Post by Contributing Writer, Bethany
Add nutritious food to your dinner table
Give your yard a mini-makeover!
It’s easier that you may think to reap the
benefits of color, nutrition, and stylish design.
Too overloaded to take on a brand new vegetable garden? Bored with your ho-hum yard? Did you know you can add zest to your existing landscape by bringing the color and texture of home-grown foods directly into your existing flower beds?
I’ve enjoyed gardening since I was a young child, and now as an adult I am passionate about connecting the dots between food sources and dinner plates.
My encouragement to you during this fresh start to the growing season is to think creatively about gardening spaces you already have around your home and to consider adding new colors and textures to your shrub and flower beds by growing nourishing, eye catching food crops.
To tackle your first season of Edible Landscaping, give your property a once-over to identify growing spots, choose and plant a manageable selection of fruits and/or veggies, and as the growing season progresses, celebrate and serve your delicious, local, and cost-effective bounty.
To Begin ~ Assess Your Growing Areas
The possibilities for growing food at home, outside the traditional vegetable garden, may surprise you. Remember, you simply need a spot with access to soil, water, and light!
With this in mind, walk through your yard with new eyes, and take mental inventory of the patches of soil you call your own:
Do you have a flower bed along a south or west facing wall? Sunny and hot with a little extra room? You may have a perfect spot for brightly colored peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants to shine amidst your existing plants.
What about that partly shaded patch in the back or that collection of shrubs living a nondescript life along the fence? These areas may offer great opportunity to work in leafy greens and root vegetables like kale, chard, lettuce, onions, and potatoes.
Don’t forget about your containers at the front door or the back patio. Often big box retail stores will sell seasonal “Color Bowls” and “Sun Spots” filled with brightly colored annuals; why not use your own containers and tuck in edibles like violets, nasturtiums, chives, strawberries, and cheery peppers?
Plan & Tend Your Plantings
Once you’ve identified your growing areas, the real fun begins: selecting which types (and colors and flavors!) of food crops to grow. Browse your local nursery, visit a neighborhood plant sale, page through the hot-off-the-press catalogs, or chat with gardening friends to see about splitting seed orders.
A few favorite, high performing suggestions:
Tomatoes. Bold and Beautiful. Many heirloom varieties showcase pinks and greens and yellows, while a traditional red ripe fruit dangling from a branch is equally eye-catching. Whatever the color, fruits offset against a background of ornamental garden shrubs will add new dimension to your landscape.
Tip: when planting tomato starts, strip off the bottom few branches and bury the branch-less portion of the stem in soil. The plant will produce additional roots for a stronger support system.
Blueberries. Sweet and Showy. Blueberry plants produce adorable little bell shaped blossoms in spring, gorgeous blue/purple berries to eat in summertime, and fiery autumn leaves at the transition of the seasons.
With proper care and maintenance, a mature blueberry plant can yield 10 pounds or more during the growing season; potentially quite a savings for pure, organic, local fruit.
Purple Podded Pole Beans. High Fashion, Easy Accent. Train these simple vines up a trellis or garden sculpture in the middle of an ornamental flower bed to show off their lovely shades of purple. Add companion plantings of licorice basil, eggplant, or artichoke for a classy purple color scheme.
Beans are best grown directly from seed, so check your last frost date, put up a support, pop a few seeds in the ground, and watch the lovely beanstalks make themselves at home.
Columnar Apples. Big Payoff in a Tiny Space. Add color and height to even the narrowest of garden beds. These delightful varieties will remain narrow, growing approximately 7′-9′ tall. Enjoy apple blossoms in springtime, and harvest juicy fruits come autumn.
Strawberries. Darlings of the Garden. Terrific for containers and perfect as a patch of ground cover, strawberries offer some of nature’s finest flavor and seasonal sweetness. Plants may continue to produce for two to three years following planting, offering a terrific culinary return on investment!
Be mindful of the methods you use to tend your landscape. It goes without saying that poisons and chemicals do not blend with the dinner plate. For more on healthy care and maintenance, see the Oregon State University Extension Service’s helpful primer on Organic Gardening Fundamentals.
Additionally, when harvesting food from the yard, be vigilant about the types of non-edible plants you allow onto your property and be certain to educate yourself and your family on Common Poisonous Plants and Plant Parts.
Serve Up the Fruits of Your Labor
Once your selections have been made and your growing season in underway, celebrate the bounty of home grown fruits, vegetables, and edible flowers.
Savor the colors and flavors of your edible landscape: In my book, the only thing that beats the joy of looking out onto a beautiful landscape is saying grace over a meal that was harvested from soil outside the front door. What a gift that creation yields so many blessings grown from humble dirt and sunshine and rain…
Front Yard Salads
Frugal and Delicious Dinners
Grill up “Fresh & Local” fare for a fraction of the price, such as Zucchini Beef Burgers.
Rather than a trip to the market or the trendy neighborhood restaurant,
step outside to harvest dinner from your own landscape.
What are the possibilities in your yard?
Take a few minutes to ponder:
Duplicate uses of space.
How might you boost the beauty and bounty of your home landscape?
Enjoy the inspirations! I do hope you consider tucking in some tasty plants among your flower beds and borders, and I wish you lovely and delicious bounty throughout the growing season.
Bethany Rydmark is an eighth generation Oregonian, a landscape architect, and a kitchen-tinkering, garden-dreaming, Food-Group-hosting, home-making wife and friend. She lives in Portland, Oregon and shares her appetite for equitable, sustainable, and meaningful food at Sustainable Food for Thought.