Why landscape with edibles? The questionable quality and safety of our food, plus its high price, should prompt ambitious homeowners to grow some of their own.
While you might think edible landscaping will take too much time to establish and maintain, consider that a fruit tree requires only a few extra hours of maintenance a year compared to an ornamental tree.
How to get started? As with most ornamental plants, edible landscape plants grow best in full sun (at least six hours) and on well-drained, fertile soils. And a wide variety of edible plants grow in almost any setting.
While an entire yard makeover using edible plants might be your goal, you should take small steps first. The best way to get started is to substitute plants one by one. For example, instead of planting a flowering cherry tree, plant a sweet or sour cherry tree. Instead of planting foundation shrubs such as yews and burning bushes, plant blueberries and hazelnuts. Instead of planting inedible ornamental flowers, grow edible flowers such as daylilies (edible flower buds), bee balm (make tea from leaves and flowers), and nasturtiums (edible leaves and flowers). Or grow beautiful vegetables, such as eggplants, Swiss chard, and basil. Instead of a hedge of lilacs or barberries, consider planting a hedge of blackberries or raspberries.
If you’re strapped for space, try container gardening. Plant breeders have given us edible plants to fit into almost any size container. Dwarf varieties of tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, herbs and even squash can grow in containers on a deck or patio. Diminutive fruit trees such as the colonnade apple tree grow only 8 feet tall and 2 feet wide and produce a few dozen apples. You can grow dwarf tomatoes such as window box Roma, or herbs such as creeping thyme and rosemary, in small containers.
The options are limited only by your imagination. For more ideas, sign up for my free Edible Landscaping e-newsletter online.