Want to double the function of your outdoor spaces? Looking to eat healthy, fresh foods but don’t want to tend a vegetable patch? Interested in expanding your plant palette beyond the typical ornamentals?
There are many reasons to consider using edible landscaping in your yard. You’ll have the benefi t of fresh food and spending less at the grocery store – not to mention having food right at hand. Planning and growing an edible landscape can be fun, and you’ll get all the same exercise and outdoor time as a regular landscape with the added benefit of good eating. Edible landscapes can be winners for the eye, as well as the table.
Take a look at your yard and note areas that might be good for an edible landscape. You’ll need spots with full sun – six or more hours a day – and well-drained soils. Deciduous plants can be placed where their winter appearance is less noticeable, while evergreens can be showcased year-round.
It’s a good idea to check with your homeowner’s association to make sure edibles are allowed in your front yard – if not, then plan to plant in the back, or look at fruiting evergreen trees and shrubs that can work with your neighborhood’s landscape rules. Also check on the growth habit of any plant to decide whether it fits with your design aesthetic. Edible plants can complement a range of styles – from a natural to a formal FROM PAGE 2
look – if their growth habit is considered.
The size and layout of the area as well as your ornamental plantings will help determine what can be planted. Remember the ‘right plant, right place’ principle and match the full grown size of plants to the space you have, as well as grouping water needs for plants to make maintenance easier.
Make sure that you’ll be able to reach plants for harvesting when planning a layout. If you’re limited on space, containers can be used to grow many edible plants.
The amount of time you can spend on your landscape will also be a deciding factor when selecting edible plants. As with ornamental plants, there’s some maintenance involved in edibles.
If your comfort with gardening is a bit of watering, pruning and fertilizing a few times a year, consider perennial plants as edibles to include in your landscape. If you like to spend more time in the garden tending plants or setting annuals out each season, consider mixing short-season edibles in your ornamental beds for greater variety.
Some perennials to consider include fruiting trees, shrubs, berries, and some herbs, which remain in place after harvesting. Tree selections include date palms, persimmons, loquat, jujubes, many coldhardy citrus varieties, and low-chill varieties of apples, figs, nectarines, peaches, and pears. For perennial shrubs, consider pineapple or cattley guavas, pomegranates, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. You can even try fruiting vines such as kiwis, passion fruit, muscadines and other grapes suited to Florida.
Perennial herbs also make a great addition to the edible landscape. Try lemon balm, rosemary or fennel as an attractive small shrub, ginger or lemon grass for a tropical feel, or add chives, pot marjoram, mint, oregano, or thyme as a groundcover Seasonal plants that work great in an edible landscape include a variety of vegetables and herbs. Basil, chard, eggplant, kale, lettuces, and hot or sweet peppers can be attractive plants used as bedding annuals or mixed in with other ornamentals. With an attractive trellis support, even pole or lima beans can complement your landscape scheme.
Make sure to consider healthy growth and eating when incorporating edibles. Try to keep edibles away from sidewalks where dogs may have access to plants. Be aware that not all pesticides and herbicides are safe for use on food plants. Read labels before selecting and educate yourself on products that can be used on edibles. This includes fertilizers, which may have restrictions on when to apply products to edible plants. Finally, always wash your harvest thoroughly before consuming. With a few extra considerations, you’ll find that edible landscaping is a fun and beneficial way to get the most out of your yard. Once you get started, you’ll want to keep adding ‘beauty and the eats’ to your home landscape.
Seasonal concerns from gardeners
AMY E. MORIE
Environmental Horticulture Agent ll Clay County Extension Office