Tomatoes in edible landscape

7 Edible Landscape Design Ideas to Make the Most Out of Your Garden

The idea behind the edible landscape design is to use the space to the maximum and produce fruits and vegetables at the same time. Instead of choosing only flowers or shrubs, replace them with various species that give out food. However, this doesn’t mean you must quit the aesthetic element, not at all. Today we are going to have a look at the advantages of this type of gardening, the principles on which it relies, some steps on how to do it, plant suggestions and some other ideas for the landscape.

Edible Landscape Design Advantages

Recently, this type of design seems to have become more and more popular. An increasing number of gardeners choose, for instance, blueberries instead of azaleas. But let’s see some of the reasons why they are doing this:

1. Saving Energy

If you grow your own food in the backyard, you need no shipping, no long-term storage, and overall less energy. This happens because you plow, plant, spray and harvest the products on your own.

2. Safety

You know exactly what chemicals you used for the plants (if at all), so your food is safe. Moreover, you’re not using huge batches, so the fruits and vegetables can’t exchange chemicals.

3. Saving Water

Home gardeners generally use less than 50% of the water that is used in agricultural production for a single crop. If you’re using drip irrigation, you can save up even more. What’s more, your garden will (hopefully) not get flooded.

4. Saving Money

Even if you have a small backyard or front yard, you can produce lots of fruit and vegetables. Thus, you will save the money you would have spent at the grocery store.

5. More Nutrition

The fruits and veggies you pick yourself are more nutritious than the ones stored in the shops for days. Moreover, you pick them when they’re ripe, whereas the great producers pick them while under-ripe so that they can last the transportation period.

Edible Landscape Design Principles You Should Follow

If the arguments above convinced you, then it’s time to move on to the principles you should follow in edible landscape design.

1. Have a Plan

It is recommended to make a sketch or a plan of the garden in detail. Before planting, imagine the layout. What will it look like in two weeks? But a month? If you’re a fan of the formal gardens, then you can go for a traditional rows design. Alternatively, you can allow for a free-flowing space and play around with colors, forms, and textures.

2. Choose the Flavor and Beauty

You can get a seed starter kit from any specialized shop nearby. Choose the flavors you like, but pay attention to colors as well. The more varied your edible landscape design is, the better. Luckily, there are plenty of varieties to choose from.

3. Low to High

If you want to have a tiered look, try the following placement: the plant crops that remain down to the ground are placed on the front, while the taller ones stay in the back. This adds to the height and depth of your garden. Remember to use bamboo trellises if some plants need it, for elevation and structure. Raised beds are a great idea as well, but more about this later.

4. Don’t Forget about Flowers

Even if you choose to have an edible landscape design, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care of flowers as well. They have an essential role, that of bringing pollinators into the garden. Make sure you synchronize the blooming times for them all.

5. Use Ground Covers

These are especially important, since they cycle the nutrients, cut down on watering, mulching and weeding, plus they offer the right habitat for insects and soil organisms. For this, you should make polycultures of 2-4 species.

  • Running Species

They spread indefinitely and have the ability of weaving among various other plants. They can fill up the soil and sunlight gaps.

  • Clumping Species

These can only grow to a specific width. Their spreading rate is rather slow. Be careful, since the clumpers are supposed to be taller than the runners.

In a couple of years, you will notice that the clumpers seem to be islands surrounded by runners. By that time, the ground will be filled with plants. For this reason, you won’t need to mulch it anymore.

How to Do It

Now we are going to focus on some establishment steps you need to follow when designing an edible backyard.

1. Outline the Beds

Most likely, you are going to use raised beds for planting. The first thing you need to do is to outline them with string, hose or flags. Alternatively, you can cut the plants you already have as close to the soil as you can.

2. Use Stakes or Flags

These are useful for marking out the location of the plants you used. In this way, you can remember exactly what you planted and where.

3. Plant Trees and Shrubs

Now it’s time to plant any trees or shrubs that you had in mind. These should be 1-2 inches higher than usual to have space for mulching.

4. Use Mulch

The entire area should be covered in a sheet mulch. This will help the plants grow faster and be healthy.

5. Plant Herbs

Take away the mulch and cut an X into the newspaper/cardboard. Dig the soil, put the plant in and then cover it with a thin layer of mulch.

6. Maintenance

For 3-4 months, you should use a soil tester to see the level of moisture. Whenever it’s dry, water heavily. Remember to water the soil, not the plant foliage.

7. Weed the Bed

Finally, tend to the bed and weed it carefully. Each year, you will need to offer it less and less maintenance.

