Foodscaping With Edibles From The Garden
We love it when people grow their own food, so we certainly want to encourage any way this happens. But somewhere along the road, people decided that edible plants had to have their own designated area, set apart from the ornamental garden, and planted in rows. Why is this? We don’t know. If you’re game to try something new, though, how about combining your edible plants in with the rest of your garden? It’s called “foodscaping,” and while it isn’t a particularly new way to garden, it may be new to some of us, so let’s take a look at how you can do this!
5 Reasons to Foodscape
First, let’s talk about why we’d want to plant your edibles in the same bed as your ornamental plants in the first place, because you may have never considered one of these situations or reasons:
- Why not? We think this is a valid reason. Do it because you can.
- You love the aesthetics. Also a valid reason. Do it because it’s pretty.
- Plant where the sun is. What if all of your full sun exposure is in the front yard, and that’s the only place you can plant your edibles? Then you plant them together with your other plants.
- You have a very small space. When real estate is a valuable commodity, you have to use what you have. There’s simply not enough space to segregate all of your different plants.
- A diverse garden is a healthy garden. Tucking edibles in and around your flowers and shrubs means that if you have an attack of tomato hornworm, for example, your chances of it wiping out your entire garden is much lower than if you had one long bed planted only with tomatoes.
What Edible Plants Can I Use in Foodscaping?
There’s really none you can’t use if you have the right amount of space and sunlight. All the vegetables, fruit bushes, fruit trees, and herbs can all be incorporated into beds along with annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees. You might need to get creative with your space planning, but isn’t that part of the fun?
Tips for Foodscaping
Although it may sound as easy as “just go out to your garden and pop in some Swiss chard,” there are a few more considerations than that. Not many, but a few!
- Make sure all of your plants have the same growing needs. That means don’t put tomatoes alongside your shady elephant ears, for example. Most edibles need full sun and regular water, so plan to add them into your ornamental bed with plants that have those same needs.
- Make good use of trellises and containers. We all know how zucchini can take over a garden, so either give it enough space on the ground to do its thing, or plan to have a sturdy trellis system installed. Keep in mind, though, that a 5’ trellis won’t cut it—you may need to get creative and make a curved “squash tunnel” using a 20’ long piece of welded wire (ranch panel), and then plant shade-loving plants below it.
- Plan your part-sun/part-shade areas carefully. Most gardens, even sunny ones, have variations of sunniness throughout the day, so go outside at different times of the day and note where those patterns fall. If you have some areas of part sun or part shade, you can grow lots of lettuces or greens, for example.
- Plant according to size and spread. Those smaller herbs like sage, basil, and thyme, for example, make perfect borders. Plant creeping thyme around your stepping-stones if you have them. Mint can go into a container where it’s, well, contained and won’t take over. Taller tomatoes can go in the middle of the bed (or even at the back of a border), and your greens and peppers can be tucked in here and there.
How to Retrofit an Existing Ornamental Bed into a Foodscape
Got a bed you want to add edible plants to? You’ll have to make space for them, of course, and that’s where the decision-making comes in. You’ll want to leave your larger, mature plants alone (those trees or shrubs, for example), but most of the other plants are fair game. Here are some good ways to make space for your edibles:
- Divide your bulbs and plant the extras in another bed (or give them away!).
- Plant fewer annuals in the front of your border.
- Transplant a few flowering perennials in the fall to a different bed.
You’ll wind up with large areas of additional space for planting your veggies, fruits, and herbs, but remember: This is not likely a one-and-done kind of thing. Foodscaping is an adventure, and part of the fun (as it is with every type of garden) is to fine-tune it as you go. Then before long, you’ll be able to walk out to your garden and, in one trip, gather ingredients for dinner, herbs for your tea, and cut flowers for your table.
- Jenny Peterson