Less Noise, More Green: Creating an Edible Landscape

Monday, February 24, 2014

Creating an Edible Landscape

The front of my house in the height of summer last year.

I have been interested in the idea of edible landscaping for a long time. I knew I wanted to eventually try it in the garden at the front of our house, which is south facing and gets the best sun. Last year we lost two trees to disease and our neighbor cut down a very large tree which had shaded our house. The front in now in full sun for much of the day. Since becoming an avid vegetable gardener, I have concentrated my efforts in the beds at the back of the house, pretty much ignoring the front which is very low maintenance, but I cannot ignore the potential for this space any longer!

Last summer I decided I was going to lasagne mulch over all the grass in the front of the house and replace it with edible plants. As fall approached, I went back and forth about what I was going to do with this space. In the end I did nothing because I just did not have a plan. Over the winter I did some more research on edible landscaping and I am glad I did not rush into making changes.

A view of the side bed.

The garden in the front of the house consists of two square areas approximately 12 feet by 17 feet each with a path running through the middle.  Bordering the house is a layer of yews and a holly bush. In front is a layer of hostas. To the side of the house is another bed sized 4 feet by 13 feet with more hostas and two small blueberry bushes that I planted last year. I also planted four rhubarb plants two in the side bed and one on either side of the path in the border.

I know what I want to accomplish and I even have a list of plants I want to include in the design but there are decisions I just cannot settle on.

Elderberries are at the top of the list of plants to add.                                                            Edal Anton Lefferov/Wikipedia

Here is what I am hoping to achieve:
  • Create a beautiful and productive garden that welcomes visitors and extends our food self-sufficiency.
  • Add edible plants, both annuals and perennials.
  • Add flowers and herbs, both edible and decorative.
  • Remove the grass and an invasive Barberry.
  • Remove the hostas.
  • Replant the blueberry bushes in the back where they will be happier.
This all seems pretty straight forward. My hesitance comes with the placement of the new plants and what to do with the grass.

Lots of lavender along the borders!!                                                                                     Fir0002/Flagstaffotos/Wikipedia

Here are the plants I want to add to the borders:
  • 2 elderberry bushes
  • Lavender
  • Tuscany Kale
  • Peppermint Swiss Chard
  • Garden Peas and Snap Peas
  • Assortment of flowers including Black-Eyed Susans, Poppies, Bachelors Button, Prairie Asters, Morning Glories and Bee Balm

Edible Landscaping, urban farming

On the patches of grass, I want to plant pumpkins on one side. If I plant a hill in the middle, the plants will vine out and fill the space. I will need to monitor and pinch vine ends as needed but the vines should kill the grass underneath it.

On the other? Here is one of the places I can't decide on a design. I want to plant a dwarf apricot tree in the middle of the patch and surround it with cranberry ground cover plants. My husband is not sure about this plan. He thinks a lone tree will look weird. I am hesitant because fruit trees, especially in this region, are very hard to keep pest and disease free and I don't want to use chemicals.

Another question is do I move the border out to create more room. I would love to remove the yews but I'm not sure I'm brave enough for that! The largest plants I want to add are the elderberries. They need to be planted six feet apart and will grow quite large.

Here is a plan of what I am thinking for placement. I've also included the movement of the sun and where the sewer line and access point is, which has to be considered in the plan.

Edible Landscaping, urban farming

My philosophy is to use dramatic looking vegetables as if they were just another plant to fit into the design, according to form and color. Both the Kale and the Swiss chard leaves will be harvested over the course of the season while the plant remains undisturbed. The peas will add height, will be replaced by the morning glories, and will provide shade for the front porch. The edible flowers will also be harvested through out the season. The plan is for there to not be holes in the border design. A mix of perennials and annuals will keep the design fresh.

Color is important in creating a landscape and I have chosen plants with blue and purple flowers, with the yellow black-eyed Susan added for contrast. I plan to plant these flowers in groups of at least three identical plants.  The Peppermint Swiss Chard has pink stems and the rhubarb has bright red stems. I will add containers of nasturtiums, calendula and geraniums to the porch steps.

I have been pinning edible landscaping ideas to a Pinterest Board. Please visit my site to get some great landscaping ideas!

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, edible landscaping, urban farming
Morning Glories at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

You can also read about the edible landscaping lessons I learned from the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, while on vacation last year. These gardens are amazing!!

This is still a work in progress but I would really value any feed back or advice you may have!

Happy planning!



  1. I love all of your ideas! Be brave! Do what you think you will like. It may inspire some of your neighbors to be "like" you! Wouldn't that be great?

    1. It would be great! There are some people in the neighborhood who are putting raised beds in their front yards. I think attitudes are changing!

  2. I say just jump in and do it - great ideas and keep us updated on the process and how it turns out!

    1. I will share how it goes - both the successes and the failures ( hopefully more of the first!).

  3. Sounds wonderful I would also just go ahead with you plan it sounds brilliant to me

  4. I admire all the planning you have done. Planning is not my strong suit.

    I have a large front yard and small backyard. I put in raised beds two years ago and have received many complements from neighbors and those walking by when I am working out front.

    I would highly recommend lasagna gardening. If you put your pumpkins in with grass still in place it may cause you a headache due to the amount of water you will be giving the pumpkins and thus the remaining grass.

    If you lay down cardboard and place soil on top you can plant immediately and the cardboard will kill the grass effectively.

    I love my gardens in the front yard and my goal this year is to be more organized in the planting ;-)

    1. Hi Yvonne,
      Yes, I've been concerned about the pumpkins and the grass. I'm also worried about what the space will look like once the pumpkins are over! I have some more thinking to do! Thanks for the advice.

  5. Hi there,
    I've been thinking of planting elderberries in my yard in Scituate for a couple of years now as I spend a ton on elderberry syrup. I think it would be pretty cool to be able to make my own. Do you have any idea if the bushes are available locally? Or if there are different varieties, which is best for medicinal elderberry syrup.

  6. Hi Libby,
    I am looking at two companies for my elderberries. Triple Brook Farm in Massachusetts which has wild elderberries and Stark Brothers which has several different cloned varieties. Both companies have online ordering.I have not found elderberries for sale in local nurseries but I plan to call around this week. You need to plant two different varieties for pollination but i have not read anything that makes me think some varieties are better than others for medicinal use. Hope that helps!

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