Edible Landscaping Plant List

Here you have some suggestions for the plants you can choose:

Vegetables

  • Tomatillo;
  • Swiss chard;
  • Rhubarb;
  • Sweet pepper;
  • Radish;
  • Onion;
  • Lettuce;
  • Hot pepper;
  • Kale;
  • Kohirabi;
  • Carrot;
  • Broccoli;
  • Beet;
  • Leek;

Fruits

  • Strawberry;
  • Peach;
  • Pear;
  • Kiwi;
  • Plum;
  • Cherry;
  • Grapes;
  • Blueberry;

Herbs

  • Thyme;
  • Basil;
  • Sage;
  • Lavender;
  • Rosemary;
  • Lemon verbena;
  • Parsley;

Edible Landscape Design Ideas to Inspire You

Finally, we are presenting you some edible landscape design ideas that can inspire you for your own backyard. These combinations should respect the principles we previously outlined, so keep this in mind.

1. Medicine Combination

Besides growing fruits, veggies or herbs, you can also use medicinal plants. This helps you build soil and support bird and pollinator habitat. Use a self-heal ground cover to suppress weeds and to let taller plants poke through it.

  • White yarrow;
  • Fennel;
  • Anise Hyssop;
  • Bee Balm;
  • Self-Heal (four);
  • White Clover;
  • Broodleaf Sage;
  • Comfrey;
  • Huang-qi;
  • Wood Betony.

2. Blueberry Design

This idea should be used in a bed placed in a sunny corner. It is a good idea if you want to have plenty of strawberries and blueberries every year. The strawberry will create a ground cover to keep moisture and suppress the weeds. Remember that blueberries need very acidic soil with a good drainage.

  • White yarrow;
  • Red clover;
  • Strawberry;
  • Northcountry, Northblue and Bluecrop Blueberries.

3. Maintenance-Free Herbs

Once you are over establishing this edible landscape design, you won’t need to provide any more maintenance for this bed of culinary herbs. The edible ground can be made of violets, oregano, thyme, while taller plants can poke through it.

  • White yarrow;
  • Bee balm;
  • Broadleaf sage;
  • Anise hyssop;
  • Oregano;
  • Violet;
  • Creeping thyme;
  • White clover.

4. Cherries and Gooseberries

This is yet another edible landscape design bed that requires little to no maintenance. The flowers can attract beautiful insects and thus keep the garden going.

  • White yarrow;
  • Sour cherry tree (North Star variety);
  • Comfrey;
  • Lovage;
  • Oregano;
  • Sky blue aster;
  • Dutch white clover;
  • Creeping thyme;
  • French sorrel;
  • Gooseberry shrub (Invicta + Hinnonmaki Red);
  • Johnny Jump-Up violets.

5. Herbs and Apples

This combination of herbs, chokeberries, flowers, and apples needs to be placed in a sunny location. The ground layer of oregano, thyme, and violets can help conserving water, supporting soil life and keeping weeds at bay.

  • White Yarrow;
  • Creeping thyme;
  • Black chokeberry;
  • Anise hyssop;
  • Apple tree (Liberty + Wolf River);
  • Dutch white clover;
  • French sorrel;
  • Sky blue aster;
  • Lovage;
  • Oregano;
  • Johnny Jump-Up violet;
  • Comfrey;
  • Comfrey (Russian Bocking).

6. Herbs and Cherry

Yet again, this bed should be placed in a sunny location. It will ensure your necessary amount of herbs and cherries.

  • White Yarrow;
  • French sorrel;
  • Sky blue aster;
  • Lovage;
  • Johnny Jump-Up violet;
  • Russian Backing Comfrey;
  • White clover;
  • Creeping thyme;
  • Oregano;
  • Dutch White clover;
  • North Star sour cherry tree;
  • Anise hyssop.

7. Sweet and Sour Bed

The sweet gooseberries are a high-yielding species, which is why they’re perfect for an edible landscape design. The sorrel and the yarrow help cycle the nutrients in the soil. Moreover, the clover offers nitrogen for all the plants in this bed.

  • Yarrow (Golden Fleece and Dwarf Yellow);
  • Gooseberry shrub (Invicta + Hinnonmaki Red);
  • French sorrel;
  • Dutch White clover.

Conclusion

To sum up, it’s a great idea to go for an edible landscape design. You can grow your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs, which cuts down on your spending and provides a healthy meal. Moreover, some of the ideas suggested above need very little maintenance over the years, if at all.

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Bonnie Enos

I spend my time in my garden trying to create the greatest outdoor space possible. My garden is my happy place and where you will always find me on a nice day. I take my experience and share it here for you to read!

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