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Last year, I just didn’t have time to till and plant my great big garden. But I still wanted to grow some vegetables for my family, so I tried something new – edible landscaping. Over the winter, I added a bit of compost, rabbit manure, and veggie scraps to the flowerbeds around my house, making them rich and full of organic matter.
In the spring, it was easy to incorporate some herbs and vegetables within easy reach of my kitchen. This type of planting went so well that I can’t wait to expand on the idea, surrounding my house with delicious edible plants that make a beautiful landscape, as well.
In this article, we’ll talk about how to create an edible landscape around your home. Then, we’ll talk about what to plant where and what the benefits are to edible landscaping. But first, let’s take a quick look at what edible landscaping really is.
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What is Edible Landscaping?
Edible landscaping takes the traditional ideas of aesthetic landscaping and incorporates edible plants so that your landscape is both functional and beautiful. Creating an edible landscape can be as simple as adding a few perennial herbs to your flowerbeds or as complex as creating an entire food forest in your yard. It’s a great way to grow your own food without having to make a traditional-looking garden.
There are a lot of benefits to using edible landscaping as opposed to a traditional garden.
Benefits for Edible Landscaping
- HOA Rules. If you live where there is a housing authority, you might have to abide by specific rules in your neighborhood. If your HOA doesn’t allow gardens, you may be able to incorporate edible landscaping that still meets the HOA requirements.
- Close to the kitchen. Planting vegetables close to your home instead of a garden puts them in closer proximity to the kitchen, making them easier to access. You might even be able to reach out your window and pluck something.
- Growing your own food. Homegrown food is healthier and has more nutrients than food that has had to travel across the country to get to the grocery store. In addition, edible landscaping makes nutrient-dense food more accessible.
- Saves money. Edible landscaping saves money on food and on landscaping because vegetables can be both beautiful and nutritious.
- Incorporates perennials. You can include a lot of perennials into your edible landscaping, such as berry bushes and herbs, for easy-care food plants.
- Secret food. If you’re a prepper, you’ll love edible landscaping because it is less obvious that you’re growing food than if you were to plant a traditional garden. In addition, your vegetable plants can easily blend in with your flowers.
The Best Plants for Your Edible Landscape
Edible flowers add flavor to salads, teas, and desserts. Some can be used in jellies and preserves, while sunflower seeds are an excellent source of protein, fat, and vitamins.
- Butterfly Pea Flower
- Johnny Jump Ups
Herbs are a great choice to include in your edible landscape. Some herbs make great teas, herbal treatments, and flavors for dishes. Some will blend in easily to your flowerbeds.
For example, lavender is often grown for its blooms and makes a soothing tea for stress and headaches. Rosemary makes an excellent, low-growing hedge, and bee balm is lovely for tea and attracting pollinators to your garden. Thyme and mint make hardy ground covers that release a sweet fragrance when stepped on.
- Basil, especially in golden or purple varieties
- Bee Balm
- Lemon Balm
Fruit trees can be messy and attract bugs and animals, so place them accordingly. Many fruit trees are available in dwarf varieties, so they fit much better into smaller back yards than their full-size counterparts. Also, some fruit varieties need several of the same trees to produce fruit, so make sure you do your research so you know what to get.
- Oranges (depending on the climate)
Many berries will come back year after year. Berry bushes make great borders to your yard. In addition, strawberries make an excellent ground cover.
Like swiss chard and asparagus, some vegetables blend in easily because of their pretty foliage. Other plants, like tomatoes, are more obvious. You might consider putting these in a container or a backyard.
- Rainbow Swiss Chard
Plants with long vines can be incorporated as long as you have the space for their vines to grow. For example, you don’t want sweet potato or watermelon vines causing a tripping hazard on sidewalks, but they could grow up a trellis instead.
- Pole beans
- Vining Peas
- Sweet Potatoes
- Vining Squash
What to Plant Where
There are a number of considerations when you are planning your edible landscape.
- Daylight. My house has a shady and a sunny side, so sun-loving veggies need to be planted on the sunny side. Hostas and certain ferns, which are edible when prepared correctly, grow in the shady areas. And while we may not eat them regularly, I know that they are there if we need food!
- Mess. Fruit trees and berry bushes are great to incorporate into your edible landscaping. However, they can cause quite a mess when the fruit drops! They can also attract bees and animals. So you’ll need to place these pieces away from driveways, sidewalks, and potentially further from your home, if possible. For example, the edges of my backyard are lined with bramble bushes, which help deter unwanted visitors and keeps the berry mess away from my house and driveway.
- Visibility. If you don’t want passersby to see what you’re growing or if your HOA has certain rules about what you can plant in the front of your home, you may want to keep most of your veggies in the backyard out of sight.
- Water access. If you have water-loving veggies, you may want to grow them nearer to your water supply. Other types of plants, such as herbs, are often drought-tolerant once established so that you can plant them further from the hose.
- Use Vegetable Plants to Fill Up Empty Space. If you have ‘holes’ in your flower beds where there aren’t any plants, these are great spaces to fill up with salad greens, radishes, and carrots or chives. These smaller veggies will add interest without being too obvious, and they’ll make good use of what might otherwise be wasted space.
Edible Landscaping Tips
- Start with what you’ve got. You don’t need to rip out every flower bed and all of your grass to start a food forest or edible landscape. Instead, start with what you’ve got – take notes of what plants are growing well where, and add edible plants to it over time. Creating your edible landscape this way can be as simple as adding herbs to a flower bed or tucking some greens around a bush by the back door.
- Plant what you eat. One year I made the mistake of planting all kinds of exciting vegetables only to discover my family didn’t like any of them! The lesson I learned that year was to focus on mainly growing the fruits and vegetables that you and your family will actually eat and only experiment with a few varieties. You also need to make sure you pick fruits and vegetables that grow well in your climate.
- Don’t use pesticides if you can avoid them. You may want to avoid using commercial pesticides and fertilizers when possible. Instead, incorporate compost and natural insect deterrents, such as marigolds, to keep your garden growing.
- Keep aesthetics in mind. Don’t just plant rows of lettuce in your flowerbed because it’ll just look like a traditional garden. Instead, create a backdrop with larger plants in the back of the bed and border plants towards the front. Then you can fill in gaps with pretty veggies, interesting herbs, and edible flowers.
- Companion plant when possible. Certain plants do well helping each other grow. For example, if you are planting fruit trees, you may want to incorporate a few plants such as lavender, rosemary, and chives around the base of the tree. The fragrance from these plants will ward off pests, but the blooms will attract pollinators. Plant onions with roses to keep bugs at bay.
- Don’t mix toxic plants with edible plants. Especially if you have small children, it can be confusing to know what plants are edible and what are not. The easiest way to mix flowers with vegetable plants is to use only edible flowers, and there are plenty to choose from!
- Group plants with similar needs together. You can mix different types of plants together as long as their needs are similar. For example, you can mix flowers and herbs if they have the same sun and watering needs.
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