Fruits, vegetables, and herbs; we are growing them in gardens all across the country with increasing frequency. Not everyone has space for an orchard or a vegetable plot. Learning to landscape with edibles is a creative way to work food crops into our yards while reserving play spaces for kids and pets and social spaces for entertaining and relaxation. We can do all of this without losing any of our curb appeal.
Edible landscaping is the art of blending edibles and ornamentals in practical but beautiful displays. Our goal is to please the eye as well as the palate. Any edible plant can be worked into the ornamental garden, but some are just prettier than others. Start looking at edible plants for their ornamental qualities – color, texture, form.
Fruit trees offer all of the beauty of small flowering trees. They have a similar bloom season and length of bloom. Dwarf and semi-dwarf fruit trees can be worked into any ornamental bed that provides sufficient sunlight and drainage. Citrus and pomegranates can be used as specimens, hedges and screens.
Beautiful borders become bountiful borders when planted with basils or oreganos in the summer and parsley, spinach or strawberries in the cooler months. Kale, cabbage and cauliflower are beautiful plants in any setting. Their large, textured leaves would compete with any hosta. Mustards and lettuces come in strikingly beautiful leaf colors including greens, reds, and dark garnet. Plant them in geometric designs for added impact.
Don’t be afraid to mix it up; annuals and edibles make good bedfellows. Peppers and eggplants can be inter-planted with salvias and angelonias for a blast of summer color. For winter, try chard and snapdragons with a scattering of lobelia or nasturtiums. A trellis overflowing with cherry tomatoes, sweet potato vines, or sugar snap peas is a perfect backdrop for annuals and herbs planted at their feet.
Success with edible landscaping depends on healthy soils and adequate sunlight. Group plants with similar nutrition, water and sunlight demands. Work 2” – 3” of compost and the recommended amount of slow release organic fertilizer into the soil before planting. Replenish the fertilizer every four to six weeks for the best performance.