Do you think you need a huge sunny yard in order to grow food? It’s not true. As long as you have access to some outdoor space – around your home’s foundation, a deck, patio, or even a balcony – you can grow some fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
In fact, you might find that it’s less intimidating to plant in these smaller areas than if you were faced with a half acre of choices and decisions!
I’ll never forget when I first met my sister-in-law from Taiwan. She was amazed at the forests she flew over to get to our home, and the half-acre lot on which we lived. My mother said, “I suppose if you had land like this in Taiwan, you’d be growing food at it.”
She pointed at our coffee table. “In Taiwan, if we have land that big, we grow food on it.”
Tips for Stealthy Planting of Fruits and Vegetables
Plant Around the Foundation
If you live in a home with landscape plants around its foundation, you have plenty of opportunities to grow fresh produce. You can do this if you’re owning or if you’re renting.
Of course you have to have permission to change the existing landscape. Don’t get in trouble with the landlord!
But if you can make changes, there are plenty of ways to weave in food-producing plants.
You don’t want your home to look like an eyesore, though!
The key, then, is finding plants that are beautiful AND yield a tasty crop.
AND make sure that your ornamentals (that is, the ones you don’t eat) aren’t sprayed with chemicals or pesticides that can contaminate your food plants.
Do Double Duty with Fruit-Bearing Trees
If you look at properties with traditional landscape designs, you’ll find a variety of ornamental trees, bushes, shrubs and flowering plants.
That’s pleasing to your eye but doesn’t do much for your stomach.
Instead look for edible alternatives that are suitable for your climate.
For example, many fruit-bearing trees, including apples, pears, plums, peaches or cherries, are available in compact, attractive varieties.
Blueberries are both delicious and nutritious, but many people don’t realize they grow on beautiful ornamental bushes that can add 3-season appeal to your landscape design.
Compact bush beans form attractive deep green mounds that look lovely, especially when planted en masse.
And multi-coloured Swiss chard is almost too beautiful to eat! There are plenty of non-edible ornamentals that aren’t as attractive as this powerhouse green.
Herbs That Look Great
In the fall, you can tuck some hardneck seed garlic in among your established landscape plants. The tall thin leaves will look great.
To make them easier to find next year, plant them in clusters. Then, once they develop those charming gooseneck scapes in the spring, cut them off to force the plant’s energy back into the bulb. Don’t let the scapes go to waste, however.
Tender garlic scapes are delicious chopped and used on top of baked potatoes, fresh salads or in soups.
Thyme is also a welcome addition to any landscape because of its gentle creeping habit and wonderful fragrance when it is disturbed.
For this reason, thyme is ideal for filling in along paths and walkways, places where you might not have considered growing edibles.
For a more distinctive look and wonderful citrusy aroma, look for the lovely lemon variety. If you plan to use your thyme in recipes, plant some in elevated containers or in an out-of-reach area where domestic pets or other animals aren’t likely to do their business on it.
Sage, with its soft greyish-green leaves, is another herb that is as beautiful as it is delicious. Planted in groups, it makes an attractive focal point at the front of a landscape bed.
To enjoy, snip several leaves to make a delicious browned butter and sage sauce to top fresh gnocchi or pumpkin ravioli.
Unusual Edible Plants for Landscaping
Even plants that aren’t traditionally attractive can add visual appeal to a landscape. For example, cherry or pear tomato plants aren’t necessarily pretty by themselves, but look great when added to large colorful containers and set in among other ornamentals.
Try this old design trick: use an odd-number of containers to create a strong visual statement. A collection of 3 or 5 cobalt blue planters with neatly staked and well-maintained plants creates a visually interesting display.
Speaking of containers, don’t forget to tuck fragrant herbs and edible flowers in among your more traditional annual ornamental flowers.
Rosemary is a great addition to container gardens because it offers a strong vertical element that complements plants with more compact and trailing growth habits. You may want to consider edible flowers such as violas and chive blossoms, as well.
If your planting area is confined to a small patio or balcony, don’t despair. You can still grow a lot of wonderful culinary herbs, dwarf fruit plants and a couple of tomato plants in a very small space. In fact, you may be pleasantly surprised by how much your modest areas can produce.0