colorful kale planted in a landscape

The idea of creating an edible landscape, also known as foodscaping, can seem like an undertaking that many of us hobbyist gardeners didn't have the time fore. But this summer, with a little more time on your hands and an interest in taking your garden sanctuary to the next level, imagine having a truly edible landscape right outside your door.

Foodscaping is certainly not a new trend, the practice of integrating edible plants into a landscape has been practiced since ancient and medieval times, but we have seen a resurgence of interest recently in response to food deserts (the inaccessibility to healthy food) in urban areas, the increased desire to provide families with fresh, healthy, local and pesticide-free produce, and a rising concern for environmental sustainability. The next logical step for the home gardener, of course, is bringing it into your own backyard.

Get creative!

The cornerstone to Foodscaping is the belief that edible landscapes can be just as aesthetically pleasing as purely decorative landscapes, but this can also be an opportunity for the home gardener to get creative and find new ways and places to plant food where it might be unexpected and surprising.

Use basic design principles to create a garden with form and function.

Begin with a focal point for your garden by planting a tree. But instead of using the typical ornamentals, try something unexpected: lemon, apple, plum, fig, persimmon and cherry trees create a beautiful anchor to start building your eden around. Don’t stop at one! Add a variety of fruit trees to create a look of abundance, or consider training espaliered fruit trees and adding an assortment of pots of dwarf citrus to your patio. Containers are perfect for citrus in the Pacific Northwest, allowing you to move them to a protected area during the winter.

Secondly, plant “large to small”. After deciding on your garden anchor, choose shrubs and hedges to create enclosures and define spaces and outdoor “rooms”. Consider blueberry, elderberry, and gooseberry. Foundation planting of edible bushes create a look of uniformity while providing some playfulness. If edible shrubbery is new territory for you, the OSU Master Gardener program offers a very informative video presentation on Growing Blueberries.

Food plants can go anywhere! Hanging baskets and window boxes can display herbs, vegetables or edible flowers like carnations, marigolds, cornflowers, nasturtiums and pansies. Incorporate edibles like Alpine Strawberries and chives in place of flowering plants in your containers. Or start simple by using one of Al’s vegetable patio planters.

Create a pop of color and eye-catching texture in your garden borders. Some colorful beauties include chard, cabbage, and lettuce. Planted in masses, they make a bold and exciting statement in your garden.

Finally, work with the garden you have. Look for opportunities to squeeze in an edible plant in your existing landscape, take it slow by replacing one hedge of blueberries or adding in one border row of cabbage. If you don’t have a lot of ground to cover, try using vertical spaces by growing grape vines on your fence or trellis. If you don’t have the sun for rows and rows of vegetables, consider shade tolerant edibles, like kale, lettuce, beets, chard, and garlic.

Savor it.

Foodscaping will require a little extra time commitment when it comes to harvesting, clearing out old fruit and maintaining a clean area so pests don’t eat your food before you do, but make the most of it. Stroll through your personal paradise and primp and preen. Sample the rewards. It’s all yours for the tasting.

Imagine the pleasure of dining outside, surrounded by trees heavy with fruit. Or strolling under an arbor of grape vines providing shade during the heat of the day. Or plucking a berry within arm’s reach of your cozy outdoor living space. These simple additions can be beautiful and whimsical, adding an aesthetically exciting change in your landscape.