Edible Landscaping

I’ve been seeing a lot about edible gardening and landscaping this spring, and I thought I’d do a little more research on how we can take advantage of this in our own gardens.

Many people feel a strong connection to their flower garden, carefully selecting and planting annuals each year and nurturing their perennials. The same passion can be found in people cultivating their vegetable patch in the back yard. But there’s no reason why you have to choose between a beautiful landscape and a fruitful one. There are many varieties of fruit trees, berry bushes, herbs, and vegetables that are as aesthetically pleasing as they are delicious.

Edible landscaping is the practical integration of food plants within an ornamental or decorative setting. The same design principles are used, while substituting food bearing shrubs and trees for otherwise unproductive plant material. Edible landscaping is a mixture of beauty and utility. This is not to say that every element in your landscape should be edible, but those that are can be a healthy and economical bonus.

Almost any climate can play host to a lush edible landscape. Only the most shady and soggy soil areas are not suitable. The sunniest spaces with the best soil should be reserved for fruit trees and annual vegetables, while rocky areas with poor soil are prime for culinary herbs.

Combining edible elements with ornamental specimens can be particularly eye-catching. A colorful border of seasonal lettuce can be paired with dwarf nasturtiums, peppers coordinate well with dwarf marigolds, and strawberries and curly parsley compliment currants. Also try bordering your specimen trees with culinary herbs or plant them along your walking path or driveway. The key is to design your edible landscaping just like you would your aesthetic plants.

Edible landscaping isn’t just for the home. Many restaurants take advantage of rooftop gardens, specially growing herbs and vegetables that are then used in culinary dishes.

And don’t forget: your edible plants need proper watering, mulching, feeding, and pruning, just like your ornamental landscaping. Start small with what is simple and right for you. Choose dwarf trees and select fruit varieties that spread their bounty over several months. Just a few great edible selections to consider:

Edible ornamental berry bushes Highbush Blueberry, Clove Currant, Nanking Cherry, Elderberry, Oregon Grapeholly

Edible ornamental fruit trees Juneberry, Cornelian Cherry, Medlar, Paw Paw, Asian Pear

Vegetables Sugar snap peas, lettuces, marrow, root vegetables (carrots, radishes, onions, leeks), runner beans

Herbs Mint, sage, rosemary, basil, thyme

Keep in mind, whatever edible plants you choose, they need to end up on the table. The main goal with edible landscaping is to produce food. If you don’t use everything you grow, neighbors, friends, and family will be sure to take the rest off your hands!