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Edible Landscaping – Has Its Day Come and Gone?

Edible landscapingBy Georgia Jallo, Colorado Master Gardener Boulder County

It was way back in 1982 when Rosalind Creasey’s groundbreaking book (published by Sierra Club Books) was the new, big thing in suburban gardening.   Since then, a new edition is out (2010), and imitators abound under the various aliases of Foodscaping, Yardscaping, Lawnscaping….. you get the idea.  After all, the Denver Botanic Gardens has done this lately to beautiful effect.  Why, I ask, haven’t these ideas taken root more widely?

There are many advantages to a mixed landscape that includes edible ornamentals along with the usual suspects.

As examples:

  • Edible landscaping fits with the ideals of permaculture;
  •  Existing trees and shrubs can provide a backdrop for a seasonal palette of vegetables and      flowers. Think of the French “potager” dating to medieval times;
  •  Maximizes the use of limited garden space with interplanting. Tuck lettuces into the border at intervals,  enjoy season-spanning availability of salad greens;
  •  More efficient use of water, fertilizer. Annuals, herbs and vegetables all share the warm months.
  •  Picture this: heat-loving eggplant with salvia, for example. Or kale and daffodils in Spring;
  •  Companion plantings mean increased pollinator attraction and boost populations of beneficial insects;
  •  Increased biodiversity translates into fewer pest problems;
  •  Smaller scale plantings mean less work, less waste, and maybe fewer late night deliveries of zucchini  to unsuspecting neighbors;
  •  Herbs – both cool season/perennial herbs like chives, lavender, oregano, and warm season like basil, cilantro, dill and parsley seem ideal candidates to line a mixed border
  • Or, a meadow of grains: wheat, oats, barley.

Why then hasn’t this idea caught on in a broader sense? Curious, I asked a group of friends (all of them gardeners of one kind or another), and their replies ran the gamut from “too lazy”, “I’m not much of a cook”, and “vegetables on one side, flowers on another….the way nature intended.”  from a traditionalist. So, no beets in the begonias, so to speak, or lettuce and liatris, zucchinis and zinnias.  Sorry—I get a little carried away.  And maybe I just hang with the wrong crowd.  Yet there are many advantages to a mixed landscape that includes edibles, like herbs outside the kitchen door.

Also, remember harvest season. It’s late August or early September and the gardener may be growing a little weary and thinking about a Labor Day holiday. But the tomatoes and peppers are calling “Ready or not, here I come”, and we hear them.  Or with a smaller crop, we could indulge in a little salsa-making and still take a few days off. Works for me.

While we’re at it, we can still plant a row for the hungry too.

Bibliography:

Rosalind Creasy. Edible Landscaping; Home Landscaping with Food-Bearing Plants and Resource-Saving Techniques. Sierra Club Books, 1982 and 2010.

Brie Arthur. Foodscape Revolution; Finding a Better Way to Make Space for Food and Beauty in Your Garden. St. Lynn’s Press, 2017.

CSU Garden Notes #411 (Water Wise Landscape Design)

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