Edible Landscaping – Finally Becoming Our Reality

It is a beautiful fall day. You go outside to check the mail, as you do you cant help but to admire the beautiful Marigold blossoms, beside them, tucked away ever so nicely are several bunches of Kale flourishing in the shade of the bushy Marigolds. On your route back to the front door you look up in just enough time to observe a Hummingbird foraging for nectar. Obviously the Okra blossoms were not what she had in mind although the bees do not seem to mind. Just before walking up the steps to your front stairway,  you

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Oriental Yard Long Beans on railing of front porch

pause to see the most unusual orchid like bloom on the railing. A closer look reveals straight long beans blowing in the afternoon breeze. You take a deep breath before ascending the steps and are graced with the most pleasing aroma – Basil. The flowers of the Thai Basil sway in the breeze while the Malabar Spinach glistens in the sun. Yes, this sounds like something out of a corny novella but it is a daily reality for the members of the Bain Household & edible landscaping is the reason.

Our home is situated on a corner lot in a semi-rural subdivision. It is literally the first home you see when you pull in. No pressure right? We take great care to ensure that our home offers eye candy rather than an eye sore. While rows of corn and okra are

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Red Okra Bloom

eye candy to me, let’s be real – it’s not to everyone. Therefore we have tried to in cooperate flowers into the landscaping to distract from the fact that we are actually growing food right in our front yard! If you live in an area that has a strict HOA this may not be an option for you. However, if you just have quirky neighbors or a husband who is very concerned with having his grass to mow on the weekend (me) then the following ideas may be of use to you.

Layout

Layout is everything in creating an edible landscape. Plant vegetables that have beautiful blooms and do not take up much space. For instance, at this very moment our son is planting peas which have beautiful purple blooms with full green leaves. Where are we planting said peas? Well, since peas require trellising, which can be a challenge to work into a landscape, we decided to plant them beside each of our Okra plants. Okra is tall by nature so we are making it into our own natural trellis. In front of the Okra will go Lettuces & Kales of varying shapes & colors. These both benefit from the shade thrown by vinning plants such as peas. Planting alternating lettuces with Chrysanthemums (Mums), which is an edible flower, further camouflages the produce. The eye is automatically drawn to the blooms and the colorful leaves of the lettuce rather than the Okra and Peas. This is just one particular layout we will be using this fall. If you are looking for ground cover, consider something easy like Mache Corn Salad which is leafy green good for sautes or salads.

 

Maintenance

With any garden, edible or not, maintenance is required. With edible landscaping, failure to be diligent in this area will all but negate the entire purpose of the previous suggestion.  Unsightly, dead or dying vegetables or flowers can sometimes be avoided by strict adherence to the following steps:

  1. Inspect. Daily inspect vegetables for pest and disease.  Many of which if caught early enough will not present a huge problem.
  2. Water. Basic to every garden is regular watering. Depending on the area in which you live, time of year, and/or the types of plants growing, you may need to water up to twice a day or as little as once a week.
  3. Mulching. This little trick is valuable in more than one way.  Mulching is known to add a level of sophistication to the landscape – the level of sophistication depends on the type of mulching.
    • Rock – For me this is the more elegant of the selection which can even be elevated further by the type of rock. Options from Lava Rock, Pea Gravel, Pumice Rock, or even Polished Riverbed Pebbles. This option, in my opinion is more appropriate for trees or bushes.
    • Straw – This likely the least expensive option but has to be replaced frequently. Be careful and research the sourcing of the company and ensure no chemicals were used on it, especially if you are placing in the vegetable portion of your edible landscaping.
    • Hay – This seems to be the most beneficial form of mulching, although not the most elegant. Although we have not used it yet, we plan to purchase ours from a certified organic farm in our area.
  4. Harvest. Failure to harvest produce frequently will signal the plant to go to seed. While some seeding plants are pretty and add to the glory of the landscape, others will do you no favors. So just go get your food when its ready.

Our home has many planting areas but in each one we try to keep in mind that not only do we garden here but we live here. I’m actually adopting this mentality. Previously I felt that I live here why be concerned with what it looks like – IT’S FOOD! See, growth is possible for anyone – even me. Granted, we are not always successful – believe me you! However, we try to learn from our fails and make the garden better tomorrow. So to all you deck, front yard, & plant it anywhere it will grow gardeners: YOU GOT THIS, just add a flower or two. At the very least the birds and the bees will thank you.

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