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Edible Landscaping

by Pat Featherstone

FILED IN: Green Gardening · Issue 1 · Soil For Life

Edible landscaping offers an alternative to conventional residential landscapes that are designed solely for ornamental purposes.

Edible landscapes can be just as attractive, yet produce fruits and vegetables for home use. One can install an entirely edible landscape, or incorporate simple elements into existing yards and gardens.

What is edible landscaping?

Edible landscaping is the use of food-producing plants in the constructed landscape, principally the residential landscape. Edible landscapes combine fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, vegetables, herbs, edible flowers and ornamental plants into aesthetically pleasing designs. These designs can incorporate any garden style and can include anywhere from 1-100% edible species.

Why landscape with edibles?

There are many reasons to incorporate edible plants into the residential landscape. These include:
• To enjoy the freshness and flavor of home-grown, fully ripened fruits and vegetables
• To eliminate pesticides and herbicides used on the foods you consume
• To increase the food security of your household
• To save on grocery bills
• To grow unusual varieties not available in stores
• To get outside, interact with the natural world, and have fun

How to landscape with edibles

Like all plants used in the landscape, edible plants grow best in certain conditions. Many (but not all!) fruits and vegetables do best where they receive at least 6 hours of full sunlight a day. Most also like well-drained soil. Parts of your garden that satisfy these conditions are good places to start an edible landscape. To perform a complete makeover on these areas, consult the books recommended below for a full design process.
To start simply, consider a one-for-one substitution. Where you might have planted a shade tree, plant a fruit tree. Where you need a deciduous shrub, plant a currant or hazelnut. Edible plants come in nearly all shapes and sizes and can perform the same landscape functions as ornamental plants.

Here are some more ideas for edible landscapes:

• Put pots of herbs on the patio
• Include cherry tomatoes in a window box or hanging basket
• Build a grape arbor
• Grow nasturtium, violas, borage, or calendula and include flowers in salads
• Eat your daylilies
• Plant a fruit tree in the corner of your yard
• Grow red cabbage
• Plant colorful pepper varieties alongside flowers
• Tuck lettuce, radishes, or other short-lived greens into a flower bed
• Put basil together with coleus in a planter
• Try yellow or “rainbow” chard

Won’t it take a lot of work?

Many common ornamental plants can survive with minimal care. Most edible plants, however, require a certain amount of attention to produce well. They may require a little extra watering, pruning, fertilizing, or pest management. The time required, however, need not be exorbitant. To care for a fruit tree, for instance, may take only a few hours a year, while the yield could be enormous. It is best to treat edible landscaping as a hobby and not a chore.

You may find yourself checking on your plants more than they strictly require, just because you want to see how they’re doing. If you are concerned about being overwhelmed, just start small.
The possibilities for edible landscaping are endless. By incorporating just one—or many—edible plants into a home landscape, you can develop a new relationship with your yard and the food you eat.


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