Edible landscaping is an easy concept to grasp, but can seem difficult to achieve. My large yard (which is only a quarter acre) is the reason I bought my dilapidated house. It took a year to fix up the house to where it’s a home, and I am now trying “landscaping” to extend my home into the outdoors. But, if I am going to go to all the work of watering, weeding, and caring for plants, then I might as well be able to eat them. Landscapers in my area seem to have no real concept of edible landscaping, except to throw in some fruit trees. They still prefer barren evergreens in the front of the yard and sterile shade trees in the back yard. So, I’m learning how to do it on my own. These are the things I have learned:
Lesson #1: Map out your yard.
Plants all take varying degrees of sun/shade and many take different types of soils. Take out some good old paper and make generalized areas of where the sun lasts for more than 6 hours a day, from 3-6 hours a day, or for less than 3 hours a day. These three areas will be labeled “full sun”, “partial sun”, and “full shade”. This will help out greatly in designing your landscape. If you’re going to have blueberries or other acid-loving plants, try to congregate them in one area and label “acid-loving” on your map as well.
Lesson #2: Think of irrigation.
I have a good friend who has a very small yard. In her yard, she has raspberries, strawberries, grape vines, an herb garden, mulberry tree, pear tree, and a highly prolific peach tree. The yard has no underwater sprinkler system. However, my problem solving friend put together a long drip irrigation hose that is always attached to the house. It winds around the outside of her fence (and above the gate) to water all but the trees. She steps out back, turns on the faucet, and sets a timer. This makes for very easy watering! Think about how much effort you want to put into watering your garden and how you are going to achieve your goals.
Lesson #3: Try to have harvest year-round.
People of the past have put edible plants in their yard out of necessity of calories or financial future. In Chapter 7 of “Ten Acres Enough”, peach trees, raspberries, and strawberries were interwoven throughout. The thought was that the strawberries would produce during early spring/summer, the raspberries would be harvested in the middle of summer, and the peach trees at the end of summer. The author was also looking to have some sort of fruit to harvest in the autumn. This concept is a good one—especially if you’re looking to have a harvest most, if not all, of the year.
Lesson #4: Preserve.
You’re already trying to have a year-round harvest, but this is not possible in most locations. So, preserving is necessary. Invest in a dehydrator, a freezer, or canner. My grandparents chose the canner when they had a very large harvest of onions 5 years ago and are still enjoying that bounty. I’m starting light with a dehydrator and freezer. Vegetables can be cut up and frozen for future cooking. If you want to preserve some fruit, blanching or sugar combined with the freezer works well. Some fruit dries well, but not all. Do a test run before you get too fruit-heavy in the dehydrator. I was disappointed in how the raspberries turned out in the dehydrator, but the kiwi was divine!
Lesson #5: Working on beautifying the landscape.
This is the least important, but still important if you live in a neighborhood or smaller acreage. Perhaps the landscapers in my area are correct and we do need sterile evergreens in the front of the house. But I would rather try some more ornate edibles. There are small weeping mulberry trees or twisted mulberry trees, which bear fruit, but still look amazing. The flowering blossoms of the almond tree are exquisite. There are a few evergreens that do bear fruit or you can turn into tea, but research would have to be done. One option is to hire a landscaper, who will probably draw out a barren, but beautiful, landscape. Then you take that drawing and swap out plants for similar edibles, matching height and sun requirements.
White Mulberry tree on a summers day
In conclusion, edible landscaping can be fun, but it initially takes some research if you want it to look like the professionally done sterile landscape down the street.