The term edible landscaping was first used by landscape architect Robert Kourik in the 1980s. He introduced an environmentally-sound type of gardening that combined food production with attractive landscaping. The first book dedicated to this new landscaping idea was published in 1982.
Planting crops and ornamental plants together isn’t a modern technique. It started in Ancient Egypt and Babylonia, and Benedictine monks in the 10th Century planted rose gardens flanked by herbs.
During the Renaissance, ornamental gardens without herbs, fruits or vegetables became popular. Crops were relegated to their own, mostly unseen, gardens.
Edible gardens are beautiful, but the main emphasis is on environmentalism. The average lawn requires fertilizers, pesticides and regular use of electric mowers. Once all these environmentally harmful products are used, you have a lush green yard that’s visually appealing, but nothing you can use in your home.
Edible landscaping encourages you to grow your own fruits, herbs, and vegetables. This locavore approach to gardening helps preserve the environment- and saves you money.
An edible garden may include squash, tomatoes, basil, peppers and other vegetables planted next to violets, roses, lilies, and other flowers. Your vegetables no longer have to be hidden in windowsill containers or a backyard hothouse. Edibles can be out in the open with flowers and decorative greenery.
The location of vegetables and fruits now takes front and center with their flowering counterparts. In the past, crops were hidden in a sparse, workmanlike area in the yard. Flower gardens took precedence over crop gardens when it came to presentation and visual appeal.
Edible landscaping is an awesome idea. The assortment of fruit and vegetable plants, herbs and edible flowers turn your yard from an aesthetic space into a useful, utilitarian one. You can plant mint and use it as ground cover instead of a merely ornamental plant. Pick the mint leaves and use them in salads or as garnishes or flavorings for meals.
Advantages and Disadvantages of an Edible Garden
When you grow your own vegetables, fruits and nuts, you know what chemicals are used on them, if any. You won’t need to worry about how produce is picked, shipped or processed.
You’ll save water by building an edible garden. Home gardens require less than 50 percents of the water used in agricultural production. If you use drip irrigation, you’ll save more water. Agricultural production requires huge vats of water and often results in flooded fields.
It's possible to grow about $700 worth of produce and herbs in a small space if done correctly. If you grow your own fruits and vegetables, you'll get more vitamins and minerals than when you eat produce from a store.
Making your own edible landscaping helps curb food waste. You only grow what you need, and you can use any excess as compost. The compost helps create more plants. An edible garden helps reduce pollution and creates fresh oxygen to make your family healthier.
A home garden, regardless of the size or plants you grow, has a positive environmental impact.
Planning and maintaining an edible garden takes time, and if you’re too busy, you may not have the energy to give it your full attention. All plants, but especially fruits and vegetables are subject to pests and diseases.
Unless you are well-versed in the various problems common to certain plants, you may not recognize when produce is diseased until it is too late. You may also sustain minor injuries when gardening, such as sunburn or cuts from gardening implements.
Potagers or Kitchen Gardens
A potager also called a kitchen garden, gained popularity in 16th and 17th Century France. Herbs for soup were grown in small pots in people kitchens. Other types of edible plants were soon added to the mix, and the gardens resembled today’s edible landscape.
A 1994 survey showed that potagers account for 23 percent of the fruits and vegetables consumed in France. Potagers in today’s France are similar to the cottage gardens in England and has an informal design.
Country curate gardens, or Jardin de curés, focus on vegetables, with flowers well-displayed but secondary. The popularity of organic gardening in French culture has influenced the proliferation of edible landscaping in the country today.
A kitchen garden isn’t located in your kitchen, but it may be right outside your kitchen door in your backyard – or even in your front yard, depending on how your property is organized.
Edible Landscaping Setup
Determine if your garden will be part of a larger landscape or stand on its own. Is the garden situated where it can receive enough sunshine? Will it be easy to water and maintain? It's best to place an edible garden where you can see it from your kitchen window (or another window in your home), and watch its progress.
Edible landscaping or an attractive potager consists of a few vertical plants that hover over various small flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Vertical plants include corn stalks, towers of tomatoes or berry bushes. The vertical plants may serve as a wall or hedge, or they may be placed close to a fence or permanent wall in your garden.
Fruit trees are usually placed on the outer edges of a potager, along walkways or walls. Visitors to your garden may be tempted to pick lemons or apples as they stroll in your backyard on a sunny day! Flowers and strawberries may be planted next to the fruit trees.
A carefully planned garden has flowers and crop-bearing plants of many shapes and sizes. Make sure perennials are situated where they won't clash with seasonal plants. Annuals and vegetables are often planted next to each other and may serve as companion plants, benefiting and controlling growth.
It's important to harvest fruits, herbs, and vegetables in a way that won't disturb your landscaping pattern. Use herbs, flowers and other contrasting plants to hide empty spaces during dormant seasons for annuals. Ensure that varieties of flowers and edibles match the landscape scale to maintain visual appeal regardless of the season.
Edible Landscaping Tips
People with flower gardens in their backyard can easily add fruits, herbs or veggies to get an edible garden. Many edible plants are just as attractive as flowers and will help beautify your landscape.
Survey your current garden and trade boring-looking plants for attractive edibles such as blueberries or strawberries. (Berries make an excellent hedge or border plants.)
Plant, nut or fruit trees in your yard, but sequestered from patios or decks so that droppings won't cause problems. Plant columnar trees that are tall, but not as wide as regular fruit trees if you have a small area devoted to landscaping,
Edibles need six to eight hours of sunshine daily. Lettuce, radishes, spinach and other plants that grow well in cooler weather can stand some shade. Small cabbages and lettuces make attractive edging plants.
Use trellises, obelisks, and gazebos to add visual interest to your garden and support edibles.
Plants Used in Edible Landscaping
Reign in perennials with hidden metal or plastic strips. After harvesting, you can add salad greens or chervil. Some greens can be moved quickly without any damage to the plant or growing process. Try planting cress (Lepidium sativum), mustard (Brassica spp.) or curly parsley (Petroselinum crispum).
Here’s a list of plants you can use in an edging bed or path for your edible garden.
Self-sowers, or self-seeders, leave many seeds in the garden soil. They are usually annuals or biennials, and they germinate weeks after shedding. Self-sowers grow increasingly, and flower, seed, and repeat over and over again. Choose from dozens of self-sowing flowers for your edible garden.
Self-seeding flowers include hollyhocks (Alcea rosea), Larkspur (Consolida ambigua), violets (Viola spp.), evening primrose (Oenothera spp.)and tulips (Tulipa spp.). Self-seeding veggies and herbs include Sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus), Oregano (Origanum vulgare) and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare).
Edible Landscaping Challenges
Wild animals and other critters are the biggest obstacles to keeping a perfect landscape. Use fence or netting that's at least eight feet tall to keep deer out of your yard. Repellent sprays work to keep deer away if you use it regularly and change the spray formulas, so the deer don't get used to it.
Keep rabbits away by placing gardens within a three-foot-tall fence made of chicken wire. The fence should have one and a half-inch mesh. Bury the fence a few inches under the soil. Your dog may also be able to chase rabbits and deer and keep them from coming back.
Tour your garden every growing season to check drainage, sun and shade patterns, areas that need more watering and garden beds that are too crowded. Be aware that vegetables won’t grow near trees or under the eaves of your house, where their roots won’t get enough water.
Remove diseased plants immediately to keep other plants from wilting or dying.