When it comes to planting trees, plants and bushes, one of the best things you can do is plant edible landscaping. Not only will you beautify your yard, but you’ll produce fresh, delicious food every year with almost no effort!
Here are five edible landscaping plants that are easy to care for, resist diseases and pests, and produce delicious results.
1. Raspberries and blackberries: These delicious perennials are truly no-fuss. In my southern Minnesota back yard, they receive no staking, fertilizing, cutting back or even extra watering (past the first couple of weeks after planting) and they continue to give us more and more berries year after year. These will spread, so plant them in the back of the yard or an out of the way place where they won’t take over your flower beds. They also do have thorns, but my kids and I consider that a fair price to pay for handfuls of juicy berries every summer day. Plant everbearing varieties to have a harvest of delicious berries from August through your first frost, and some summer bearing varieties for a treat in July. (Zone info and planting instructions)
2. Pear trees: Many people plant apple trees in their back yard for the bounty of fruit they provide, but most apples are very susceptible to pests and need either regular pesticide use or quite a lot of tending and protection to keep the fruits safe. Pears, on the other hand, can be much better at fending for themselves. Last year we harvested buckets of apples and pears from my in-laws’ back yard in Elysian. Nearly every apple was wormy but the pears were pristine. When planting pears, be sure to look for varieties that are especially cold hardy if you’re in a colder climate like Minnesota. (Planting instructions and care info)
3. Chives: These little emerald green, grass-like plants are well-loved in our yard. They come back every spring and produce limitless cuttings for soups, main dishes and garnishes. When they bloom in early summer, the pretty purple flower heads can be used as edible garnishes in salads or to decorate soups. My ten-year-old daughter, Anna, loves to head to the garden with scissors and get a handful of fresh chives to top her signature egg dish. It is so nice to have an endless supply of fresh herbs for dinner just a few feet from the back door. That’s not the only reason to grow chives, though. They also make an excellent companion planting, helping everything from tomatoes to roses in terms of resisting pests and even improving the tastes of their neighboring garden plants! (Planting instructions and care info)
4. Rhubarb: This plant is so maligned and ignored and it’s such a shame. So many people have it growing in their yards year after year and never harvest a stalk, but it’s a wonderful plant to take advantage of. It’s pest-resistant, nutritious and completely no-care once it’s established. If you already have some growing neglected in your back yard, start using it! If not, plant a couple in a sunny spot. You can use it for so much more than rhubarb pie. Some of its many uses include strawberry-rhubarb jam, rhubarb lemonade and delicious quick breads. (Planting and care instructions)
5. Mint: Mint is fabulous for so many uses, from pesto to syrup to pest repellant. This perennial herb can get invasive, so plant it somewhere out of the way where it won’t bother any other plants. Also consider specialty mints, such as chocolate mint and apple mint, which are less invasive and offer tastes you can’t buy in any store. Mint grows so well and spreads so fast that you can use handfuls for cooking, drying and in homemade body products. Use mint for tea (just pour boiling water over a few sprigs and then sweeten with honey or sugar or leave as is), in sweet and savory recipes and even to repel mosquitoes (just rub the leaves on your skin). (Planting instructions and uses)
Where to buy: Avoid buying your landscaping plants from the national chain stores. They carry the same merchandise everywhere in the country, with no regard for local growing conditions. They also tend to use many chemicals to keep the plants looking perfect short-term, at the expense of long-term health.
Buy from local nurseries or mail order. I always check my suppliers through the Garden Watchdog, where consumers rate garden companies. It’s a fantastic way to find those little suppliers who go well beyond most companies and offer truly great plants and service.
Also consider checking the garden swap forums to see if you can get them free for trade!
What are your favorite edible landscaping plants? Please leave your suggestions in the comments!