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It’s not too early to begin planning for your 2016 gardens and plantings. New trends, fads, and improved methods challenge us to change our current ways of doing things. Gardening also faces challenges. The edible landscape is a relatively new name for a practice my grandparents employed. It’s also a practice we can enjoy in our own landscapes today. Most home landscapers have focused more on appeal and aesthetics in recent years. Healthier lifestyles and local foods are two emerging trends in our culture that encourages placing more practical plants in our lawns and gardens.
Edible landscaping is the art of placing plants in your home landscape that can be used to provide food in the place of plants serving an ornamental purpose only. Notice, I said art and not science – this is still a practice dictated by personal taste rather than an absolute science. There are many reasons to incorporate edible plants into the residential landscape. You can enjoy the freshness and flavor of homegrown, fully ripened fruits and vegetables. You will be able to control the quantity and kind of pesticides and herbicides used on the foods you consume. Edible landscaping also enables you to increase the food security of your household. You will save on grocery bills; everyone likes to do that! You’ll also open up new opportunities to grow unusual varieties not available in your local stores. Last but not least, you will be able to get outside, interact with the natural world, and have fun. You may just inadvertently create new family traditions liked by all and definitely make some lasting memories.
Plant a blueberry bush for an early-blooming shrub; blueberries are also extremely healthy for you. They do require more acidic soil than most plants. Be mindful of this if you select them for your garden. Different varieties provide a longer season to enjoy the fruit. Strawberry plants function as a groundcover in the right sunny, well-drained location with the bonus of fresh strawberries. Do you have an area where you would like to restrict foot traffic? A row of blackberry bushes, thorned or thornless varieties, can create a nearly impenetrable hedge. Many vegetable crops perform nicely in mixed borders while providing eye appeal and fresh veggies for the table. Onions as well as asparagus can offer a nice vertical accent. Tomatoes and many peppers offer great green foliage with delicious red fruits to accentuate the border. Herbs offer variety in textures and fragrances for the landscape as well as enhancing your favorite dish.
Fruit trees are a viable option to plant instead of small ornamental flowering trees. Fruit trees provide beauty during bloom in the early spring and fresh fruit in the summer and fall. Some fruit trees require more care and attention than others to produce bountifully. Apple and peach trees will require regular spraying to prevent pest problems. Asian pear and Persimmon trees are generally easier to cultivate. Vining plants for décor and trellising include blackberries and muscadine grapes, both providing ornamental qualities and fresh fruit. Try the oak-leafed muscadine “Southern Home” variety for an absolutely beautiful arbor vine and a crop of edible muscadine grapes. Pecans are not my favorite trees, but they are excellent for shade, and you get the bonus of a valuable crop of nuts. Don’t overhaul your landscape all at one time, just try a few of your more favorite crops to begin with. Starting small is always more successful. Remember, always “weed it and reap!”
For more information, please contact Mack Johnson, Extension Horticultural Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 910-671-3276 or by E-mail at Mack_Johnson@ncsu.edu. North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status, or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.