An edible landscape is the best possible combination of form and function. It can be just as attractive as an ornamental landscape while replacing a traditional garden. If you want a yard that pleases the eye and puts food on the table, I’ll show you how to make this dream a reality! I’ll take you through each step of the process, from site selection and preparation, to choosing and arranging plants and what you need to do to keep your edible landscape healthy and attractive. When you take action and implement these suggestions, you’ll increase the value of your property, reduce your food budget and turn your neighbors green with envy! Let’s get started!
The first thing you need to do is choose and prepare the site for your edible landscape. This depends on the characteristics of your property since sun exposure, soil drainage and fertility must all be considered. Most fruits and vegetables need at least 6 hours of full sunlight per day. If your yard is well shaded, your plant choices might be limited to medicinal herbs and mushrooms.
The ground must be properly prepared for planting, and loosening the soil to a depth of 2 feet while adding well-aged manure or weed-seed free compost is essential. If your edible landscape is taking the place of a lawn, you must kill off this section of turf or it will come up through your landscape. Sheet mulching or a raised bed technique are two good ways to do this. Make your edible landscape beds about 25 feet long by 4 to 5 feet wide. This will allow you to reach all the plants when you are weeding the beds or harvesting the produce. Now that you’ve staked out a location for your edible landscape and prepared it properly, your ready for the next step.
Selecting and arranging the plants in your edible landscape comes next and this is where you can make full use of your creativity and imagination. The first thing you need to consider is the general class of plant you will be using. If you want to harvest produce your first year, you may need to include some annual vegetables in your design. Since these must be replanted every year and replaced after harvesting, a lot more work will be required of you. However, many perennial fruits, vegetables and flowers are available that will bloom every year if you’re willing to wait a little longer for your first harvest. With this decision out of the way, your remaining selection criteria is based on color, texture, height and form.
To achieve an aesthetically pleasing balance, try to make maximum use of contrasts while varying these criteria to avoid too much of any one thing. Blend colors that go well together and combine shapes and sizes to keep things interesting. You can form runner-less clumps of Alpine Strawberries to create an attractive border of flowers and fruit or use creeping thyme, oregano or cilantro for a fuller border or eye-catching ground cover. Hot peppers and cherry or grape tomatoes add a welcome splash of color. You can also choose disease- resistant hybrid apple, crab apple, peach, pear, plum or cherry trees in dwarf or semi-dwarf sizes for easy care and harvesting. The sky’s the limit!
Congratulations! Now that your edible landscape is a reality, you can keep it looking its best with a daily or, in some cases, weekly maintenance schedule. You will need to water, fertilize, prune and eliminate weeds and pests on an ongoing basis. Try to water your plants in the evening when the heat of the day has past and evaporation is no longer a problem.
Add a commercial plant food to the water at least once a month or enrich the soil with quality compost or worm casings. Try to use a natural pesticide on fruits and vegetables such as tobacco leaves that have soaked overnight ground up with neem leaves. Birds can usually be kept away with a well-placed plastic owl or coyote. Pruning trees and shrubs rejuvenates them and allows you to control their size and shape. You should remove one third of the stems of your flowering shrubs once a year. If you water, fertilize, prune and eliminate weeds and pests on a regular schedule, your edible landscape will thrive and be the talk of your neighborhood.
The current economic crisis has led to skyrocketing food prices and an overall increase in the cost of living. Food freshness and security have become more important then ever but we still need a backyard oasis where we can escape the stress of modern life. Edible landscaping provides all this and more and all it takes is the right information on site location and preparation, plant selection and arrangement and a regular maintenance routine. Now that you have that information, and more is available online, you can create an eye-catching edible landscape while growing enough fruits and vegetables to supplement a family of four. You really can have your view and eat it too!
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