Plants for Edible Landscaping
There are lots of ways to incorporate food plants into your landscape. It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing process either – edible plants can easily live side-by-side with ornamental ones. In fact filling an entire yard with edible plants would produce “too much food for most families, not to mention time and work.” So when seeking edible plants for your landscape, you should usually think about ways to combine them with ornamental ones.
Plants that can work in an edible landscape include the following:
Herbs. You can grow rosemary, thyme, or oregano in an herb bed near your house or in pots on a patio. You can also intersperse herbs such as basil or oregano with flowers in a planter, or plant chives around the base of a mailbox.
Greens. Lettuce, radishes, and other salad greens can look nice growing in between the blossoms in a flower bed. Some “greens” also come in more colorful varieties (such as yellow and rainbow chard or red-jewel cabbage) that look beautiful all on their own.
Perennial Vegetables. Some vegetables, including rhubarb, asparagus, and Jerusalem artichoke, are perennial – once they’ve been planted, they keep coming back year after year. Adding some of these to your edible landscape saves you the trouble of replanting the space in future years.
Edible Flowers. Nasturtiums, violas, pansies, borage, and calendula all have edible blossoms that are delicious in salads. You can also cook and eat the buds, blossoms, and tender shoots of daylily plants, or dig them up to harvest the edible tubers.
Strawberries. A well-tended strawberry patch in a sunny spot can produce berries for years. The smaller Alpine strawberries grow well in shade and make a pretty, tasty ground cover in wooded areas.
Vining Plants. Any kind of vining plant can be grown on a decorative trellis. Scarlet runner beans are popular because they’re as good to look at as they are to eat, but you can grow any variety of vine-type bean, as well as peas, squash, tomatoes, and grapes. Smaller cherry tomatoes can also grow in window boxes or hanging baskets.
Fruit and Nut Trees. Fruit and nut trees provide shade just like the more common oaks and maples, but they also provide food. In addition to well-known fruits such as apples, peaches, and pears, you can grow unusual varieties like pawpaws, medlars, and serviceberries, which produce fruits you can’t find in stores.
Fruit-Bearing Shrubs. You can replace ornamental shrubs with fruit-bearing varieties, such as blueberries, currants, gooseberries, or bush cherries. Shrub varieties range from “creeping” types that stay within a foot of the ground to tall bushes five or six feet in height