Creating an Edible Landscape

After moving into a beautiful historic house in Roanoke City, I had the opportunity to really think about landscaping. I wanted our yard to accentuate the antique beauty of our new home, and I wanted it to be practical. When considering what kinds of plants I wanted to grow, I immediately thought of my pantry. “What kind of spices do I use regularly?” I asked myself. “What veggies and fruits am I always buying at the grocery store?” When I was growing up, my mother always kept a vegetable garden. We had a big, rich yard and plenty of soil. Season after season, growing food on our landscape just made sense.

Now, “edible landscapes” make more sense than ever. Many homeowners have incorporated produce gardens into their landscaping plans, and many others are utilizing community gardens as a food resource. No matter where we come from, the ability to grow our own fresh, organic produce is an awesome and useful feat.  And, in a world where food shortages are an ever-persistent reality, edible landscapes have become a huge point of interest among landscape innovators. Lawn and Landscape magazine recently published an article on urban agriculturist Tracy Lee Sewell, who has been creating edible landscapes for restaurants and residents in Georgia. As landscaping innovators ourselves, Roanoke Landscapes was interested in finding out more about what edible landscaping is and how to do it. Here’s what we dug up.

What is an Edible Landscape?

Like an “edible arrangement,” an edible landscape combines natural beauty with delicious practicality. It uses produce and spices as decorative elements within a landscape design. An edible landscape can be a mix of traditional landscaping elements (flowers, shrubs) and produce, or all produce. However, for most families, a small edible component within a traditional landscape is enough to provide health, aesthetic, and economic benefits.

How Can I Create an Edible Landscape?

Edible landscapes are typically very simple to create and customize. For homeowners and landscape designers, the most pressing question is how to combine produce, flowers, and shrubs in an attractive way. There are many different combinations that homeowners can try for themselves, but it’s important to keep a few key ideas in mind. Generally, an edible landscape is meant to diversify not just your garden, but also your pantry. Capitalize on this by choosing a wide variety of plants with different colors, textures, and forms. This will undoubtedly add interest to your landscape as well. If you’re worried about this looking too hectic, utilize pathways, patios, planters, borders, and hedges to give your garden some increased organization. Labels can become particularly helpful when a lot of produce is being grown side-by-side with flowers and shrubs.

Why Should I Grow an Edible Landscape?

Edible landscapes give you a much more productive, practical garden. Though flowers are beautiful, their blooms are fleeting and not very useful to us once gone. Produce can be harvested and enjoyed by families and communities, while also having aesthetic value. A bright red pepper plant has just as much flare as a rose bush, and fragrant herbs and spices make beautiful and durable borders. Even a small edible landscape can save families hundreds in grocery bills while providing nutritious, home-grown food. Large scale edible landscapes are being used to provide fresh produce to restaurants and help feed millions of impoverished people who have limited access to fruits and vegetables. It’s a growing movement than anyone can get involved with. Start small, and see where it takes you.

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