Edible Landscaping: A Great Alternative to Traditional Landscaping
By Leigh Ann Dutton, Contributing Writer
I don’t dream of owning my own land. The very thought of tilling, sowing, and managing a large plot of land makes me hyperventilate. Throw in the idea of milking cows and herding pigs, and I just get overwhelmed.
Sure, it sounds great, but I’m not entirely sure this is God’s path for my family. At least not right now, and that’s okay!
However, I do want to steward the postage-stamp size plot of land the Lord has entrusted to me. I want to be as self-sufficient as I can with the resources I have.
I do want to grow my own food, harvest herbs from my backyard, and use table scraps to boost my garden soil. I dream of perhaps raising a few backyard chickens and harvesting my own honey one day.
But I wasn’t raised around fresh fruits and vegetables, and I barely know the difference between a weed and a flower – let alone that those weeds might have medicinal uses. I live where grass won’t grow, the climate is dry and harsh, and the winters are long and hard. The soil is filled with so much clay we could make pots for days.
[Tweet “Regardless of my limitations, I believe I’m called to care for God’s creation.”]
With this call comes a willingness to take baby steps. A willingness to not accept the status quo, to look for new ways to do things, and work hard to learn all I can in order to be a good steward of my environment.
Just because I don’t live on a farm doesn’t mean I can’t live my own dreams, in my own way, with my own giftings.
A couple of years ago we had the opportunity to buy our first home. When we moved in, there were no trees and very few plants in the ground, which also means we have very little grass – just enough to keep us legal, I suppose.
As I’ve researched how best to care for the land God has given us, I couldn’t justify spending loads of money on pretty flowers that wouldn’t do anything except look pretty in my yard.
I knew I wanted a vegetable garden and I certainly wanted my home to be aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but it wasn’t until I started doing more reading around the web that I discovered edible landscaping as a viable option for my home!
What is Edible Landscaping?
Edible landscaping is the practical integration of food plants within an ornamental or decorative setting. The same design principles as for ornamental landscapes are used, while substituting edible plants such as lettuces, blueberries, vegetables and fruit trees for some of the otherwise unproductive plant material. (source)
Edible landscapes offer an alternative to traditional landscapes. Edible landscapes are a useful alternative to the traditional landscape because it serves numerous purposes instead of being solely ornamental.
Why I Love the Idea of Edible Landscaping
1. I can water with a purpose.
We have to water a lot! We live in a very, very, very dry climate where it rarely rains.
Since we pay the city a nice chunk of money each month for the water we use on our lawn, it’s nice to know that I can create a space that food is produced from all that watering! If I’m going to water, why not make it edible?
2. I can provide food for my family.
We buy local as often as we can, but the idea of providing my family with food that we grew ourselves is even more exciting and appealing.
3. I can make an income and/or give my family options for bartering.
Our community is full of people who are looking to trade goods. I could use the food that I grow for meeting other needs like raw milk, fresh eggs, or peaches.
Plus if I can grow enough to sell that would be so helpful! Our plot of land could definitely give us more than enough food for our family.
Or better yet, I could grow food to help others in my community who might be struggling to make ends meet. Now, that would be amazing!
4. I can attract wildlife.
The standard home is full of shade trees and shrubs that not only do not provide food for your family, but it makes less than stellar homes for wildlife.
Edible landscaping attracts bees, butterflies, and birds galore. I’m amazed at all the butterflies we’ve been able to watch this year just with the few additions we’ve been able to make!
Of course, we attract elk and bears too, but that just comes with the territory no matter what sort of landscaping we do.
5. I can be a good steward of creation.
We want to be good stewards of our environment. God has given us so many wonderful ways to create beauty around us. I want to take advantage of that as often as I’m able. Edible landscaping seems like a great option!
How do you create an edible landscape?
It’s not hard, believe it or not! If I can do it, anyone can!
1. Not everything in your yard has to be edible.
You can work in ornamental plants and trees as well. So rest your pretty little mind, you can keep your peonies and tulips. I sure did!
2. Start small and be patient.
Creating an edible landscape takes time. Each year purpose to add a little more to your landscape that’s edible.
For example, this year we needed to consider trees for our yard that would help provide shade for our home.
Where we live, Aspen trees spread like weeds. We took advantage of nature’s provisions and marked several Aspens we wanted to allow to grow instead of mowing them down each time we cut the grass. Yet on the other side of our home, there were no trees growing wild. We needed to buy one to plant.
We chose to plant an apple tree this year. Not only will it provide shade for our home, but it will also produce fruit for us to eat in the fall!
3. Think about your needs.
What does your yard need? Shade? Ground cover? Determine what you need, then research edibles that grow well in your area.
Some edible landscape ideas:
- Fruit trees like apple or cherry
- Fruiting shrubs like currants or blueberries
- Cover plants like strawberries
- Herbs like catnip, lemon balm, and lavender (here are the herbs I’m growing this year)
- Edible flowers like pansies, nasturtiums, and lilac
4. Don’t forget to think long-term.
We made sure we didn’t allow any trees to come up or be planted in areas where we will need full sun for vegetables and fruiting shrubs to grow!
Think long-term when planting, but don’t let the long-term keep you from moving forward. Most everything can be moved around and around and around. Ask me how I know.
5. Think about using pots.
I love creating a welcoming front door for my family and guests. Why not use edibles like a decorative arrangement of herbs, a hanging tomato plant, or a pot of calendula, nasturtiums, and violas outside your front door?
If you’re not interested in transforming your entire yard using edible landscaping, you could incorporate edibles using pots instead.
Edible landscaping is a fun and useful way to spruce up your home while providing food for your family. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and it certainly doesn’t have to be hard.
Next time you need to purchase a tree, add a shrub, or spruce up a corner of your yard, instead of running to local nursery for something merely ornamental, consider what could be pretty and edible! A simple search on the Internet is about all I ever need before making a decision for my yard.
I love the idea of edible landscaping too and have been incorporating as much as I can over the past few years. We bought our house in 2011 and since then have added a vegetable garden, an herb garden, raspberry plants, blueberry plants, a rhubarb patch, two apples trees and two pear trees. Each year we add a little more and it makes me so excited to see things start to produce. I much prefer putting time and effort into things that I can get something out of, not just pretty flowers.
I couldn’t have said it better myself! I do love my pretty flowers, but I enjoy my edible plants and trees so much more! My children love going out and finding new currants on the bush and peas on the vine.
I love this idea, Leigh Ann! We planted some blueberry bushes in our yard this year, but they didn’t produce any fruit…hopefully they will next year!
Sometimes it takes a couple of seasons! I love blueberry bushes!