Tips for Planning an Edible Landscape
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Are you thinking about growing a few edibles but don’t know where to start? I have a few Tips for Planning an Edible Landscape that might help you get started.
At my last house I had a (roughly) 20′ x 20′ vegetable garden with raised beds. It was situated in a sunny corner of the yard. All vegetable growing happened there. At times it was messy and there was nothing that hinted at it being an edible landscape. It was just edible.
At this house, I don’t have that luxury so I am looking for ways to create an edible landscape. Something that is both beautiful and functional. Last year I toyed with some integrated edibles such as onions, lettuce, garlic, and herbs. I still have a few of these going right now.
However, I have been fascinated with the idea of creating an edible landscape with ornamentals and annuals thrown into the mix.
What Defines an Edible Landscape?
An edible landscape is the art of integrating edible plants along side ornamental plants using the same elements found in traditional landscape design. An example would be planting a fruit tree in place of an ornamental tree.
In my evolving edible landscape I have managed to incorporate a bay tree in a pot and an olive tree. I’m hoping to add a peach tree next year.
Planning an Edible Landscape
Anytime you start planning a landscape you should really start by first planning your hardscapes (paths, decks, covered areas, fences, playscapes, etc.). Once you know where these things will be placed, then you can decide on plant placement.
Where we live, water is becoming an ever-increasing issue. Do I want to use my precious water allotment on a lawn or would I rather put it to practical use and water something that has a purpose (like food!)? I believe a well-thought out edible landscape should include ways to water efficiently. Plan to use rain barrels or an Olla to efficiently water your edibles.
Remember, when planning an edible landscape, not everything has to be edible. Take advantage of shady areas where vegetables don’t do as well to grow shade-tolerant ornamentals.
Keeping it Looking Good
Anyone who has ever grown edibles knows that vegetables and herbs will vary in size, texture, and shape. When planning an edible landscape you will need to keep this in mind. Have spreading plants that will fill in while seedlings are getting started. Or, once the edibles have finished producing, the spent plant will likely need to be removed. Garden art or potted plants are a good way to fill in these blank spots.
I use metal art, rocks, a whirly-thing, and anything I can find when I want to fill in blank spots. I just move them to the latest blank spot.
What to Plant
Ah, the big head-scratcher. Now that the landscape has a plan ~ what do I plant? Well, you need to start with plant size. I’m thinking something that gets really tall like corn would need to be at the back of the landscape. Likewise, small plants such as lettuce would do well as border edging.
You want to pay attention to the plant’s mature size, shape, and color. Think about how the plant will look during its different stages and then blend in other plants that will complement.
- Plant a few bush beans against a foundation or fence. Then, in front of these plant some colorful annuals.
- Allow cucumbers to climb on a fence and plant bushy peppers in front.
- Surround a bean trellis with annual flowers such as zinnias.
- Blend rainbow chard into a large perennial bed.
Long Term Planning
Obviously, edibles aren’t static. They start out really small, can grow, climb, and spread, then fizzle out after the harvest. If you plan for all of these plant stages and then add in annuals you will have a constantly evolving landscape that is always interesting and completely practical.
Give edible landscaping a try by blending in a few proven winners for your area. You’ll be surprised at how much interest it will add to your landscape.