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April 12, 2023

Make This The Year You Plant An Edible Landscape

There must be some unwritten law that says vegetable gardens have to be planted in straight rows in the far corner of the back yard. Why? Do we think edible plants are ugly? We shouldn’t. They flower just the same as those we plant to beautify our yard. Our ornamental plants require just as much care as our edibles. Maybe more.

Relegating the edible plants to the back corner only means more work for you. When the planting bed needs weeding, you must haul your tools out and back. And, on the return trip, you also need to bring the weeds back for disposal. If we have a dry summer, you’ll have to haul the hoses out to the garden and back. Having to do all that extra work may make you feel like an urban, or suburban, farmer but know that farmers constantly look for ways to work more efficiently.

Another argument against planting your edible landscape in the back corner is wildlife that are too shy to help themselves to your produce may not hesitate if the food source is far from the house. Boldness is also the reason why you should consider carefully before planting your edible garden in the front yard. Some people who have done this have reported that passers-by have harvested where they have not sown.

So, what am I suggesting? This year, try planting edibles among ornamentals in back yard planting beds close to the house. You can mix annual vegetable plants among perennials and/or among annuals.

Don’t just plant vegetables and ornamentals willy-nilly with no thought to how they’ll look when fully grown. Design your planting beds so the edibles and ornamentals are compatible and complement each other. For example, plant corn among sunflowers and carrots among marigold, rather than the reverse.

I like the photo, taken back in 2008, when the concept of mixing edibles and ornamentals in the same planting beds was just done by a few idealists. But look at the photo and think of how nice it would be to walk out your back door and inhale the fragrance of the ornamental plants as you pick fresh tomatoes for tonight’s salad. Doesn’t that sound better than having to walk a distance just to pick a couple tomatoes?

You can also plant berry bushes like raspberries among ornamental shrubs or use blueberry plants to define planting bed borders. In this way, the edibles become integral elements in the overall landscape design, rather than an eyesore outback.

Do we plant vegetables in straight rows because that’s the way farmers plant? Farmers use that layout for efficiency. They have to be able to easily maneuver their large equipment to maximize productivity. You don’t have to worry about productivity. Your concern is more with aesthetics.