Foodscaping for Edible Landscapes

foodscaping for edible landscapesRecent hurricane flooding, foreign trade wars and contamination scares make the case for growing your own food even stronger. While kitchen gardens have been around since medieval times, and some may even remember grandmother’s Victory Garden during WWII, the concept of interplanting edible plants in residential landscapes is a recent landscaping trend.

Originally proposed in the seventies, interest in urban agriculture and organic gardening have propelled the idea of “foodscaping” to the forefront. Selecting and installing a variety of edible plants for their vibrant color and texture can transform a home landscape into a source of year-round food and beauty.

Foodscaping plants

Below are plants, trees and bushes commonly used in edible landscapes:

  • Berry bushes: blueberries, currants, gooseberries, raspberries
  • Edible flowers: violets, nasturtiums
    edible landscaping nasturtiums
  • Fruit trees: figs, pears, persimmons, plums
  • Herbs: fennel, parsley, sage, oregano, rosemary, basil
  • Grape vines
  • Red leafed varieties of: cabbage, kale, lettuce, mustard
    red leaf lettuce for foodscapes
  • Unusual colored varieties of peppers and tomatoes 

Edible landscaping design techniques

Well-designed edible landscapes abandon the look of typical “row crops” in favor of tightly planted alternating color blocks, often in interesting geometric patterns. Corn stalks stand as hedges; pergolas drip with grapes, and zucchini vines become ground covers.

Interplanted edibles blend or contrast with many plants often found in the home garden, such as flowers and bulbs. Trellises or arbors usually reserved for roses can just as easily support runner beans, cucumbers or melons.

Edible landscapes framed by fences or meandering pathways also make great use of under-utilized yard spaces while minimizing expanses of turf grass.

Foodscaping benefits

The benefits of pairing home landscaping plants with edibles are many:

  • Home-grown provides food security.
  • Home-grown food saves energy in shipping, irrigation, and refrigeration.
  • Home-grown reduces “food miles” (the distance food travels from the source to the consumer).
  • Home growers have control over personal food safety.
  • Home-grown food is fresher therefore healthier.

It’s easy to begin transforming a yard into an edible landscape by working in phases. Many edible plants, such as herbs and salad greens are annuals just like those found in the flower border. Interplant some colorful Swiss chard or frilly parsley there. Lettuce and other salad greens also make great edgings. Also consider removing a few shrubs in favor of a berry bush hedge.

swiss chard for edible landscaping

Front yard foodscaping legislation

If you belong to a neighborhood Homeowner’s Association, be sure to check for rules restricting vegetable garden placement to the backyard. While the state of California passed a law banning this type of code in 2014, many courts continue to police the front yard veggie grower. But a well-designed foodscape integrating floral with ornamental edible plants could overcome neighborhood objection, or possibly even avoid detection altogether.

For more ideas and information, consult the books of edible landscape proponents Rosalind Creasy and Brie Arthur. Also, if you're ever in the Charlottesville area be sure to check out Edible Landscaping Plant Nursery in Afton, Virginia.

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