Gardeners used to keep their edible plants—vegetables, fruits, and herbs—separated from the rest of the landscape. Too much healthy, fertile land gets used for shrubs and lawns nowadays. Why not use that soil for growing your food? You can turn your garden into something more than a beautiful space if you know proper edible landscape design.
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Why Should You Landscape with Edibles?
Less than two percent of the U.S. population are farm and ranch families. People in the suburbs usually spend their days tending to an ornamental lawn and pointless house plants. Why do all of this when edibles are more appealing, provide an edible harvest, and need no additional upkeep?
A productive landscape is lovely, but a scenic one that draws in beneficial insects and is wildlife-friendly and tasty to eat is even better.
Edible landscaping is a healthier, gentler approach that blends conventional landscaping with row cropping to produce an aesthetically appealing and environmentally sustainable landscape.
The Purposes of an Edible Landscape
Your edible front yard doesn’t have to be purely practical—it can also be a creative, beautiful sight! Although cultivating and preserving a lawn is mindless (and polluting), tending to an edible, intentional landscape will be more engaging and fulfilling.
It Adds Something Interesting to Your Entire Landscape
When your apples, strawberries, or raspberries ripen, it’s an inspiring and exciting time in your yard! In contrast, a conventional landscape will not be as remarkable and doesn’t change that much. Believe me, when harvest time comes, you will have your neighbor’s attention. Finally, you can gain something from your yard rather than just put it into your yard.
You Can Enjoy Fresh, High-quality Food
Did you notice the slight difference in the flavors of some vegetables and fruits? This is because most products you buy undergo different treatments to promote their growth and travel from afar on ships and trucks to get to your table.
When you grow your own, you will experience flavors and colors like you likely havent\’t seen before. You will know everything that went into your edibles and be very proud and confident when serving guests.
Since you are in charge, you can ensure that your edible garden plants will be 100% organic, free of chemical fertilizers and commercially used pesticides. You will finally know exactly what went into your food.
You Can Spend Less on Groceries
You can save money by planting an edible garden. You want to be economical, and gardening allows you to live that way. Why are you paying so much for market fruits and vegetables when you can have cleaner, fresher, healthier alternatives in your yard?
Not only will you be sure of what you are eating and save money on food, but you will also save money on transportation since you will surely cut down on your trips to the local marketplace.
If you have a large yield, you can freeze or can your excess fruits and vegetables to use year-round.
You’ll Be Healthier Since It Is a Form of Exercise.
Are you looking to burn some calories? Do you need physical activity to break the monotony of sitting at home or in the office all day? Maybe it’s time to get your hands dirty with gardening; it is a great way to burn calories and get some sunshine on your face!
Gardening is a moderate-intensity activity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), completing an hour of light planting or yard work burns about 330 calories—better than walking slowly for an equal number of hours.
Moreover, you can prevent high blood pressure with only 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical exercise several times a week. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, gardening or raking leaves for half an hour to about 45 minutes are two examples of meeting the prescribed amount.
When your skin gets sun exposure while you’re outside, your body produces vitamin D. According to the National Institutes of Health, this vitamin, present in milk and fish, aids in absorbing calcium, a mineral necessary for healthy bone formation.
You Are Helping the Environment
By not using commercial fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides, you help maintain the soil’s natural, healthy state.
By growing your fruits and vegetables, you help minimize carbon emissions and waste from getting food from commercial farms.
When purchasing food from grocery stores, keep in mind that they travel a thousand miles before being served. This affects the food’s freshness and taste, but it also releases toxic levels of greenhouse gases and pollution associated with air freight (and other modes of transportation) into the atmosphere.
Plus, you’ll be cutting down on waste from packaging like plastics and cardboard.
With all of the good you alone can do for our environment, just imagine if everyone who owned a piece of property or had access to one would plant some fruits and vegetables. Not only would this have a significant impact on their neighborhoods, but it might also force the big commercial food producers to change their ways and become more environmentally conscious.
Tips on Designing an Aesthetically Appealing Landscape
To plan your edible garden, you don’t need to be an artist or know how to draft a landscaping blueprint. Some people sketch thorough plans, while others scribble notes on a scrap sheet of paper and then wing it when they’re in the yard.
An excellent approach to creating an edible landscape design is to take a traditional landscape design and replace some of the plants with edible plants. Varying colors and textures of edibles can have a very similar effect to planting perennial gardens.
Remember, there are annual edibles and perennial edibles. Plant-like lettuce, carrots, kale, peas, and beans will only be a one-year plant, while strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, apples, pears, and cherries will be long-term perennial plants.
This doesn’t need to be a change your world tomorrow sort of activity. Start small and choose one problem area or one annual flower bed and turn it into a food-producing space this year. See how it goes; maybe you will be inspired to do a bit more each year until you find yourself handing out veggies all around town.
