Edible Landscaping

Does your perennial border need a bit of pizzazz? Are you looking for ways to add color and texture to your flower beds? Consider the dramatic heads and leaves of globe artichoke; or the brilliant red stems and glossy, crinkled foliage of Swiss chard. There is no need to segregate food crops from ornamentals. If you integrate edible plants in to your flowerbeds, you can grow a beautiful backyard and eat it too! Landscaping a well-designed yard with ornamental trees, shrubs, and flowers is certainly rewarding, but cultivating an equally attractive yard that integrates edibles into its design is an immensely satisfying experience. Sowing seed, growing, then harvesting food will connect you even more deeply to the rhythm of the seasons. A careful selection of crops and specific cultivars will allow you to gather sustenance almost year-round. As you think about plants to include in your edible landscaping plans, don't limit yourself to nasturtiums and kale. Fruit and nut trees ( pear, cherry, apple, peach, hazelnut and almond) can provide lovely blossoms in the spring, shade in July, and a tasty bounty in the late summer and fall. Consider some of the many fruits and vegetables that grow on vines (grapes, passion fruit, beans, and peas are a few examples; They'll add vertical interest to your garden design. Berry producing bushes (blueberries, gooseberries and currants come to mind) can replace some of the purely ornamental shrubs that you've grown in the past. The list of edible flowers is extensive, and culinary herbs fit beautifully into almost any garden design,Even ground covers can be edible; Strawberries or herbs such as thyme can add to your meals while reducing your mowing chores, Edibles do tend to be more labor intensive than ornamental plants. So you probably won't want to turn your entire backyard into one large kitchen garden. Start by tucking a few different kinds of lettuce in among the annuals in early spring, or just add a chili pepper plant to one of the containers on your deck. Then as the inevitable holes in your landscape design appear, move on to other edibles. Instead of planting roses by that newly installed trellis, try raspberry canes or a hardy kiwi vine. If you're a rose lover, the shrub rose, Rosa Rugosa should please you. Its red or orange rose hips have 60 times more vitamin C than an orange and can be made into delicious jams or tea. And the next time you're looking for a plant that combines height with finely-textured foliage, set out some asparagus.

Vegetables don't have to be propagated in a perfectly straight, Farmer MacGregor style rows. Spring an eggplant from its usual setting, and you'll realize just how exotic and attractive a plant it is. Its satiny, purple-black fruits would look wonderful combined with the silver foliage of dusty miller. Once you get used to the concept of food plants as art of your garden design, all sorts of combinations will come to mind. Violas (which are usually are grown as ornaments, but actually are edible) look lovely lining a path beside swirls of bright greed lettuce.

Along with sunlight, soil, and water needs, consider your edible's height, shape, foliage, texture, and color before deciding on its place in your design-just as you would for any ornamental plant. Check seed catalogs carefully; you're sure to find cultivars that are as handsome as they are tasty, Look for herbs with variegated or silver foliage to add interest to your garden.

Even if you decide a separate section of your yard to food crops, there's no reason not to make that space as beautiful as it is practical. Flowers such as marigolds and nasturtiums have long been valued as companions for vegetables; they're natural insect repellents. Even if your back forty consists of little more than a patio and a patch of lawn, you can still raise your own fruits and vegetables. A small, walled yard is often perfect for espalier fruit trees. Even a Lilliputian garden should have room for a couple of mini-dwarf fruit trees or a citrus tree in a pot. Tomatoes, lettuces, cucumbers, beans, and peppers will all thrive in carefully tended container gardens on a patio or deck, as long as sunlight, water, and fertilizer needs are met. Strawberries and cherry tomatoes can even be grown in hanging baskets. Many herbs will be perfectly content in window boxes or strawberry jars. Just make sure your container grown fruits and vegetables are in pots with sufficient space for root growth.

Plan to feed and water them more frequently than those planted in the ground.


Split tomato skins are the result of watering after plants have been allowed to go dry.


A cloche is an old-fashioned way to provide protection to young plants. Cloches were traditionally glass jars inverted over plants to protect them from cold weather. You can use gallon milk jugs with the bottoms cut off or mini-greenhouses made of spun fiber. Fabric cloches have the benefit of keeping insects away from young plants. Use clothespins or clips to hold the fabric to a frame. This method will protect young plants to temperatures as low as 26 degrees.



"The love of gardening is a seed that once sown never dies."




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