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Edible Landscaping is Back in Vogue

Grapes on vine

Train grape vines to an arbor to create a shady retreat.

Historically, edible plants were incorporated into the plantings around homes. A typical yard might have included a few fruit trees, some berry bushes, a grape vine and perhaps a salad garden just outside the kitchen door. For the last several decades, homeowners relegated edibles to a separate garden in the back yard, with the bulk of the landscape taken up by ornamental plants and lawn.

Starting in the 1970s, during the “back-to-the-land” movement, some people began growing more of their own food and integrating their food gardens into their landscape plantings. But for the most part, suburban yards were dominated by flowers and grass.

The last few years have seen a resurgence of interest in food gardening, as people begin to rediscover the satisfaction of growing their own food, as well as the money-saving aspects of harvesting dinner from their own backyard. “Edible landscaping” is a catch-all term that describes integrating food-producing plants into an overall landscape plan.

Raspberries

Harvest fresh raspberries from your own back yard.

One of the easiest ways to incorporate edibles into your landscape is by planting fruits. Blueberries, for example, make ideal foundation plants — they’re tidy shrubs with glossy green foliage that turns brilliant red in autumn. A grape vine trained up an arbor can provide a shady retreat beneath.

Another technique involves adding edibles in your ornamental plantings. For example, tuck a pepper plant, some basil or leafy chard in between perennial flowers. Or grow a container of herbs among your pots of petunias. Remember to avoid spraying pesticides on these mixed plantings, or use only pesticides labeled for use on edibles and follow directions carefully.

March 24, 2011 · Suzanne DeJohn · 10 Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: Gardening in Spring and Summer, How-Tos, Perennials

10 Responses

  1. N. M. Lyons - March 31, 2011

    I am so pleased to see your article promoting edible landscaping. I have been planting in this direction for years and have had many people think I am wacko. Hope they all like crow. Another thing I have been doing is having friends and neighbors children plant both seeds and plants with me. Then they help me with very small little harvesting chores; we get a clean bowl of water and pull a carrot or radish, etc. and munch it down on the spot. Children think this is great fun. Also teach them what parts of plants are safe to eat, etc. They (children) are very quick to catch on.
    Often they are sent home with a small bouquet of flowers for Mom & Dad. Children love that part and it always brings them back for future harvest. My friends children get excited about the coming planting season each new spring.
    Thank you for a job well done.
    Respectfully,
    M. Lyons

  2. Ted R - April 1, 2011

    I agree. I have been planting what I can in our relatively short growing season for years. Most people feel it is way too much work. I now have my grandaughter working with me. She selected yellow cherry tomatos this year. Nothing like eating fresh raspberries with her in the garden. As well, children develop good eating habits early and get to like vegetables at an early age.

  3. Perry Burrows - April 1, 2011

    I learned about the edible landscaping from my mother and grandmother when they used and shared grapes, greens, berries, etc. with family and friends. When my mother had to downsize from the “homeplace” to a more manageable smaller home, the purchaser asked her to walk with him over the four acres and identify all trees, berry bushes, asparagus beds, grape vines, pear and nut trees, etc. Let’s hope the new purchaser keeps up the good work!

  4. Perry Burrows - April 1, 2011

    I almost forgot: It all started during The Great Depression.

  5. Jackie C - April 1, 2011

    I agree, there is no point in growing something that does not add to your enjoyment. I have lovely shade trees, mangos, grapefruit, loquats, lemon and avocado, which add beauty of blossom, scent and great fruit. There are Bananas, shading the carport, and passion fruit vines along the fence. Of course, I do break down a bit, with amaryllis and jasmine (two varieties each blooming at a different time) and a huge gardenia bush outside my bedroom windows.

  6. KimH - April 1, 2011

    I agree.. I love landscaping with fruits & veggies.. I have a tiny tiny plot but I’ve managed to plant a good row of asparagus, lots of garlic, rhubarb, herbs, horseraddish, and blueberries.. and then add annual veggies here & there in the spring. Wish I had much more space, but we must bloom where we are planted. ;)

  7. nicole hibbs - April 1, 2011

    Hello,
    Thank you for this brilliant idea.
    I have bought a couple things off of you and like the edible idea as well as I run a bed and breakfast retreat here in west lorne, ontario, canada.
    I was wondering I think we have more of a clay and sand landscape. Would grapes be a good addition?
    Thank you

  8. Les Turner - April 1, 2011

    I write a gardening column for a local paper in NH and lately have been encouraging readers to add food items, early veggies especially and berries. I have cleared space so will soon be practicing what I preach. I had not realized that “edible landscaping” is a term that applies so now I have more for my next article.

  9. CariCoco - April 4, 2011

    I am into “edible” landscaping as well. Thanks for a timely article. I actually faced starvation as a child in the Caribbean, so I’m a little paranoid about food.

    But being from the Caribbean, I also love lush, flowering gardens. In addition to the commonly-accepted edibles such as fruit and nut trees and vegetables, I’ve also concentrated on plants that are edible (in a pinch or some sort of food crisis) but are also ornamental.

    Since, for the time being I still plan to get my food from the supermarket. Farmers need jobs, and believe me, they’re a lot more adept at growing veggies than I am.

    Daylilies, hosta as well as various bulbs such as tulips, lilies and quamash/camassia. These plants are beautiful now while food is plentiful, and if I ever am faced with a food shortage, I can possibly eat them. I’ve only eaten the daylies so far in stirfry and soup just to make sure I didn’t have a reaction, but the plant is completley edible and the shoots taste great.

    Tulips require more care and can be toxic if prepared incorrectly. Lily bulbs should be researched for edibleness based on the type of lilium, and I haven’t tried the hosta/plaintain lily as yet. The plant doesn’t look particularly delicious. But I don’t want to be forced to eat it for the first time during a famine.

    The quamash/camassia is a blue bulb that is native to the US and was eaten by the original inhabitants. The great thing about these bulbs is that they’re supposedly delicious, and they like moist soil and may be less temperamental than the “imported” bulbs.

    Supposedly hollyhocks and begonias are edible, as well. Unfortunately, my hollyhocks succumbed to rust LOL, but the hardy begonias are doing fine.

  10. Erin Morrissette - April 18, 2011

    Hello Nicole,
    You could certainly have success growing grapes on your property. There are some varieties that do better in our colder northeast climate than others so those are the varieties that I would recommend but I’ll touch on those later. As for your soil grapes would prefer a soil that’s a little on the acidic side (6.0-6.5). It would like to be well drained yet a water source if possible. Ideally a loamy/gravelly soil at a depth of 6 or more inches.

    As for some hardy varieties for the your zone, I would recommend our Concord Grape. This is a hardy variety that would do well in your colder northern climate. Another variety is Niagara that has prove to do well in the northeast as well.

    Thanks again and let us know if we can be of further assistance!
    Mike Lizotte