This Lush Yard Proves Edible Gardening in Small Spaces is Possible

Plus, plenty of creative solutions you can copy in your own yard!

Edible gardening in small spaces can seem like an impossible task. But even if you don't have much room to work with, a little ingenuity can help you make the most of every inch of soil to create a lush, abundant place for planting. Titi Liu became inspired to transform the limited landscape around her home while walking by her neighbor's yard in Palo Alto, California.

In particular, the raised garden beds filled with fresh veggies caught her eye, and she soon found out that Leslie Bennett, owner of Pine House Edible Gardens, was behind the pretty, productive design. Bennett is known for the gorgeous vegetable beds she creates for her clients and for finding creative ways to weave in edibles throughout a landscape.

Liu family sitting at table on back patio in backyard
Caitlin Atkinson

Titi and Eric Liu decided to hire Bennett and landscape architect Holly Kuljian to help them reimagine their simple landscaping of mostly native ornamental plants as a more diverse, beautiful mix with plenty of edibles. "It's a small yard, so we wanted every spot to work hard," Bennett says. As a result, the family's new landscape is jam-packed with ideas for small space gardening.

Build Raised Beds in Unused Spaces

vegetable garden brick patio cedar planter
Caitlin Atkinson

One of the most innovative parts of the Lius’ new garden is the raised beds in their brick driveway. The family hardly ever used the driveway, so Bennett decided to make the area functional by installing raised cedar beds filled with edible plants. Each bed was designed to produce as much food as possible; steel trellises support vining crops such as cucumbers, herbs grow around the edges of each bed, and flowering plants such as anise hyssop help attract pollinators but can also be used to brew tea.

Maximize Shade With the Right Edibles and Ornamentals

year-round ornamental garden flagstone path
Caitlin Atkinson

The Lius’ backyard presented a lighting challenge; though it’s about 1,000 square feet, it also has a big, shady oak tree that makes it a little trickier to grow edible plants. Bennett squeezed in ginger, lavender, pomegranate, pineapple guava, and fig trees into the sunniest spots, then filled shadier areas with ornamentals that tolerate less light. She also picked ornamentals that would look good in any season, such as yuccas, mahonias, and asparagus ferns, which line the flagstone pathway to the front porch.

Include Plants for Privacy and Enclosure

house front yard porch wooden fence
Caitlin Atkinson

Because the Lius' front yard faces a busy street, Bennett selected perennials that will offer year-round privacy. Cape rush and phormium can reach 6 feet tall (or more), providing plenty of privacy, while Fuyu persimmon trees give the family fresh fruit (plus enough extra to share with neighbors!). And throughout the whole property, the designers used masses of plantings to create a sense of enclosure within the framework of the existing hardscaping. Including both edibles and ornamentals with architectural foliage means there's never a dull view from the house.

Grow Food Your Family Loves Eating

outdoor dining table on patio
Caitlin Atkinson

Whenever Bennett designs an edible garden for a family, there are a few staples she always tries to include. Berries are easy to grab (and easy for kids to harvest); she likes to plant huckleberries in shade, strawberries in containers, and vining raspberries and blackberries along fences. Blueberry bushes can also double as a hedge. Snackable plants are also one of her favorites, including cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, and cucamelons. Finally, root veggies are fun for kids to dig up, and some, such as radishes, mature quickly and can be ready to harvest in about 30 days.

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