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Edibles in the Landscape

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Don’t just plant a back yard veggie garden, create your landscape with edible plants! The following are just a few ideas to start with, but planning and consideration can create a beautiful landscape that is largely, or possibly even completely, edible!

Many of us gardeners have a vegetable bed in the back yard, or a fruit tree somewhere on the side of the house. Have you ever thought to wonder why we are hiding our edible plants, and putting pure ornamentals with no direct benefit to our health and lives in our front yards. The many varied types of foliage, spectacular flowering, and colorful fruits of edible plants can be put front and center in your yard this year. Here’s a list of some of our favorites, and how to use them in your landscape!

Citrus and Fruit Trees: Simply put, citrus trees are incredible landscape plants. They have evergreen foliage, a tidy shape (typically 15-20 feet tall and wide), and phenomenal-smelling flowers and colorful fruits! Forget the crape myrtles, plant a citrus in the front yard! For those who don’t want to pamper a young citrus tree, try loquat or pineapple guava. These are both beautiful ever green trees that are entirely hardy in this area, and give fantastic and exotic fruits. Pineapple guava is a special favorite of For all three of these trees, no pollinator is required, and fruit set is reliable each year.

Blueberries: Did you know that blueberries are related to azaleas, and like the same soil conditions? They are also beautiful plants. They do get tall, so they would be best suited to the back of a flower bed, but they offer delicate blue-green foliage, adorable spring blooms, and of course lots of pretty and delicious fruit! They do go bare briefly during our coldest winters, but they offer a brilliant flash of burgundy fall color, and the bell-shaped flowers on bare stems in early spring will cheer you up on even the coldest February day. Plant several varieties to encourage good fruit production.

Patio Trees (Olive and Kumquat): Would you like to bring a Mediterranean to your South Louisiana home? LSU AgCenter has been trialing olive trees here for several years, with surprisingly good results! One things olive trees need, however, that we do not have is a dry climate. That is easily solved, though, by placing them in large terra cotta pots. Unlike glazed pots, terra cotta “breathes” and allows the soil to dry between rain storms. It also gives a classic Mediterranean look to a front porch or courtyard. For those who want something more tropical, kumquats made fantastic ornamental trees for pots, and the edible fruit is a bonus!

Peppers, Eggplant, Tomato: Many of our popular summer fruiting plants are very aesthetically pleasing. Consider planting your containers with veggies like container tomatoes. There are ornamental varieties of peppers on the market, but your typical cayenne or tabasco pepper can be very much as pretty in a pot. Hot peppers put on an especially good show, and keep producing more, the hotter it gets. If you can take the heat, a healthy habanero in late summer is just mild-blowingly colorful, with laods of fruits in various stages of ripeness, from yellow to red!

Herb Containers: Again a fantastic substitution for window boxes and hanging baskets are herbs! They come in so many textures and forms, that a simple container garden planted with herbs will make a fantastic year-round statement! They are easy to care for and typically like full sun and pot-bound conditions. See a sales associate for which will be happiest in the same pot together, and which need their own.

Herbs in the Ground: Two large herbs I like to grow in the ground serve dual purposes in the landscape. These are rosemary and lemongrass. Of course, they are good for cooking, but they also give beautiful form to a garden, and they also repel mosquitoes. Rosemary is an evergreen, upright or trailing plant with salvia-like purple blooms in late winter and spring. Lemongrass, is a breezy, casual ornamental grass that loves heat and humidity. Many of us know from experience that mosquitoes seek shelter from heat and wind in shrubs during the daytime. These strong-scented plants in your borders will ensure that weekend weeding is pest-free!

Winter Greens: Anyone who has grown lettuce, kale and cabbage in South Louisiana probably has fond memories of lush green beauty in the veggie garden on the coldest, dreariest winter days. These plants laugh at the sort of cold we usually experience. Why hide them in the back yard?  Try some Rainbow Swiss Chard or Siberian Kale in the front landscape this winter, and be the envy of those waiting for their flowering plants to perk up and begin blooming!