Eating healthy, shopping at farmers’ markets and planting gardens are more popular than ever. Many families want to grow their own food, but are challenged by a lack of space for a full-sized garden in their yard.
Think about edible landscaping: You can have an attractive-looking yard or patio that also provides fruits and vegetables your family can eat.
Oregon State University Extension Services defines edible landscaping as “the use of food-producing plants in the residential landscape." It can 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 just a few, or be completely comprised of edible plants.
Some reasons to include edible plants in your home’s landscaping include:
- Pick and eat fresh, fully-ripe fruits and vegetables
- Control the amount of pesticides and herbicides used on your food
- Save money by buying fewer fruits and vegetables at the grocery store
- Grow unique foods that may not be available in the store
- Save the hassle of mowing and maintaining your lawn
Many edible species are not only functional from a food-on-your-table perspective, but they are also attractive. For example, some flowers, such as begonias, day lilies, carnations, pansies, peonies and roses can be eaten. They also make a colorful addition to salads or as a garnish on plates. Red and yellow tomato and pepper plants add a splash of color to ornamental beds.
Additionally, raspberry or blackberry bushes make a great border around your yard, and fruit trees provide shade. Just make sure you consider where you are placing them, as cleaning rotten fruit or berries that have dropped onto your patio can be a frustrating and messy chore.
More ideas for edible landscapes include:
- 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
- Grow Red-jewel cabbage
- Plant colorful pepper varieties alongside flowers
- Tuck lettuce, radishes, or other short-lived greens into a flower bed
- Replace a barberry hedge with gooseberries
- Put basil together with coleus in a planter
- Try yellow or "rainbow" chard
- Grow chives around the mailbox
- Train raspberries up your fence
Before you begin turning your yard into a garden, make sure to do your research and know how much sunlight and water each plant requires, what type of soil will best support that species, and how much maintenance you will have to do to get the fruits and vegetables you desire.
When you are done, don’t be afraid to show your edible landscape off to your friends and family. Post pictures of it on Facebook and Instagram, and send pictures into Pinterest. Who knows how many other people will pin them on their gardening boards?