The local and organic food movement is a good one, ensuring a tastier, more nutritious and safer food supply, while reducing carbon emissions with food grown closer to home. Many people are growing some of their own food, going beyond the typical vegetable and herb garden to edible landscaping.
What is edible landscaping? According to virginiaberryfarm.com, “edible landscaping replaces plants that are merely ornamental with food producing plants, allowing you to create a multi-functional landscape providing returns (fruits, berries, etc.) on your investment of water, fertilizer, and time”. In today’s world where food safety is a growing concern and food prices escalate with the price of fuel, it makes good sense. Food also tastes better and has more nutrients immediately after it is harvested; produce trucked from long distances loses much of its nutritional value and doesn’t last as long. Working in the garden and connecting with the soil is good for the body and soul, with nothing more gratifying than picking your own food for dinner.
We have good soil in New England and can grow a diverse crop right in our own backyard as hedges, ground covers, patio plantings, ornamental trees and on trellises. Popular ornamental trees, pear, plum, and late producing apple like granny smith and golden delicious, are good choices, which don’t require much pest control.
High bush blueberries, as well as blackberries and raspberries, make excellent deciduous hedges or interspersed in an existing hedge. They have lovely spring flowers and beautiful fall color. Native low bush blueberries and strawberries spread by their roots and can be used as a ground cover. Both are drought-resistant and trouble-free. Blueberries are an important part of a healthy diet, loaded with anti-oxidants and considered one of the “power foods”, but typically heavily sprayed with pesticides. (Check out the dirty dozen list of fruits and vegetables.) Rather than pay the price for expensive organic ones, grow your own. Who can resist the taste of a freshly picked berry?
Grapes are ideal trellis plants providing beautiful shade and fresh healthy clusters for picking.
I can’t think of any reason not to plant an edible landscape, wherever you live! Be patient though. It takes a few years for your plants to produce - it works on root development for the first couple of years. Remember this gardening saying: “The first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, the third year it leaps”. Happy planting!
One caveat: birds and other animals sometimes get to the fruit before you do. Email me for suggestions on how to control this problem, or just enjoy feeding nature’s creatures.
Some information compiled from virginiaberryfarm.com.