Factors to Consider When You’re Landscaping for Edibles
There is a technical side of edible landscape design in addition to the creative side. When it comes to preparing the edible landscape, there are five main factors to keep in mind:
Identify which regions of your yard get the least and most sunshine. Use a compass or enter your address into suncalc.net, and be sure to include shade-casting items like buildings and trees.
Most fruits and vegetables need a minimum of six hours of sunlight a day. That said, many edible plants can thrive in the shade.
Some edible plants can survive in almost any condition. For example, when grown in a fully shaded, damp location, ostrich ferns yield delightful fiddleheads in the spring. And in partial shade to full shade, various edible greens will grow well, like kale, vitamin greens, lettuce, chervil, spinach, chicory, and more. These are called cool-season plants.
Existing Soil Condition
Where in your landscape do you have less-than-ideal soils? Too muddy, too dry, too rocky, too sandy, too contaminated, etc.?
You should take each area into account. You can plant your edibles into the best soil areas this year and compost and mulch the less desirable locations for a year to improve soil quality.
Where does your garden get its water? During the very dry spells, you may need a hose or two to keep some of the edibles alive. You could always carry a bucket to the far reaches of the yard, but it’s easier to prepare ahead so that you don’t have to, and your edible landscape will thank you for planning ahead.
Possibility of Stepping
It would be best to minimize the compaction in your newly planted edible areas. Walking and running equipment over the ground compacts the soil and makes it less desirable for any plant. Heavily compacted soils are less porous, have smaller pore sizes, and have a higher density.
Water drainage and infiltration will decrease in compacted earth because larger pores transfer water through the soil more efficiently than smaller pores.
Single-reach beds (around two feet wide and used against walls or fences) or double-reach beds (about four feet wide or as far as the arm would stretch to the center from all sides) can work if you want to avoid stepping in your plant beds.
For large planted borders larger than 4 feet, you should have hidden pathways or stepping stones with double or single-reach distances so you can navigate every part of the landscape for upkeep without stepping on and compacting the soil and crushing tiny plants. You want to find and use your defined stepping sites, so you aren’t encouraged to walk on your bed.
Type of Plants
What plants would you like to grow?
It’s time to pick the plants for your landscape layout. Now is when your creativity can really shine. First, create a list of the edibles you enjoy the most and then figure out how and if you can get them to grow in your yard. Once you have determined that they will grow in your area, now you must figure out the best location on your property to ensure they do their best. Consider the shape, size, and leaf color, as well as the flowers or fruit they grow (if any).
Many edible plants prefer a meadow style (mostly annual vegetables developed from seeds) or a forest (understory perennials and woody shrubs).
It’s worth noting that many forest plants thrive well when a tree falls, and the resulting gap provides them full access to sunlight for a few years.
Continue reading to find out more about planting edibles.
Foundation Planting for Edibles
Foundation plantings are essentially beds of plants (shrubs) planted along with house foundations. You can categorize them into three sections: A planting for the entrance, the corners, and plantings that link them.
For foundation planting, we recommend black and red currants, black raspberries, gooseberry, bush cherry, and rugosa rose. These can take the place of your traditional spirea, barberry, juniper, and yews.
Currants grow quickly, tolerate moderate shade, have lovely fruits (red currants), and are fragrant (black currants).
Why Planting Berries Are a Great Idea
Black raspberries are perfect for the spot under the windows due to their shade tolerance. They’re also straightforward to maintain, and lastly, the fruits look and taste amazing!
Strawberries deserve a spot in your front yard because they are highly nutritious, productive, take up little space, are a pleasant ground cover, and have deep roots that support a slope and slow drainage.
Keep in mind that strawberries tend to send out runners, and raspberries tend to spread rather aggressively, so don’t plant them near more delicate plants.
In 1992, the University of California breeding program produced Seascape strawberries. Since they don’t produce runners, they won’t look messy. They’ve proven to be much more effective in the edible landscape, where you want plants to stay put.
Plants for Privacy Screening
When we live in an urban or suburban setting, we often need to build a privacy buffer. Edible plants may serve as a living screen that can last even longer than a fence while increasing biodiversity.
For instance, a thick canopy of dwarf cherry trees will provide a gentle barrier between your front yard and the street. These will have lovely white flowers, beautiful fruit that resembles Christmas tree decor, and a fascinating bark in the spring.
Some great privacy-screening plants are shrubby and herbaceous varieties like elderberry, asparagus, serviceberry, Nanking cherry, gooseberry. And if you have a lot of space, hickory, chestnut, persimmon, and pawpaw are large trees with thick foliage.
Edible Landscaping with Vegetables
So, which vegetables are suitable for edible landscaping? There are so many.
When adding vegetables and inedibles in the same garden space, use your best judgment and creativity to achieve the aesthetic you want in the gardens around your property.
Vegetable Color Selection
I’ve enjoyed giving my edible front yard a unique style by selecting an annual color palette. You have plenty of options, so you can mix and match depending on your mood!
