Americans spend a fortune on landscaping each year, both for landscaping services and for yard and garden supplies. Landscaping services alone are nearly an $80 billion revenue industry, according to IBISWorld. For the most part, as homeowners all we gain is curb appeal, maintained property values and personal enjoyment for all that money. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could gain something else very valuable?
We can, when you turn your attention to creating an edible landscape, your yard could be putting food on your table. Whether you desire this for supplementing your food budget or to have in case of an emergency, having an edible landscape makes a lot of sense. Even in areas where a vegetable garden is not allowed, especially in front yards, there are options you can implement to have food growing right under the noses of those HOA people and town bureaucrats.
There are actually a few reasons why you might want to keep your edible landscape unrecognized by others. One, as already stated, is to circumvent community and governmental entities that forbid a standard vegetable garden under the guise of aesthetic reasons. Another reason is that with careful planning and planting, your plants will need far less attention than a typical garden would. Finally, if you are hoping to have a food source that others know nothing about so they won’t help themselves, having a secret garden is the way to go.
How to Create a Secret Garden
One of the ways in which you can create a secret garden is to choose plants that will grow together synergistically. If you begin with a center tree (fruit or nut tree, preferably), combine it with a fruit-bearing vine and then surround with shrubs, herbs and a ground cover layer, you provide a home where all grow well and aid one another. This type of setup works great just about anywhere and doesn’t look at all like a forbidden garden.
There are a number of herbs that you can grow in and amongst your flowers that will go undetected yet will provide you with ways to flavor foods and even eat on their own. Some common herbs that make beautiful landscape plants are: rosemary, parsley, dill, tarragon, lemon grass, basil, arugula, thyme, hops, chives and mint.
In addition to flavoring food, many herbs also have medicinal benefits so you could have a natural medicine cabinet ready when you need it. For example, Lavender (lavenadula) is a very versatile one to have around. Not only is it beautiful and not palatable to deer if that is a concern, you can use the petals for potpourri, sachets, and adding scent to your bathwater. Furthermore, the medical uses are also widely varied, such as helping with sleep, easing headaches and relieving muscle aches just to name a few benefits.
Other medicinal value plants you could add to your landscaping include aloe vera, ginkgo, turmeric, lily-of-the-valley, cistus, and chamomile. There are hundreds more, so if you are concerned about a particular health condition, you should research which herbs and plants are beneficial. Always take great care when using plants for their medicinal value as cultivation and use should be done the proper way for safe and effective results. You should also consult your physician.
Many of the herbs already mentioned also produce edible flowers. For example, lavender flowers can be added to vinegar, jams, cakes, biscuits and more. Another option is bergamot which is wonderful added to tea and fruit drinks, while being a dietary aid as well. Chamomile flowers are a delightful addition to tea as well. Lovers of saffron might consider growing potted marigold as its petals will add the same coloring to recipes.
There are numerous other plants, shrubs and trees that you can add to create an edible landscape that is beautiful while being useful. Some, such as the moringa, are fast becoming known throughout the world for their dietary and medicinal value.
ECHO, in North Fort Myers, FL is a non-profit involved with providing agricultural support around the world. They have introduced moringa to many areas suffering from malnutrition and poor water conditions due to the fact that it is loaded with over 90 vitamins, vital proteins, omega oils, minerals, antioxidants and more. The seeds can also be used to purify water. It can be kept trimmed to remain a bush or allowed to grow into a tree. Other edible plants that locals often pick up at the ECHO nursery include cranberry hibiscus, Ethiopian kale, katuk (Latin: Sauropus androgynous) and lemon grass.
The best idea if you are hoping to add edibles to your landscaping is to find a local nursery or non-profit, such as ECHO, that specializes in agricultural solutions. It is possible to add both culinary and medicinal value plants to your property, whether a small lot or large country acreage. You will feel good about spending your landscaping budget on something that does more than just look pretty and you could one day help your entire neighborhood survive if a catastrophe were to temporarily disable the food distribution system. Knock wood.
Images used with permission, courtesy of www.bigstock.com and www.dreamstime.com