Add Edibles to Your Landscape
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What if we could combine the uses of landscaping and vegetable/fruit gardening? That’s exactly what an edible landscape does! Edible landscaping is the use of food-producing plants in the residential landscape. It combines fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, vegetables, herbs, edible flowers, along with ornamental plants into aesthetically pleasing designs.
Things to Consider
Location. Most fruits and vegetables need at least 6-8 hours of sunlight.
Space. With any plant you landscape with, always have the mature size in mind when planting.
Maintenance. There is no “maintenance-free” landscape. Edibles will require more care during certain phases of growth. They will require more monitoring for disease and pests, as well.
Use. When planning on what to plant, be sure to note when those edibles are ready to harvest. What will be your use for those edible plants? You can have spring and summer producing plants and also cool crops in your edible landscape. Will you mix in annual plants with perennials? Keep the use of your harvest in mind.
Aesthetics. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but, when adding edibles to your landscape, you probably want something that will also look aesthetically pleasing. For example, if you like a certain ornamental plant because of its bright red fall foliage, you can replace that ornamental with blueberry bushes that offer bright red fall foliage too!
Types of plants to add to your landscape
Kale and cabbage have neat-looking foliage. Your red-type cabbage can offer some color, especially in the wintertime. Dinosaur kale has blue-green deeply textured leaves. Black Magic is also a kale that can add some textural interest to a landscape! You can use kale and cabbage as a border from a landscape perspective.
Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ is an excellent choice for adding color interest. It has multi-colored stems with glossy green and bronze leaves.
If you are looking for height, try planting okra! Okra is a popular gardening plant and it has a beautiful flower!
If you want something spiky or upright to enhance an area, members of the onion family can fulfill those qualifications. Leeks, garlic, and onions are annuals and can be fit into many different sunny garden spaces. Especially since they don’t require a lot of space to grow.
Strawberries make for great ground covers. They produce a white flower in spring and, of course, a bright red berry in the summer! If you overwinter strawberries, they can produce for multiple years but eventually, have to be replaced.
Other ground covers can include cabbage, kale, and lettuces.
Blueberry bushes will give you fall color and provide an abundance of fruit in the summer. Blueberry bushes should be pruned yearly, though.
Blackberry bushes also give you fall color! There are thornless varieties so that harvesting isn’t a painful event.
American Beautyberry is also a fruiting shrub that can add beauty to a landscape. While the berries are edible, they have little taste and are often used to make jams. You can also use this plant to deter mosquitos. When the leaves are crushed, it releases a chemical that helps repel mosquitoes.
Tomato plants could technically fill the job of a shrub but will require to be replaced annually. Tomato plants come in various shapes and sizes with different colored fruit. As we all know, Tomato plants are higher maintenance by disease and insect issues.
Dwarf apple trees. ‘Autumn crisp’, Gala (Simmons cv.), and ‘Shizuka’ are some dwarfing varieties of apple trees. Apple trees do require pruning and need to be monitored for pests.
From a landscaping perspective, figs can be used as shrubs or trees and are fairly low maintenance.
Asian pear trees can be a good addition to your edible landscape. You’ll need a couple of varieties to ensure a good fruit set.
You can always include Pecan, Persimmon, Pawpaw and other native trees that have edible qualities!
You can add some vertical aspects to your landscape by adding some trellises and vining plants. Muscadines are a great vertical space filler. They are also native to this area and will establish well.
Cucumbers and pole beans can be used in the background of your landscape, too!
Think outside the box when you go to landscape your house this year! Your landscape can provide more than just aesthetics. Most of the plants mentioned can be found at your local extension office plant sale and your local greenhouses. Please visit our website (caldwell.ces.ncsu.edu) for more information on edible landscaping!