Edible Landscaping for Beginners: How to Begin a Plan

There is a trend emerging, a very good trend, toward homeowners filling their garden with edible plantings. Homeowners are trading out ornamental plants for the practical plants that produce food and nourishment for themselves.  How does a gardener begin with changing their landscape into a practical edible garden?  You might be surprised.  Try creating your "foodscape" by starting at the grocery store.  You read that right, the grocery store!  To make a garden plan you have to know what you want to grow and analyzing your food purchases is the best way to start.

How to Start Planning Your Edible Landscape

Create a "To Grow" List

While you shop for your normal groceries take note of everything you purchase that you can grow at home. Take your receipts and write down the things you purchase to try to recognize any trends in your purchases. What do you buy the most of that you can grow?  What is the most expensive item you purchase can you grow? Don't just stick with the produce area, check out the processed foods you normally purchase.  Take your spaghetti sauce and identify the ingredients that make it and put them on the "to grow" list.  Check out the canned soups and see what is it takes to put together your favorite soups.  Be sure to include herbs on your To Grow list.

Tomatoes are great in edible gardens!Recognizing the trends in your fruit and vegetable consumption will enable you to plan effectively what to grow.  It doesn't make sense to use up space to grow asparagus if you absolutely can't stand it, but if you just have to have kale in your smoothies then you know you need to grow! Identify your favorite vegetables, your most used vegetables, and the most expensive vegetables to create an effective To Grow list.

Recognize the Seasonal Nature of What You Can Grow

Not everything in the grocery store will be able to be grown in your garden when you might like it.  Seasonal weather patterns bring cold in the winter that warm season plants like tomatoes, peppers, and squash just can't stand.  If you have space indoors or a heated greenhouse you might be able to grow warm season vegetables much longer into the cool season or even through the cool season but for most gardeners it just isn't feasible.  Additionally cool season vegetables bolt fast when the temperature gets hot.  You need to learn and understand the seasonal nature of what you can grow.

Categorize your To Grow list by the peak season for that vegetable.  This way you can map out specific planting dates later.  Keep in mind that there are many methods to preserve vegetables, fruits, and herbs that will allow you to benefit from them in the off-seasons.  Be sure to put canning, drying, and freezing on your To Learn list if you don't know how to do these already!

Identify Perennial and Annual Produce

Perennial plants return every year and annuals don't and an effective garden needs a mix of both.  Check your To Grow list and identify the perennials.  In most cases were we are talking about your fruits.  Cherries, apples, peaches, blueberries, and many others provide food year after year as long as they remain in good health.  Fruit trees and shrubs take time to get established and it could be more than 3 years before you actually get produce from them!  This is why these plants should be the first things you plant.  Fruit trees take more space than standard vegetable plants and should become the bones of your garden.  When planting fruit trees be sure to site them correctly so that they do not create shade over vegetable growing areas.  If your garden is in the northern hemisphere is makes sense to plant the trees on the northside of your vegetable growing area.  If you are in the southern hemisphere then the reverse is true.

Many fruit producers have special requirements that you need to plan for like blueberries.  Blueberries need a somewhat acidic soil to grow and produce well but the soil can be adjusted to fit the plant.  Other fruits like blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries are very forgiving for the beginning gardener!

There is a lot to think about when creating a plan for your edible landscape.  Identifying what you need to grow is the first step.  Once you have figured out your needs you can then start to create a plan!

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