It used to be that gardeners separated their edible plants—fruits, vegetables, and herbs—from the other plants in their landscape. But follow the principles of making an edible landscape, and you can use them as a visual garden treat.

By Deb Wiley
May 01, 2018

If you already grow plants in your yard, it will probably be easy to incorporate vegetables, fruits, and herbs into your existing beds to make an edible landscape. Besides providing tasty produce, many edibles are gorgeous and will beautify your landscape.

To design an edible landscape, first take stock of your yard. Look for lackluster plants you can replace with varieties that have edible features. Blueberries, with their spring flowers, tasty fruits, and exceptional fall color, make great hedge plants.

Also consider growing fruit or nut trees. Locate them away from driveways, patios, decks, and walkways so the inevitable fruit and nut drop doesn't cause a mess. If you're lacking space, check out new columnar varieties that grow taller than they are wide.

Most edibles perform best in locations that receive six to eight hours of full sun each day. Cool-season plants, such as lettuce, spinach, radishes, and cabbage, tolerate some shade. But lettuces and small cabbages, in particular, can make for nice edging plants.

Garden structures such as obelisks and trellises add interest to your landscape while supporting edibles.

Finally, remember that you don't need to grow edibles in straight, boring rows. Plant in graphic, pleasing patterns, leaving enough space between plants to avoid overcrowding but close enough to create a dense appearance and shade out weeds. (If you’re concerned about spacing, you can check the plant tag to find advice specific to what you’re planting.)

If you're growing edibles among your other landscape plants, you'll want them to have neat and tidy growing habits, minimal pest problems, and bountiful production. Try these for front-yard-worthy performance:




Micheller Topor Rooftop Garden


Ocimum Aristotle (basil)

Challenges in Edible Landscapes


The biggest challenges to an edible landscape are the light conditions and critters such as deer and rabbits. The best way to manage deer is with netting or a fence at least 8 feet tall—impossible to do in most front yards. Repellent sprays can be effective if gardeners make frequent applications and change formulations so deer don't become accustomed to them. To keep rabbits out, enclose gardens with a 3-foot-tall chicken wire fence that has 1-1/2-inch mesh (and burry at least a few inches below the soil to deter rabbits from getting into your garden).

Dogs also can be effective deterrents.

At the beginning of every growing season, walk through your landscape to note how the evolving growing conditions are meeting the needs of your fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Look for changing sun-shade patterns, low-water areas, poorly drained spots, crowded garden beds that need to be expanded, and plants that need dividing. Don't expect vegetables to grow well in the dry areas under your home's eaves or near trees where their roots will compete for water.

Many edible plants can be susceptible to disease problems, so keep an eye on them and treat any issues as they pop up. Removing diseased foliage is one of the best things you can do to keep diseases from spreading wildly.

Comments (3)

June 3, 2018
I agree: edible landscape plants are the way to go! To deter pests, here is what works for me: 1. Onions and garlic. I plant them ALL OVER. Deer hate the smell. So do cabbage butterflies. And they deter aphids too. The allium flowers are also pretty. 2. Mint and other smelly herbs. They tend to repel insects. I think they may repel rabbits too. 3. A little fountain of water, where the birds can come drink. You need a setup that keeps the water clean and doesn't get mosquitoes. But when the birds hang around, they eat insects like mad. They might get a berry or two, but mostly they protect the garden.
June 2, 2018
Does nobody proofread these articles? This sentence is a disaster: " To keep rabbits out, enclose gardens with a 3-foot-tall chicken wire fence that has 1-1/2-inch mesh (and burry at least a few inches below the soil to deter rabbits from getting into your garden)." First, you said at the beginning "To keep rabbits out", so why would you add "to deter rabbits from getting into your garden" at the end? In addition, the spelling is "bury" not "burry". I can't take someone who won't get their work checked seriously because I think maybe they think they know it all.
June 2, 2018
I have not found that dogs are an effective deterrent. A rabbit actually had a nest in my garden with my collie and sheltie. Other rabbits come in all the time. The dog noticing them makes them leave, but until then they chow down.