Edible Gardens

Edible Gardens

Even if you live on a small lot you can grow your own food. Just join the growing movement to replace ornamental landscaping with edible plants.

"Food prices are going through the roof ," says Chris Bourne, co-owner of Phoenix Organics in Phoenix. "People need to learn how to grow their own food."

Bourne has landscaped his entire backyard and part of the front with edible plants. He advocates getting rid of purely ornamental trees and bushes, replacing them with fruit and nut trees and berry bushes and adding annual vegetables in beds around them.

"People tend to think just about conventional foods — what they see in the supermarket — and they think 'why bother?'" he says. Instead, he suggests growing varieties that taste better but don't transport well or unusual plants seldom seen in supermarkets.

Jane Hardgrove of Hardgrove Landscape and Design in Talent says an increasing number of her clients are asking to have edibles incorporated into their landscaping.

"I'm really seeing a lot more vegetable patches in yards." she says. "You don't have to start huge. Put that tomato plant in a sunny spot."

"Start thinking about how you use your land," she says. "Berry bushes make a fine substitute for hedges and shrubs. Then you can mix in flowering annuals if you want a more traditional look. Strawberries make a great border or ground cover."

Another option is to create a garden modeled on the European "potager" garden, Hardgrove explains. "These gardens usually have four quadrants with paths on the axis in each direction bisecting a central circular area. You can use dwarf blueberries in place of the usual box hedges to mark the borders of each section, and fill in with vegetables. Just mix things right in — who says a squash isn't beautiful?"

"Raised beds work well with this type of formal garden. You can also do things like put a garden arch as the entrance to the garden and grow tayberries on the arch. Put benches in so you can watch your vegetables grow."

"This is really beautiful. Formal design is very satisfying to the human psyche," Hardgrove notes.

Keep your curb appeal with the country cottage look "using perennials like artichoke, asparagus and rhubarb in the back with smaller annual vegetables in front," Hardgrove says. "French sorrel is kind of underused; it's another perennial vegetable that looks good."

Tonja Andreatta of Andreatta Waterscapes in Medford has been experimenting with growing edibles in ponds. It started when she sat a potted tomato plant next to her pond and watched it extend its tendrils into the water.

"Those tomatoes grew huge,' Andreatta says. "So now year after year I put my tomatoes on the edge of the pond."

She's grown edible pond plants, and now she is creating floating islands to grow herbs like basil. "I'm always experimenting — it's fun to landscape with edible plants," Andreatta says.

"The new thing is local eating," says Hardgrove. "Well, you can't eat any [more locally] than [in] your own yard."

Why not give it a try? And don't worry about what the neighbors might think — they're probably trying to figure out where to tuck the rhubarb right now.

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