Eat your Garden: Tips on designing your edible landscape

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By Lisa Passmore

Often when we set out to create gardens around our homes we think first of the showy ornamental plants. Naturally we want our landscapes to look good and to value to our homes.

More often than not when we consider growing plants to eat…we think of edibles confined to the herb or vegetable patch, ’somewhere out back’.

However if we consider replacing our non- edible ornamental plants with something still decorative, but also edible we could grow something more meaningful and more rewarding and be a far more earth friendly use of the space and of our precious resources.

For example instead of a row of Azalea bushes we might consider a border of blueberry’s instead. The Blueberry’s provide flower and edible berries with an attractive bush shade and grow in similar conditions to the azalea. For our feature trees rather than an ornamental …why not consider a fruit tree? Pears, gherry trees, almonds, apples and plum are all very attractive and showy trees with the added bonus of delicious fruits.

As well as being something desirable, an edible landscape especially one that is maintained along organic principles is fast becoming the most compelling and necessary landscape concepts for the future. Imagine a world where fruiting plants and trees predominate along roadsides, verges and in public parks…no-one would ever go hungry!

Even in the domestic sense the benefits to us of growing edibles are many;

  • More Nutrients: ‘Picked when ripe’ home-grown produce has superior flavour as well as significantly more vitamins and minerals that their ‘shop- bought’ counterparts. Supermarket produce is often harvested before it is ripe and are days if not weeks old when you buy them.
  • Less wasted Energy: Food from your garden requires no shipping and minimal refrigeration. Conventional farming methods use a large amount of energy in ploughing the soil, sowing crops, spraying fertilisers, fungicides, pesticides and herbicides and well as the energy expended in harvesting, packing and transporting the produce when compared to the relatively small outputs by the home gardeners.
  • Food Safety: By growing your own produce you have control on how these plants are grown and what chemicals and fertilisers (if any) are used. In my opinion all home gardeners should consider growing their produce organically (and ‘Spray-free’) to get the maximum health benefits and higher nutrient content.
  • Water Saving: Research shows that home gardeners use around half the water that large scale commercial growers use to produce the same crops. Water saving methods such as drip, integrated dripline, wicking beds and applying thick mulch on garden beds help save even more of this precious resource.
  • Money saving: Home gardeners can make significant savings in their weekly shopping budget just be growing some of their key staples. In fact a level of abundance in fresh produce can be achieved in even the smallest of garden.