Are you dreaming of a beautiful garden that not only delights the eyes, but also fills your table with fresh, homegrown produce? Look no further than one of today’s hottest gardening trends: edible landscaping.
Let’s explore what edible landscaping is and provide you with practical tips on how to implement an edible landscape that’s both aesthetically pleasing and fruitful. Get ready to enjoy the beauty of your surroundings while reaping the rewards of a sustainable food source!
What Is Edible Landscaping?
Edible landscaping refers to the practice of integrating food-producing plants into traditional landscape designs. Instead of solely focusing on ornamental plants, edible landscaping incorporates elements such as edible flowers and ground covers, fruit trees, vegetable and herb plants, and berry bushes and vines into the overall design of a landscape. The result is a vibrant and bountiful landscape that not only looks stunning, but also provides fresh, healthy ingredients for your meals.
Here’s a list of these elements and their benefits to an edible landscape:
Edible flowers: Incorporating edible flowers such as marigolds, nasturtiums and pansies into your landscape adds eye-catching color to your surroundings, as well as culinary flair to salads, desserts and other dishes.
Fruit trees: Planting fruit trees such as apple, cherry, orange and pear adds visual interest to your landscape, as well as a bountiful harvest of delicious fruits.
Vegetable plants: Vegetable plants can easily be popped in throughout your landscape. Using raised garden beds, containers or just intermingling vegetable plants with ornamental plants are common approaches.
Herb gardens: Cultivating a variety of culinary and medicinal herbs in your landscape adds fragrance to your outdoor space, as well as convenience to your kitchen.
Edible ground covers: Instead of traditional grass lawns, edible ground covers such as strawberries and creeping thyme can be much more practical and environmentally friendly.
Berry bushes and vines: Integrating blackberry, blueberry and raspberry bushes as well as grapevines into your landscape enhances its visual appeal while providing fresh berries and grapes all season long.
Planning Your Edible Landscape
When designing an edible landscape, factors such as the amount of edible landscape space, sunlight patterns, regional climate, water availability and soil quality should be considered.
1. First, evaluate your outdoor area to determine the amount of edible landscape space available. In addition, observe patterns of sunlight and shade in your landscape throughout the day to identify the best spots for different types of plants. At the same time, research the climate and growing conditions in your area, as well as access to water in your landscape and any drainage issues.
2. Next, determine your goals for the edible landscape. Do you want to grow specific fruits, vegetables or herbs? Are you aiming more for aesthetics, functionality or sustainability? Create a design plan that incorporates your goals, considering factors such as plant placement, pathways and focal points.
3. In addition, test your soil’s pH level and nutrient content. You can do this by either purchasing a soil-testing kit or sending a sample to your local county extension office. You can find your local county extension office by adding your zip code to Swan’s Interactive Planting Zone Map here: https://swanhose.com/blogs/blog/swan-s-interactive-planting-zone-map. Amend the soil as suggested, including with organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure to improve its fertility and drainage.
4. Then, select plants that are suitable for your edible landscape space and the above-mentioned growing conditions, as well as those that complement each other well in terms of growth habits, pest resistance and harvest times. Opt for a mix of vegetables, fruits, herbs and edible flowers that thrive well together. Here are several suggestions:
Vegetable, Herb and Flower Combinations
• Tomatoes, basil and marigolds: Basil repels pests that commonly affect tomatoes, while marigolds add a pop of color, attract beneficial pollinators and deter pests.
• Lettuce, radishes and chives: Lettuce and radishes grow quickly, providing an early harvest, while chives help deter pests.
• Cucumbers, dill and nasturtiums: Dill attracts beneficial insects that prey on cucumber pests, and nasturtiums serve as a natural trap for aphids.
Fruit Tree and Understory Plant Combinations
• Apple or pear tree, strawberries and lavender: Strawberries and lavender make an attractive ground cover under the fruit tree, utilizing space efficiently and adding fragrance to the garden.
• Citrus tree, rosemary and marigolds: Rosemary acts as a natural pest repellent, while marigolds add a pop of color and deter harmful insects.
Berry Bush Combinations
• Blueberries, rhubarb and thyme: Blueberries and rhubarb thrive in slightly acidic soil, making them suitable companions. Thyme planted near the berries acts as a ground cover and adds an aromatic touch.
Edible Flower and Vegetable Combinations
• Sunflowers, zucchini and calendula: Sunflowers provide shade and support for the sprawling zucchini plant, while the bright orange calendula flowers can be used in salads or as a natural dye.
Three Sisters Guild (Beans, Corn and Squash)
• Corn, pole beans and winter squash: This Native American planting technique maximizes space and resources. Corn provides a natural trellis for beans to climb, while squash acts as a living mulch, suppressing weeds and conserving moisture.
Finally, assess the need for hardscaping elements in your edible landscape such as containers, raised garden beds, and stakes and trellises for climbing plants such as beans and tomatoes. Also, consider pathways and seating areas. Install these based on your design plan, ensuring proper functionality and aesthetics.
Maintaining Your Edible Landscape
Maintaining your edible landscape is crucial for several reasons. First, regular maintenance ensures the health and productivity of your plants, maximizing their yield of fresh and nutritious food. Second, proper upkeep helps control pests, diseases and weeds, safeguarding the overall well-being of your edible landscape. Last, maintaining your edible landscape cultivates a sense of pride and satisfaction as you witness the beauty and abundance of nature’s bounty right in your own backyard. Here are a few steps to follow:
1. Ensure proper irrigation and mulching to conserve moisture and suppress weeds.
2. Weed your edible landscape regularly to prevent competition for nutrients and sunlight. Prune plants as needed to promote healthy growth and prevent overcrowding.
3. Apply organic fertilizers or compost to nourish your plants and replenish soil nutrients. Follow recommended application rates and schedules for each type of plant.
4. Harvest your crops when they reach maturity. Keep in mind that different plants have varying signs of readiness, such as color, size or firmness. Then enjoy the fruits of your labor by incorporating them into your meals or preserving them for later use!
Edible landscaping offers a delightful way to transform your outdoor space into a productive and visually appealing oasis. By following the tips outlined in this guide, you can create a successful edible landscape that’s not only pleasing to the eye, but also provides a continuous supply of fresh, homegrown produce. Get your hands dirty, embrace the joy of growing your own food, and savor the rewards of a beautiful and fruitful garden!
For more general gardening information, read the following articles: