Edible landscaping is quickly becoming more attractive amid soaring food prices, rising fuel costs, alarming pesticide scares, and increased environmental aware-ness.
And, while a meticulously manicured ornamental lawn may indeed be beautiful to behold, it is most often chemically treated and nutritionally barren.
Edible gardens are not what they used to be. No more the small plot in chicken wire at the end of a garden, the new gardens are aesthetically pleasing utopias that burst with colour, fragrance and texture. Bushes dripping with bright red strawberries, the bold fuchsia-coluored flowers of a big healthy artichoke, and the happy hues on the blossoms of dozens of herbs can help to make your landscape artistic as well as appetizing. Beautiful and functional, edible gardens 'give back' daily to homeowners, allowing them to enjoy the 'fruits' of their labour over and over again.
There's a new generation of homeowners who are embracing the idea of ‘growing their own. It's a good feeling to know exactly where your food came from. Plus, there's nothing fresher than grabbing a tomato right off the vine.
Anyone can add edibles to their landscape, and you don't have to start all over to reap the benefits. If you're new to edible gardening, why not experiment by adding a few herbs among some groundcover. Or plant them near doors, walkways or patios where their savoury aromas can be easily enjoyed. Herbs can be a great choice to plant among vegetables and are wonderful to have on hand when cooking. Nothing beats fresh basil on a ruby red tomato, the delectable bite of cilantro in a homemade salsa, or the tantalizing aroma of oregano in an Italian pasta sauce.
Edible plants can be combined in many creative ways. Try a cool-season border of lettuces and spinach interplanted with dwarf nasturtiums. All types of pepper are striking when combined with dwarf marigolds or a background of tall red salvias. In shady areas, try a border of strawberries and curly parsley under a hedge of currants. For your dwarf fruit trees try planting them in geo-metric beds surrounded with a border of culinary herbs; or plant them along the driveway instead of the usual privet.
And while you're thinking edible, don't forget the flowers! Nasturtiums add an unexpected zest when tossed with a salad or placed alongside a platter of pasta. Their round peppery leaves are also good to eat. Lavender is also an especially tasty option.
This spring may be the perfect time to summon your inner farmer and get growing. You never know what farm-fresh delicacies just might end up on your table.
With any edible landscape, I urge folks to start small. Small and simple means you can easily maintain what you’ve started. Temper spring enthusiasm with the knowledge that many edible plants not only need maintenance (mulching, watering, weeding, feeding, and pruning), but also take effort in the form of harvesting and cooking- and preserving a large harvest. Choose dwarf fruit trees over standard-size trees and select fruit varieties that spread the harvest over many months.
Ed - At this moment I am busy putting together a project for the Easy DIY magazine to build a fire pit on my existing entertainment area. As I was building up the wall, I realised that it was so easy to incorporate a new bed for herbs and veggies, and I will be sharing this project with you in the very near future.
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