Our grandparents or great grandparents did not have to think about what to plant in their landscape, it just made sense to plant something that you can eat. With the shift of populations to urban areas, people stopped using edible plants in their landscape and simply visited their local market for produce. The big, perfectly landscaped lawn and hedges became the norm, and in many developments, strict guidelines were developed for what landscaping was "acceptable."
In the urban setting, the vegetable garden has been relegated to the backyard, out of site. But your edibles do not need to be confined to just the garden. Edible plants can be used as part of the landscaping of the front yard, as well as in the backyard. Watch our video, Organic Edible Landscaping, where Tricia shares her tips on creating an edible landscape.
Things to Consider When Landscaping with Edibles
Location - If adding a fruit tree or vegetable, they will need to be located in an area that gets 6-8 hours of sun. Adding plants that require shade will need to be positioned to an area that fills their needs.
Space - Adding a standard size fruit tree will require quite a bit of space for the mature tree. Consider putting in dwarf varieties if space is limited. Some fruit trees can be trained in an espalier shape to fit limited spacing like along a fence. Trees that work well for espaliers are apple, pear, and figs. For more information on training your espalier, watch our video.
Toxic plants - If small children or pets are going to be frequent visitors to the landscape, beware that some plants are toxic if eaten. Some common landscape plants that are toxic include oleander leaves, azaleas, rhododendrons, hydrangeas, privet, daphne and laurels. Parts of common edible plants can also be toxic like tomato, potato and rhubarb leaves. Consideration should be taken when using these plants in an edible landscape with small children or pets.
Anchor the Design
Every landscape should have anchor plants, either edible or ornamental. Some common edible anchor plants are apple, citrus, pear, persimmon, fig, plum, olive, pomegranate, Spice Zee nectaplum, crab apples, or cherry (dwarf variety for limited space). If you want to mix it up, you can use an ornamental tree as an anchor. Great choices are maples, crepe myrtles, dogwood, redbud, or ornamental plums.
Edible Plants for Mid-level
Mid-level plants are not as big as the anchor plants but bigger than the ground covers. Good choices for mid-level edible plants are artichokes, rhubarb, blueberries, currants, gooseberries, goji berries, or roses. If you have space for vining plants, consider grapes, hops, kiwi, annual melons or cane berries.
Herbs that can work are rosemary, sage, comfrey, borage, or striking colors of purple basils. There are so many herbs that can work but consider your location as some herbs will only grow as annuals in cold zones.
Low Growing and Ground Covers
Edible flowers are great additions to the landscape design. Nasturtiums are really pretty plants with striking flowers and are good on salads. Other edible flowers include calendula, carnations, bachelor buttons, chrysanthemums, lavender and other herbs have edible flowers. Here is a site with an extensive list of edible flowers — there are so many to choose from!
Ground covers are good for filling in the empty spaces between plants. Alpine strawberries, or regular strawberries are good at spreading and are yummy to eat. Creeping thyme can be used or prostrate rosemary which is good for hanging over rock walls or raised beds.
Try working some edible plants into your landscaping. They will add so much beauty and you can eat them as well. That's a plus in my mind!