Edible Landscaping Ideas for Any Yard
Have the Best Yard in Your Neighborhood by Landscaping With Edibles
Reading Time: 6 minutes
In the present state of our economy and breaks in the food supply chain, more and more people are looking for edible landscaping ideas. Landscaping with edibles is finding its place in neighborhoods and homesteads alike as people look for ways to help feed their families.
What does edible landscaping mean?
Edible landscaping is simply replacing ornamental shrubs, flowers, and plants with those that produce food. Some neighborhoods have HOA rules against having a garden bed in the front lawn, but many are finding a way around that by using edible landscaping ideas to produce food.
There are many beautiful plants that are edible. When designing your ideal homesteading land or your lawn in town, there are many options to have a gorgeous landscape.
Why plant edible landscaping?
1) Planting perennials provides produce for years to come
Perennial plants will produce year after year without having to be replanted. Fruit trees, nut trees, berry bushes, many herbs and flowers, and even a few vegetables are perennial plants.
2) Planting annuals provide a variety
Annual plants are those which must be replanted every year to produce because they only last one season. Using annuals in edible landscaping allows you to plant the things you liked last year and choose something new you would like to try. This adds a variety of color, texture, and nutrition to your family’s diet.
3) Edible landscaping provides a beautiful view
All plants flower to produce their fruit. Many provide spectacular displays of color, scents, and landscape interest. Some of my favorite things in the garden are edible flowers. They add beauty, insect repellent, beneficial insect attraction, and food.
4) An edible landscape provides pleasure
Gardening of any kind brings pleasure to the gardener. Picking the garden spot, prepping the soil, choosing the plants, planning the layout, planting the seeds, tending the plants, and reaping the harvest; each step is a journey of pleasure. There is always something to learn when you’re a gardener.
What bushes are edible?
We won’t exhaust the list here, but I will share a few of the more common bushes used in edible landscaping.
Blueberry bushes – These are usually the first ones people think of. They are productive in the second year. If your space is tight, they do well in elevated planter boxes. Blueberries are one of the most nutritious fruits you can grow. They freeze well, are their sweetest when dehydrated, and make excellent jams, jellies, and wine.
Rugosa Rose bushes – These are versatile and one of my favorites. They can grow up to eight feet tall if unpruned. Edible flowers will enchant you with their fragrance. The petals of the rose are delicious in salads and make wonderful teas.
The rose hips, which are left after the bush has finished flowering in the fall, are one of the highest sources of vitamin C available. They can be eaten raw or dehydrated for later use.
Store them in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Use them for teas and other hot beverages to boost the immune system. They make excellent jams and jellies. They also serve as nice privacy or protective barrier.
Raspberry bushes – Easy-to-grow and if you choose an ever-bearing variety you will have a longer harvest starting in mid-summer right up to the first frost. They make delicious jams and jellies.
Just a word of caution, do not plant raspberry bushes within at least 100 feet of blackberry bushes. They share common diseases carried by certain mites and aphids.
Elderberry Bushes – Believe it or not, these make beautiful edible landscaping. They can reach 20 feet tall if left untrimmed. In the spring, you will be dazzled by an amazing display of star-shaped white flowers which will develop dark purple fruits.
In the fall, you’ll be rewarded with brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows in full spectrum. The elderberry is one of the best immune-boosting berries available. They make excellent teas, syrups, wine, and elixirs.
Dehydrate and crush into powder for long-term storage. They freeze well if you want to make syrups or wine.
Rosemary – Most people don’t think of rosemary as a bush because it is usually grown in an herb garden or in a container for kitchen use. However, it can get three feet tall and five feet wide in warm climates where it can be planted in the ground as a shrub.
Rosemary is an evergreen making it an anchor for edible landscaping ideas. The needles can be used fresh in almost any recipe. It’s a fragrant attractant for beneficial insects.
Fruit and Nut Trees in Edible Landscaping
Fruit and nut trees are a long-term investment. Dwarf varieties can start producing in one to three years while standard varieties can take five to seven years to produce a main crop. Once they start producing, they will produce for 30 years and longer if well cared for.
Choose the spot you plant them carefully. Once they have put down a root system, transplanting may kill them and at the very least it will stunt their growth and production.
Make sure to check the cross-pollination needs of your trees. Many varieties require a male and female or another variety in the same family to produce fruit. There are several self-pollinating varieties to choose from which is helpful if you are limited on space.
Some of the more popular fruit and nut trees are pecan, walnut, peach, apple, fig, satsuma, pomegranate, orange, mulberry, banana, and avocado.
Edible Flowers for Landscaping
Planting edible flowers is an ancient part of gardening. Many people, like myself, plant flowers that are edible, serve as beneficial insect attractants, and/or insect repellants. Who doesn’t love dual-purpose things?
Marigolds – Annual, edible flowers are often the first thought of, but not all varieties have a pleasant flavor. The tasty varieties have a citrusy tang with peppery undertones. Most people use them in salads or sprinkled over egg dishes. Perfect insect repellent.
Nasturtium – One of my personal favorites. This annual flower comes in a variety of breathtaking colors. The leaves and flowers are edible with a mild peppery flavor but not truly spicy. They are delicious on pizza, in salads, or used as any lettuce would be. Great insect repellant.
Balsam – This annual flower is also known as the “touch-me-not” because its mature seed pods will explode at the slightest touch or breeze. The beautiful flowers and leaves are edible. The greens have a taste reminiscent of mustard greens. They are said to be high in vitamin C and their calcium content is similar to whole milk. Marvelous beneficial insect attractant.
Chamomile – A cheery, annual plant known for its medicinal properties. While both Roman and German varieties are edible, German Chamomile is most preferred because of its sweet taste. The flavor is akin to apple blossom.
When the flowers look like a shuttlecock, they are the most potent and are ready for harvest. Both fresh and dried flowers are used in healthy teas, desserts, hot drinks, popsicles, salves … great insect repellent in the garden.
Calendula – Annual flower which comes in a rainbow of orange, yellow, peachy, and strawberry colors. Petals and leaves are used medicinally. They tend to taste bitter. Most often used in herbal medicine, but it is enjoyed in soups, salads, and rice dishes. Works well as an insect repellant.
A note on edible flower safety:
Only eat organic flowers. Many plants purchased at a nursery are treated with herbicides and/or pesticides to prolong their shelf life before purchase. This makes them unsafe for human consumption. Because these flowers grow easily from seeds, it’s recommended to add them to your edible landscape by planting their seeds.
Tips For Edible Landscaping
There are a few gardening tips that are applicable to all edible landscaping.
1. Choose disease-resistant plants when possible. Within plant families, some varieties are more resistant than others.
2. Know which plant diseases are prevalent in your area and choose plants resistant to them. Your local extension office, farm and garden supply, or local gardeners can help you with this information.
3. Know your gardening zone and choose plants recommended for your area. This will save time, energy, and money.
4. Plant what you like to eat. Planting something in your edible landscape which you and your family won’t eat is a waste of time, money, and energy.
5. Be sure you know the regulations for any HOA you may be a part of.
6. Draw out your edible landscaping ideas in your garden journal. Be sure to consider sun and shade requirements, soil needs, and the height of plants in relation to one another. Adjust as many times as you need to before planting.
Now that you have the basics, what edible landscaping ideas will you put to work in your yard?
Originally published in the March/April 2022 issue of Countryside and Small Stock Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.