Edible Landscaping: Good Enough to Eat
Show your neighbors how beautiful food can be by pulling up your grass and replacing it with homegrown produce.
By Lisa Munniksma, Managing Editor, Urban Farm magazine
If you want to keep your neighbors and yourself happy with an eye-pleasing palette outside your door, you should know it’s possible to have your beautiful landscape and eat it, too. Edible landscaping is a challenging and enlightening way to reduce your farm-to-table mileage to virtually nothing, enhance your neighbor relations and grow food in a limited space, such as a front yard, backyard or sidewalk patch.
The concept of edible landscaping is catching on, so growing peas up a trellis along your porch doesn’t raise as many eyebrows as it once did. But it’s still a good idea to check out your new landscape plan with your neighbors before you dig up your yard.
“A good step is to ask if anyone else wants to join in creating edible gardens and landscapes,” suggests Michael Seliga of Cascadian Edible Landscapes in Seattle, Wash.
4 Tips for Working with HOAs
Your Homeowners’ Association might have something to say about your new edible landscape installation. Try these tips from Michael Seliga of Cascadian Edible Landscapes in Seattle, Wash., when working with the committee to get your plan passed:
- HOAs have a great opportunity to create a community-scale edible landscape with the resources of land and people at the ready. Offer to assist in facilitating the project.
- Present your HOA with your edible landscape plans and visual aids to support your idea.
- Garner support with collective input into your planning process. Plant a favorite fruit or vegetable of a particular neighborhood curmudgeon in your landscape and promise a cut of the harvest.
- Develop a maintenance and harvesting plan to ease the concerns of those who might worry about rotting fruit attracting pests.
Neighbors can save money by sharing tools and buying in bulk, offer support and advice to one another, and share the harvest. (Read more about yard sharing.)
“Next, having a design or plan is nice to show someone who is curious, Seliga continues. “See if they want to grow anything in your yard, or see what their favorite fruit or vegetable is, and plan it into your landscape. Homeowners’ associations have rules, so checking them is a good idea of you live under their jurisdiction.”
Fruits, nuts, vegetables, berries and herbs are tasty, sure, but they’re also beautiful additions to an edible landscape. They flower, have striking foliage and bare interesting-looking fruit.
“Semi-perennial artichokes, blueberries, fruit trees — normal or espaliered — are beautiful. Fig trees are especially beautiful and delicious, to me. Most culinary herbs are ornamental, too, and provide the best return on investment per square foot,” says Seliga. “Pea towers are fun, because peas have little ‘hands’ and climb up the structure. Rainbow chard looks great bunched up and is nutritious. Tea plants (Camelia sinensis) and kiwi vines are fun, but kiwis need a strong structure to grow on. The main thing is to grow what you like to eat. Contact a local specialist to help get a plan together.”
Developing a full edible landscape takes time and planning for tasks that need to be carried out all year long.
“Vegetables take more maintenance than perennials like berries, trees or herbs, so if you're not sure you'll stay on top of the planting calendar, plant some perennials,” Seliga says.
He suggests starting with five edible items this year and progressing slowly from there — 10 the second year, 12 to 20 the third year — so you are comfortable with the time investment required.
With your edible landscape plans blooming, share your bounty with neighbors. A sense of community is the most beautiful part of building a landscape.
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