By Amanda Strack, Conservation Garden Park
Growing food in the landscape is a fun way to create a beautiful environment that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also offers beneficial uses. Edible plants fall into several categories, such as fruit bearing, vegetables, or herbs, which can be used for their oils or aromas and flavors while cooking, as well as their healing properties. Creating an edible garden is an exciting way to make your landscape multidimensional.
When planning an edible garden, consider things like exposure, structure, and color. Edible landscapes need to be planned like any other landscape, which means putting the right plant in the right place. All plants have specific growing needs and require different amounts of sunlight. Plants that grow better in the cooler season can be grown in shadier areas, while plants that need more sunlight and require more space to spread out will need a generous area in which to grow.
Fruit bearing plants
When planting fruit trees, be sure to count for the spread of their canopy when you plan. If you are working with limited space, espaliered trees are trained to grow against fences or walls are a wonderful way to get fruit while adding an artistic element to the landscape.
To add visual and structural interest, add an arbor and grow grapes or Hardy Kiwi Vine. The hanging grapes look beautiful and resemble something out of a painting, but they also provide a snack while out in the garden. Just remember that if you grow grapes over an arbor that will be walked under, the fruit will drop, so plan accordingly for easy cleanup.
Hardy Kiwi Vine produces a small fruit that is smooth, rather than the fuzzy kiwi we are used to buying at the store. The vine has fragrant white blooms in spring and requires a pollinator if you don’t get a self-pollinating variety. It will grow on any structure, so have fun training this vine wherever you want to add a climbing element.
Adding raised growing boxes is a fun way to add some structural elements into the landscape too. Raised beds are always nice for vegetables, but using them for brambles like raspberries and blackberries is a great way to keep them from traveling to unwanted places in the landscape.
Growing herbs instead of typical perennials can add color, texture, and fragrance to the landscape. Beebalm comes in hues of pink and the flowers are not only edible but have interesting petals and attract many types of pollinators. Arp Rosemary is a variety of rosemary that overwinters in our climate and the glaucous leaves have an aroma comparable to no other. Arp Rosemary is an evergreen plant providing year-round interest. Some other showy and beneficial herbs are Axminster Gold Comfrey, lavender, sage, Lemon Balm, and mint. As an added benefit, deer dislike the fragrant foliage of herbs and tend to avoid them.
Here at the Conservation Garden Park we are experimenting with lesser known plants like Honeyberry, Paw Paw, and Hardy Kiwi Vine in our Harvest Yard. Come by and see how they are adapting to a low-water environment and see if they are something you’d like to grow in your own yard!