Edible Landscapes

Bob Vaughn, UM Extension Master Gardener, Anoka County, January, 2014

As I look out the window and see the thermometer at -25, I start wishing for spring, still a long way off.  Seed catalogs and tree order forms can take your mind to a warmer time.  As you browse and make your lists think about adding some edibles to your landscape.  Edible landscapes have become more popular recently but this is far from a new idea. Many of the ancient gardens of Babylonia, Egypt or medieval cloistered gardens used edible plants for their gardens.

Edible landscaping doesn’t mean turning your whole yard into a vegetable garden. By using the same principles of landscaping such as balance, unity, pattern, and inter connection you can include an assortment of edible plants into your landscape. You can have an attractive and productive landscape.  There is a large selection of plants or seeds to use in your edible landscape. There are both annual and perennial plants. Many of the trees and shrubs in the catalog are natives which typically have the advantage of less watering and maintenance.

The following plants and seeds are usually readily available. Check those seed catalogs or the internet for more. Now is a good time to order seeds so you have them in time to give them a head start under lights.



Rainbow chards and colorful kales can easily be incorporated into a flower bed and provide greens for tasty and nutritious salads. Herbs like chives, rosemary, thyme, parsley are all easy to grow and very good in the kitchen. Creeping thyme, chamomile and strawberry can be used as ground covers. Sweet or hot peppers are also available in many colorful varieties but be careful with children, touching hot peppers and then your eyes can be quite painful.

Shrubs with edible fruit such as raspberry, high-bush cranberry, serviceberry or hazelnut could be used as a hedge or a divider. If you don’t pick the fruit the wildlife will love to pick it for you.  Apple trees, flowering crab, wild plum and sand cherry can be used in the landscape . If you plant an apple tree, remember they are not self- pollinating so you will need two varieties. A neighbor’s tree will work well.

Many of these trees and shrubs are available quite reasonably at your Soil and Water Conservation District sales. They are usually sold in bundles of 25.  If 25 trees are more than you need, talk to your friends and neighbors and share a few selections.  Anoka, Isanti and Ramsey counties all have annual spring tree sales.   For now, let’s stay warm, dream and plan.  Then we will be ready when spring comes.