Easy Edible Landscaping Ideas
You know you love fresh produce, but did you know you could make your landscape into a personal farmers market? Limiting yourself to a few feet of yard space for a vegetable garden is for rookies. Transform your landscape into a big, edible garden by choosing edible plants, shrubs and fruiting trees. That way every inch of space and drop of water in your garden will maintain your property and help feed your family.
If this sounds like a dream come true, you're not alone. The "homegrown" movement is gaining momentum across the country. Like the victory gardens that sprung up across the U.S. during World War II, residential farming can produce impressive yields.
Your garden has its own unique architecture. The outbuildings, fences, trees and shrubs help to create structure and microclimates within the landscape. Some elements like decorative arbors may be moveable, but others, like trees, are destined to grace your garden . . . well, for decades. If you're laying out a brand new garden or adding a tree to an already cultivated landscape, make it earn its keep by investing in a tree that will provide more than shade. Fruiting trees can produce large yields, and having a store of apples, peaches or pears for canning or to share is a great way to make use of your outdoor spaces and save on the cost of food. (For apple recipes, see Easy Apple Recipes For Fall).
- Look for trees designed for your growing zone and microclimate.
- Choose a low maintenance tree variety if you want to spend less time on yard duty.
- Pick fruit and nut trees that produce crops you'll actually eat, sell or give away.
- Expect to spend a portion of your gardening dollar every year on tree maintenance and pest control.
- Stay in it for the long haul. Some fruit trees like avocados start producing a crop after a couple of years, while others may take a decade.
- Know what you're buying. Some trees may have to be planted in male and female pairs in order to produce fruit, while others may grow to 50 feet or more. Your best bet is to do your "tree homework" before you buy. Even within a particular type of tree, there can be huge variations in fruit size, water requirements, sweetness, yield and insect resistance.
These tree varieties are relatively easy care adaptable fruiting species that will produce a good harvest season after season:
- Apple - A relatively small tree that's adaptable to varying climate zones. There are many varieties to choose from.
- Apricot - Medium-sized tree with early maturing fruit
- Avocado - A small sized, cold sensitive tree
- Cherry - There are lots varieties of this popular fruiting tree available.
- Fig - This one can be grown in the ground or in a container.
- Grapefruit - A cold sensitive citrus tree
- Lemon - A cold sensitive citrus tree (Dwarf varieties can be grown in containers.)
- Lime - A cold sensitive citrus tree (Dwarf varieties can be grown in containers.)
- Orange - A cold sensitive citrus tree (Dwarf varieties can be grown in containers.)
- Peach - A medium sized tree bearing attractive fruits that all ripen at the same time in early to mid-summer.
- Pear - Fruits mature in mid-summer and fall. Pears are very popular autumn staples.
- Pecan - A large tree that requires very good drainage. The nuts mature late in the fall. Young trees start producing at about five years.
- Persimmon - A small tree that produces fall fruit
- Plum - A small tree that produces fruit in midsummer.
- Pomegranate - An attractive tree that produces lovely globed fruit. Pomegranates come in dwarf varieties that are great for patio containers.
- Walnut - A large, long living tree (up to 100 years). It's a great shade tree, too.
An edible landscape can provide herbs as well as fruits and vegetables. Herbs are the chameleons of the garden. Varieties like sweet peas and marigolds have attractive flowers, while large and structurally sound varieties, like some types of lavender, make great shrubs. Another great thing about herbs is that they can be used in recipes, beverages, herbal remedies, homemade cosmetics and crafts. Give a few of these herbs a try. They're easy to grow and offer lots of edible appeal to your landscape:
(To learn how to grow your own herbs, see How To Grow An Indoor Herb Garden).
Edible flowers offer the best of both worlds: Left alone in your flowerbeds, they will provide color, scent and texture -- often for the entire summer season. They also taste great in salads, gracing a baked potato or in stir fry, and when they aren't on the menu, they can be used as a table centerpiece. It doesn't get much better than that.
Consider planting some of these tasty edible flowers this season:
- Chrysanthemum - Pungent like a bitter green
- Cornflower - Sweet and slightly spicy (eat the petals only)
- Nasturtium - Peppery
- Rose - Sweet and aromatic in tea
- Geranium (Scented) - There are almost 100 varieties of edible, scented geraniums to choose from.
- Squash Blossom - Sweet and delicately scented
- Violet - The viola species is as sweet as sugar.
- Marigold - Petals of the calendula marigold are wonderful on a fresh green salad.
Before you start munching on garden flowers indiscriminately, learn about what you're planting and eating. Some flower varieties, like foxglove, oleander and azaleas are poisonous.
The Veggie Patch
If you're a gardener, you probably already know all about vegetable propagation, but here are a few things you might not realize:
- Your community likely has an outreach program where you can donate some of your extra vegetable growth to local food banks and shelters. Your donation is a generous gesture and tax deductible.
- If you're careful about what you choose to cultivate, you'll have more variety in your garden, and might be able to sell part of your yield at a local farmers’ market. Even if you don't want to pay for booth space, you may be able to make an arrangement with another market participant to sell your pomegranates or blackberries. Short season or exotic edibles are almost always in demand, especially if you produce organic crops.
- Speaking of seeds, you may be able to sprout your vegetable garden less expensively this year by joining a seed swap. If you have a stash of seeds in the back of your freezer, they may be the currency you need to score heirloom or newer variety seeds on the cheap. Web based seed swaps are becoming popular, and new ones start up every spring. Perform a search on the term "seed swap" for a few likely candidates.
Just because you are space challenged doesn't mean you can't have a bountiful, edible landscape. One of the newest things on the gardening horizon is vertical growing. That blank garage wall or wooden fence can be transformed into a garden oasis with a little hydroponic sleight of hand. Getting outfitted with the frames, pump and tubing isn't as costly as it may look, either, and the plants won't know the difference. In fact, using this method you can grow more in less space -- and with less trouble from pests, too.