Truly Tasteful Landscaping

Finally, yard work you can really sink your teeth into.
By David Yener Goodman

When you think of growing food, what do you picture? Rows of corn? Perfect plots of cabbages and beans? Carrots and radishes lined up like soldiers? That’s a good start – but with a few adjustments, you can get a lot more creative with your gardening – and add beauty to your home as well.

Here in Florida we’re blessed with a mild climate and a broad range of useful annual and perennial species. One of the hottest gardening movements in recent years has been “edible landscaping” – and it’s no wonder, since our grocery bills aren’t getting cheaper. Imagine plucking fresh pomegranates or guavas from your own trees, harvesting a gourmet salad from your porch, or brightening your meals with the taste and aroma of fresh herbs. It’s not as hard as you’d think!

Long before the advent of manicured lawns and huge monoculture farms, men and women used the patches of ground around their homesteads to cultivate a profusion of delicious and useful plants. Fruit trees, rambling “cottage gardens” and sprinklings of blooms provided an abundance of beauty and table fare.

Think about the space you have. Have you been considering putting in a magnolia or a couple of oaks? Perhaps a hedge of hollies or a few oleanders? With some thought, edible species can be grown instead. Why not add a few pecan trees, a mulberry, a hedge of cattley guavas and some figs instead? The greenery is lovely – and the harvest is to die for. With some forethought, even a standard suburban lot can produce hundreds of pounds of fresh, local, organic produce.  lemon tree

One of the silliest arguments I’ve heard against planting fruit trees is that “they’re messy.” But wait – that’s not a mess – that’s food! Sure, once a year, weather permitting, you might end up with “too much” fruit. What a great chance to experiment with making jam – or to break out the dehydrator and make some fruit leathers! Even freezing fruit for smoothies can stretch the harvest throughout the year. My favorite method of dealing with the “mess” of fruit is to give it away. Why not help out the needy in your community – or bless a local nursing home with some sun-ripened produce? But of course – let’s not count our fruit before we grow it. Right now, it’s time to start planning and planting.

Looking for shrubs, think about planting goumi berries, pineapple and cattley guavas, blueberries and  thornless blackberries. Between these plants, tuck in some canna lilies (the flowers are great in salads!), strawberries, sweet potatoes (the vines run like ivy), oregano, rosemary and even a few pepper plants.

It might seem daunting at first, but edible landscaping doesn’t have to happen overnight. One piece at a time, you can build an Eden in your yard – and amidst all the beauty, if you happen to tuck in a few cabbages and beans, no one will be the wiser!

For more great tips on how to make the most of a small space and get fresh home grown ingredients for your meals with very little work, go to our blog post at  www.mattersofthehome.com/organic.