Edible landscapes have been on the garden trend radar for the past couple of years and are at the top of the list for 2014. If you’ve tasted a still-warm strawberry or tomato straight from the garden, then you know the value of edible gardens - fresh, organic produce at your back door.
Edible gardens are a great way to save money, connect you and your family to the food cycle and inspire delicious culinary adventures.
The terms ‘edible gardens’ ‘edible landscapes’ or ‘edible landscaping’ simply mean incorporating edible plants - fruit, vegetables, nuts, herbs, edible flowers - into your landscape. This could be trees, shrubs or herbaceous plants mixed in with traditional landscaping or a bed devoted to growing vegetables.
I started experimenting with edibles in the landscape a couple of years ago, in my Mom’s garden. I was initially met with concern ‘why is there a cabbage in my flower bed?’ but I think I’ve won her over as this year I’ve seen kale mingling with her flowers and eggplant being incorporated into container plantings.
Edible gardens can be, and we think should be, beautiful. Consider the raucous show of apple blossoms in the spring, a shiny black eggplant in summer, or the crimson foliage of a blueberry bush in fall.
One thing to consider when planting an edible landscape is maintenance. Food plants often require more attention than traditional landscaping. Most vegetables require regular watering, harvesting and yearly replanting. You can reduce your time in the garden by selecting low-maintenance plants like blueberries and rhubarb and herbs like thyme, sage and lavender.
Here are 5 ways to incorporate edibles into your landscape:
1. Choose fruit or nut trees as shade trees. Why not choose a tree with multiple benefits? American chestnut is a regal tree that produces edible chestnuts, pear has beautiful glossy leaves and linden trees produce heavenly scented blossoms that make a delicious calming herbal tea that helps reduce high blood pressure. Be sure to plant fruit and nut trees away from hard surfaces, as dropping fruit, blossoms and seeds can be problematic.
2. Plant an edible hedge. Hedges define space and increase privacy. Try a high bush blueberry hedge for a harvest of sweet berries and great fall colour or consider common flowering quince. Quince fruit can be stewed with apples or made into an amazing jelly.
3. Cover vertical elements with a fruiting vine. Fences, arbours and trellises are space-saving solutions in small gardens. Arctic kiwi is hardy in Nova Scotia, a little brother to the common kiwi, and has beautiful white, green and sometimes pink variegated foliage.
4. Make space for a raised veggie bed. Raised beds provide good drainage, reduce soil compaction and are easier to access for planting, weeding and harvesting than in-ground beds. You can make or buy rectangular raised beds or for a fun alternative, try a galvanized trough from a food supply store. Make sure that whatever you use is free of potential soil contaminants – skip the creosoted rail ties or pressure treated lumber.
5. Integrate perennial herbs into your garden. Perennial (they come back year after year) herbs like sage, thyme and lavender are attractive and low-maintenance. They look great mixed with traditional landscaping in beds and borders and they do well in pots and planters.
We’d love to see how YOU incorporate edibles into your plantings. Please leave a comment below – or add a pic – of your edible garden.