If you want a yard that's pleasing to the eye and functional as well, 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 step is to 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. Since most fruits and vegetables need at least 6 hours of full sunlight per day, a well shaded yard might limit your plant choices to medicinal herbs and mushrooms. To prepare your ground for planting, you'll need to loosen the soil to a depth of 2 feet while adding well-aged manure or weed-seed free compost. If your edible landscape will replace a lawn, kill off this section of turf or it will come up through your landscape. A sheet mulching or raised bed technique are good ways to do this. Make your edible landscape beds about 25 feet long by 4 to 5 feet wide. This will help you to reach all the plants when you're weeding the beds or harvesting the produce. After you've staked out a location for your edible landscape and prepared it properly, you're ready for the next step.
Selecting and arranging the plants in your edible landscape comes next and this is where you can make good use of your creativity and imagination. The first thing to consider is the general class of plant you'll be using. If you'd like to harvest produce in the first year, you may need to include annual vegetables in the design. Since they need to be replanted every year, and replaced after harvesting, a lot more work will be necessary. However, many perennial fruits, vegetables and flowers are available that will bloom every year if you're willing to wait a bit longer for your first harvest. With this decision out of the way, the remaining selection criteria is based on color, texture, height and form. To achieve an aesthetically pleasing balance, try to maximize 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 runnerless 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'll 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 are soaked overnight and ground up with neem leaves. Birds will usually stay away if you have a well-placed plastic owl or coyote. You should prune trees and shrubs to encourage new growth while controlling their size and shape. Try to remove one third of the stems on your flowering shrubs every 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.
If you read this far, the current economic crisis may have spurred your interest in home gardening. Food freshness and security are more important then ever but most of us would like a backyard oasis where we can escape the stress of modern life. Edible landscaping offers all this and more and all you need is the right information on site location and preparation, plant selection and arrangement and a regular maintenance routine. Now that you have this information, you can create eye-catching edible landscapes while growing enough fruits and vegetables to supplement a family of four. It's like having your view and eating it too!