Edible Landscaping: Growing Food in the Flower Bed

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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!

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

Backyard Breakfasts

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Blueberries over yogurt and granola or a Blueberry Cream Cheese Cake make for a perfect morning meal.

Front Yard Salads

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Freshly tossed borage flowers (a delightful favorite of mine),
blossoms, tomatoes, cucumbers, mint and more!

Frugal and Delicious Dinners

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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.

Tasteful incorporation.

Delightful rewards.

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.

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8 comments to Edible Landscaping: Growing Food in the Flower Bed

  • Thanks for this great post! We are hoping to take another run at gardening this year after a not so great last year. We have the added challenge of black walnuts so we will have to think outside the box – but this really gave me some great ideas. I particularly like the info on blueberries. We tried them once, but found that you need more than one plant for cross pollination. I don’t know if that is true of all varieties, but it was true of ours. Thanks!


    Bethany Reply:

    @Adrienne, that’s a tough situation with the black walnuts! The naturally occurring chemical juglone found within the leaves, bark, fruit, and especially concentrated in the roots is the real culprit, sucking the life out of many neighboring plants. One possible solution if you’d like to try again planting in that area might be to install raised beds? If you do, perhaps use a fine mesh screen or landscape fabric at the base of the bed to keep the walnut roots from growing up into the planter. As for the blueberries, you’re absolutely right! You’ll want two or more bushes to cross pollinate and get the best yield from the plants. Enjoy!


  • We have a pretty good sized garden, and I LOVE watching the beauty unfold. What a great post {with tantalizing pictures!}! You’ve got me even more excited that what I already was for our harvests!


    Bethany Reply:

    @Phoebe @ GettingFreedom, I’m so glad to hear it! I’m itching for the new growing season to burst into full swing… Happy gardening to you!


  • […] food in flower beds you already have – Edible Landscaping: Growing Food in the Flower Bed @ Frugal […]

  • I love the idea of incorporating food and ornamentals. This is a common practice in European gardens where space is limited. I have a dear friend here who has done a wonderful job of landscaping with fruit trees, vegetables, herbs, flowering plants and even tropicals. This method of gardening keeps the garden close to the door and is easier to maintain. It is great way to start small too.


  • I have to say, Edible Landscaping: Growing Food in the Flower Bed | Frugal Granola is a honestly fantastic blogging. I’d like to offer you my personal hi and thanks. Cheers, actually


  • […] Edible Landscaping: Growing Food in the Flower Bed […]

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