In today’s landscapes, beauty is no longer enough. Gardeners are transforming their landscapes from simply tasteful to really tasty. According to Ros Creasy, author of The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping, people of Renaissance times started the idea of separating utilitarian plants (food) from non-utilitarian flowers. Upper-class people saw growing only flowers near their home as a way to show off their wealth and power. They were so wealthy they could use their land to grow plants simply for pleasure and hide the edibles somewhere else.
While gardeners followed this model for years, many now appreciate the pollination and pest resistance benefits of growing the two side by side. Besides, today’s gardeners are looking for ways to elevate the use of their resources, like the idea of growing their own food and are having fun experimenting with new fruit and vegetable varieties.
If you’re looking for ways to use more vegetables and fruits in your backyard, try some of these ideas:
- Plant ever-bearing strawberries in hanging baskets, well out of the reach of hungry bunnies.
- Mix attractive vegetables like ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss chard, ‘Gretel’ eggplant, ‘Redbor’ kale and ornamental peppers with your perennials.
- Add edibles to your containers. Garden centers are selling “salad bowl” containers filled with a variety of leaf lettuces. I tried ‘Baby Bibb’ with pansies in the spring. Another landscaper is filling his clients’ containers with dwarf blueberry bushes, known for their colorful fall foliage. He says with containers, it’s easier to adjust the soil acidity (4.0-5.0 for blueberries).
- Grow edible flowers like nasturtiums, violas and pansies to spruce up your salads.
- Don’t relegate edibles to the backyard. Tuck ornamental ones like rhubarb in the front beds, replace a groundcover with creeping thyme or swap out a purely ornamental tree for a fruit tree. Just imagine harvesting apples from an espaliered apple tree grafted with three varieties.