You can plant oregano, garlic, turnips, sweet alyssum, and cauliflower for white.
Some purple vegetables are beetroot, red kale, ‘Purple Beauty’ bell pepper, eggplant, red cabbage, and chives.
You have plenty of options for yellow ones: yellow bell peppers, yellow chard, yellow cherry tomatoes, yellow California poppies, sunflowers, and calendula.
Similar to yellow, you have lots of choices for red edibles! Red bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, red California poppies, red chili pepper, red leaf lettuce, red chard, and nasturtium would give your garden a splash of red.
You can plant butternut squash, tomatoes, pumpkins, and papaya for your orange group.
As for green, it’s the easiest color to find in any edible garden. But if you’re looking for specifics, broccoli, basil, kale, parsley, collards, sweet potato, and zucchini are great.
Landscaping with Flowers and Herbs
Among the most straightforward edible garden additions are flowers and herbs. You can have elegance and functionality by simply replacing an ornamental flower garden with nutritious herbs and flowers.
Some favorites are bronze fennel and white cosmos, dill with pink cosmos, and basil with many other flowers.
If you want fragrance, lavender, chamomile, lemon balm, sage, and rose are great, especially surrounding the walkway.
Some edible flowers are zucchini blossoms, calendula, anise hyssop, hibiscus, chives, lavender, elderberry, nasturtium, pansies, Johnny-jump-up, and runner beans.
Common Problems in Edible Landscaping
The most challenging aspects of creating an edible landscape are the sunlight conditions and animals like rabbits and deer. You can effectively manage deer by netting or at least an eight-foot fence, which is difficult to do in many front yards. There are organic deer repellant options that work fairly well.
A three-foot-tall chicken wire fence with a one-inch or one-and-a-half-inch mesh will keep rabbits out. It’s also a good idea to bury a few inches underground to discourage rabbits from getting in your garden.
Dogs and motion-detecting sprinklers can be good deterrents as well.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many edible landscaping choices in deer country. Hungry deer are erratic, consuming even the most “deer-resistant” foods.
Consider more drastic deer defenses such as walls and fences if planting resistant crops do not keep deer out of your backyard. The use of tall deer fencing somewhat counteracts the visual charm of the scenery. Even then, here are some plants to consider.
It’s safer to start with plants that deer don’t want if you want to keep deer away from your open garden. When wild food options are scarce, deer can “browse” on almost everything. However, some garden edibles are less appealing to these insatiable eaters than others.
Some plants, like rhubarb, have toxicity that deer avoid. Root vegetables (that need digging) and prickly vegetables (e.g., cucumbers and squashes with hairy leaves) are unappealing to deer. Strong-smelling cultivars like garlic, onions, and fennel are unpalatable to deer.
When it comes to deer, it’s preferable to landscape with perennials because even deer-resistant annual crops can become irresistible to them for some reason.
Please remember that none of these are deer-proof when young, so you should keep them safe.
Deer-resistant perennials include fig, asparagus, goumi, pawpaw, and rhubarb. While, for culinary herbs, you have dill, chives, fennel, lemon balm, lavender, mint, parsley, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and sage.
Some preferred plants for the medicine garden are fennel, lemon balm, lavender, and thyme.
Finally, you can plant cucumbers, onions, eggplant, and tomatoes for deer-resistant vegetables.
Walk around your landscape at the start of each growing season to see if the changing growing conditions fulfill the needs of your vegetables, fruits, and herbs.
Changes in sun-shade patterns, low-water zones, poorly drained areas, overcrowded garden beds that need expansion, and plants that need division are all things to look for.
Most vegetables would not thrive in the dry areas under your eaves or near trees, where their roots will struggle to get water.
Most edible plants are vulnerable to disease, so pay attention to them and address any problems as soon as they arise. One of the most effective ways to prevent diseases from spreading is to remove diseased vegetation.
Perennials can make up the majority of a long-term landscape, but plants are costly. Buying seeds is much less expensive if you don’t mind bare soil for a bit.
You can purchase plants over many years if you want to distribute the high cost. You can often plant quickly-growing annuals to fill up the vacancy before your perennial plants mature.
However, there’s also a bright side: in a limited, nice space, you can produce an incredible amount of food to save you money for groceries.
Are you willing to spend time maintaining your edible landscape? Taking out the grass and replacing it with something else would need more maintenance to keep it clean. If you’re short of time, try substituting edibles for the existing landscaping plants while keeping the lawn untouched. You can always mulch over some lawn to kill the grass and prepare it for next year.
Annuals require more care than perennials to maintain their aesthetic quality. It takes a lot of time to keep annual vegetables clean and weed-free.
If you don’t plan how to fill the spots after reaping, you’ll end up with empty spaces. This is what fast-growing perennial plants and mulch are good for!
We hope you find this article inspirational and informative when you start planning your edible landscape design. Once you prepare your garden space, it will soon produce an incredible amount of fresh, organic, delicious food!