money you will save on groceries. And since you control the use of chemicals in your landscape you may also save by having a healthier family. Growing your own foods will allow you access to a far greater variety of foods than you will typically find in your local grocery store. Perhaps the greatest benefit to edible landscaping will be the fun you have planning, planting, harvesting and eating!
By now you may be wondering how you can begin your own edible landscape.
Take a look at your space. Do you have a large yard or a small corner? Is the soil rich and well drained? Do you have an already established landscape or are you starting from scratch?
Any size space can be used for edible landscaping. And soil can be amended if it isn’t suitable to the types of plants you wish to grow. Soil test kits can be purchased or you may be able to take samples to your local extension office where they can tell you what nutrients your soil is lacking.
Check Out: Complete Guide to Soil
Now comes the fun part. Choosing your plants! Start with the trees and shrubs. Tree selection will depend on your space. There is an amazing variety of fruit and nut trees and you may quickly feel like you will need a larger yard. If you have a large area and are looking for shade trees you may choose a beautiful and stately pecan which grows up to 50′ feet tall. Or maybe you are looking for something to brighten up a smaller area. A dwarf or semi-dwarf apple tree may be just what you need. A dwarf apple tree grows only 8-10 feet tall yet still produces full sized fruit. The semi-dwarf is a little taller at 12-15 feet but either tree is easier to manage than the standard size apple tree which grows from 18-25 feet tall. Be sure you read catalog descriptions or talk to the knowledgeable folks at your local nursery. They will help you to decide if you want a self-pollinating tree-which you would choose if you are only getting one tree-or if you need two varieties that will pollinate each other.
Check Out: Best Plants for Edible Landscaping
Do you want a hedge for the boarder of your property? How about blackberries or raspberries? With colors that range from red to gold to purple, they will make a lovely and tasty hedge. Highbush blueberries also make a productive shrub. Alternate these fruits all around your yard and you will enjoy them for years to come.
Maybe you would like an arbor or you have a bare fence or wall suitable for a trellis. Consider the planting grapes. You can choose seeded or seedless in several varieties. Enjoy table grapes, or make some jelly or even your own wine.
Now you have your larger plants. You are ready to fill in the smaller places. When most people think about landscaping they think about flowers to add color. But many flowers are edible too! Pansy and gem marigolds are beautiful and will brighten up any salad. And don’t forget herbs! Many herbs produce beautiful flowers and are wonderful additions for your cooking. Many are delicious in teas and may also have medicinal value. Try some of the showier varieties like German chamomile with their tiny white and yellow flowers. Or chives which produce purple flowers but also add a little pizzazz to your baked potato. Borage also produces purple flowers which not only attract bees to your garden, but also look lovely floating in a cool drink. If you want to add fragrance to your landscape along with beauty, try lavender or sweet mace. The possibilities are endless!
Edible landscaping isn’t any different from traditional landscaping.
Do your homework and you will be rewarded for years to come. So take a look at your yard, consider your goals and enjoy the many benefits of enhancing your yard and your diet with edible landscaping.
6 Plants for a great edible landscape
- Rhubarb makes an outstanding plant for low maintenance borders and herb gardens as well as a dramatic landscape element planted singly or in groups. Choose a brightly colored variety that grows well in your part of the country. Both red and green stalk varieties are available but the red plants will be much more attractive in your beds. Rhubarb grows best in cool climates, in the cold winter regions of the country. Full sun is best, although in the warmer parts of it’s range it will benefit by partial shade in the afternoon. Be sure to mulch well to keep the soil as cool and moist as possible.
- Chives, with their spiky grass like foliage arrive early in the spring. The hollow stems can be snipped to use in salads, dressings, sprinkled on top of soups and of course on a sour cream topped baked potato for extra color and flavor. But the show really starts when the chive flowers emerge. Soft lavender spheres atop slender green stems are just lovely. Use the flowers to flavor vinegar and in fresh salads. Chives will reseed itself readily in most loamy garden soil.
- Sage is a tough garden herb that thrives in dry conditions and poor soil. It can sprawl over stone walls and makes beautiful mounds of gray green foliage in the landscape. In the early summer you will be rewarded with sprays of purple flowers that last for weeks. Great as a single specimen or planted as an edible border or to cover a difficult bank, sage is a top choice. It will need some water in extremely dry conditions and can reseed and spread if conditions are favorable. Use in poultry stuffings and sausage.
- Thyme is another great edible landscape herb. Plant creeping thyme between stepping stones to release it’s pleasant scent when stepped on. It grows well along the dry edges of driveways and paths. Lemon thyme is another great variety that can add interest to your landscaping beds. Consider incorporating other herbs in your flower beds as well.
- Chard is another colorful multi use plant. It looks great in beds with it’s rainbow hued stems and richly veined leaves. Plant a seed mix that included red, orange and yellow stemmed varieties. Use chard in soups, stews and casseroles. It can be used in the early spring as a spinach substitute for great flavor and added nutrition.
- Huge heads of red cabbage surrounded by pads of large flat leaves are dramatic and beautiful. The related kale plants come in fantastic color combinations and leaf types. Suitable for cooler temperatures, try growing these members of the cabbage family in the early spring or set out in the fall for winter interest.
Even common garden plants can be interesting and lovely in your edible landscape. A huge pot of cherry tomatoes near the front door will catch everyone’s eye, and you will surprise your guests with a mouthful of sun warmed sweet tomatoes almost every time! Colorful hot peppers mixed with your bedding plants, glistening purple eggplants and a sweet potato vine ground cover are additional ideas for a landscape that does double duty.
Spicy nasturtiums and dainty violets can be used in salads. Day lily buds can be served just like green beans. Roses and the rose hips that form on the plants after the flowers fall are high in vitamin C!
An edible landscape is a great way to supplement your grocery bill with delicious and nutritious home grown produce.