Grow Food in Your Landscape

comments (9) August 1st, 2009

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ChrisMcLaughlin Chris McLaughlin, contributor
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How funky would this be growing in your front yard?
Photo by thebittenword under the Creative Commons Attribution Licence 2.0.
A prettier version of kohlrabi.
Photo by B.D. under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
Any herb in this garden would work among traditional landscaping.
Photo by Woodleywonderworks under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
Blueberry bushes work double-duty as landscape shrubs.
Photo by quacktaculous under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
Blackberries installed themselves in an ornamental bed at the corner of this house. They provide color and tasty berries after the azalea has faded.
How funky would this be growing in your front yard?
Photo by thebittenword under the Creative Commons Attribution Licence 2.0.Click To Enlarge

How funky would this be growing in your front yard?


Photo by thebittenword under the Creative Commons Attribution Licence 2.0.

While chasing my runaway dog to the park I ran into a neighbor whose home is placed at the street corner in our suburban neighborhood. We talked about plants, home-grown veggies and the like. She shrugged her apology, "I wish I could have a vegetable garden, but we just don't have the space and everything is landscaped...sooo." I saw what looked like remorse in her eyes. Cynical me wasn't buying it.

It's sad really, that people honestly think they can escape me that easily. It's so not gonna happen. I looked around her broad, horseshoe shaped yard. It was, indeed, beautifully landscaped. There was a turf so manicured I still can't be sure it wasn't actually carpeting. Lovely lace-leaf Japanese maples, stunning hydrangea, fine ornamental grasses, and  friendly daylilies made her yard a pleasure to be in. It was eye-candy for sure...but just one more step would take it to Eden level.

"Oh, I don't know..." I said as I surveyed my mark, "why can't you just tuck the veggies right in with the landscaping?" Now, If you haven't tried that line on someone yet, you really ought to. The tickle you get inside is indescribable as you watch their eyes dart about looking for an escape or at least a good reason why they "couldn't possibly...". Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that my neighbor thinks food crops are common (therefore beneath her yard) or anything. In fact, I knew her to be someone who loved plants and had seen her out here tending the landscape herself; she had no fear of the dirt.

Almost any vegetable, herb, or fruit can be used in edible landscaping
The problem with food crops is the aesthetics thing. That is, she didn't think corn stalks would enhance the front walk the way the bronze maples did. She's probably right. But leeks, lettuces, cabbages, and bush beans would look wonderful. Cucumbers trained up a trellis on a fence would add interest. Kale is handsome, and chives add a delicate look. If she liked interesting plants, she could go for artichokes or the alien-looking kohlrabi. Do I even need to mention strawberries?

Bell, banana wax, and jalapeño peppers are more great choices for edible landscaping. I reminded her of the charming blueberry bush, dwarf orange and pear trees. Also, columnar apple trees, which were bred for suburban situations. As my list grew, she stopped looking around and asked questions instead. I hadn't even gotten to the herbs!

Sage comes in gorgeous colors not to mention textures. Basil and rosemary smell delicious as you brush past them. I mentioned fennel, oregano, dill, cilantro, parsley, and fern-like tarragon. Because she was a gracious captive audience, I felt I also owed her my token beneficial insect lecture and explained how her lovely flowers would benefit her crops. By this time, I had released my dog, and all three of us walked around her front yard discussing possibilities. She mentioned that she had always wanted an herb garden.

I have no idea if she'll plant edibles alongside her ornamentals or not. I only know that I had her thinking about it. Proving once again that no yard is safe around me. I'm okay with that.

I can only hope that when my dog lifted his leg and peed on her azaleas that it wasn't a deal-breaker.

posted in: Edible Landscaping

Comments (9)

ShawnDavis writes: Thumbs up for the work
Posted: 2:05 am on October 26th
Pammy_B writes: Anyone seen the Urban Garden art projects that started in California? Or read any of Barbara Creasy's books? Front yard gardens are going strong. In my neighborhood of KC, Kansas, yards have fruit trees, salad patches, herb patches, potato patches....containers filled with tomato plants and basil grace front porches. This year I put in yukon gold potatoes in the front yard flower beds. I figured if door-yard gardens are all over Europe they might as well be here, too.
Posted: 5:57 pm on September 4th
sqbee writes: Thanks for the great article. I've been "sneaking" veggies into my ornamental borders for years. I started out because I just didn't have enough sun to grow vegetables in my backyard, so the sunny ornamental border in my front yard was the obvious choice. Now I do it because it's beautiful and really convenient. Also, tucking veggies into a border is a clever way to grow fresh, organic produce without offending HOA rule enforcers. As a Master Gardener Volunteer in Loudoun County, Virginia, our mission has been to encourage the community to look at creative ways to increase vegetable production locally. Edible landscaping is a real no-brainer!
Posted: 4:55 pm on September 3rd
andyabq writes: I have been planting tomatoes between the rose bushes in my front yard for a few years now. And they always seem to do better than the ones I plant elsewhere. Of course I have to watch out for rose thorns when I harvest the tomatoes, but they're worth it.

I also have a raised herb garden in the front yard. It is a small space, but there are flowers planted in among the basil, tarragon, thyme and chives. Pretty to look at and good tasting too.
Posted: 6:12 pm on September 2nd
LpAngelRob writes: We've been thinking about it... but there are few vegetables that grow in full shade.

On the side, though, there might be something to pair with roses...
Posted: 5:06 pm on September 2nd
ellisaana writes: This is a great article and a idea.

One of the prettiest urban front yards I have seen this summer was in NE Washington DC. There were a variety of herbs, greens and tomatoes tucked between the foundation plants. The garden spilled out, all the way to a low fence at the public sidewalk. A row of artichokes marching along the entry walk.
In my own yard in the VA suburbs, I am not so lucky. Veggies just don't grow well in our shaley soil. My edible garden grows in 12, 14 and 16 inch large pots around the deck. I have sage, chives, rosemary, oregano and basil as well as lettuces, cucumbers, snap-peas, beans, cherry tomatoes and sweet peppers along side pots of nasturtiums and Hibiscus.
Peppers are my favorites. They flourish in our hot Washington summers. I grow different varieties and colors: gypsy (reds), golden bells, big berthas (greens) and lilacs. The deep green, bushy pepper plants make a living screen
between our deck and the neighbors.

Posted: 7:47 pm on August 22nd
JadaE writes: Great article...I have found that pepper plants, herbs, and lettuce look really great in my front flower bed! Swiss chard also looks really good as a border plant. I just tuck them in around my zinnias and daisies, and they definitely look like they belong! :)
Posted: 2:31 pm on August 5th
ChrisMcLaughlin writes: Ohhh...I'll bet it does! Thanks!
Posted: 9:52 pm on August 1st
AuntDebbi writes: Great article. Swiss chard looks stunning in a flower border.
Posted: 9:15 pm on August 1st
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