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Edible Landscape Plants

An edible landscape challenges the home gardener to incorporate fruit- and vegetable-producing plants into the overall design. It is not necessary to substitute these plants for all ornamentals in the landscape. The idea is to progress from the typical backyard garden and develop a plan that uses edible plants to solve functional landscape problems.

Planting fruit trees instead of crabapples. No matter how small the space, there is some variety of apple, pear, cherry, peach, or plum that can be planted. Dwarf varieties generally reach a height of 6' — 10' and should bear fruit within three to four years. Semi-dwarf varieties grow to approximately 15' — 20'.

Cherry fruitInstead of planting junipers, liriope, or cotoneaster, think about planting strawberries as a ground cover. An area with well-drained soil that receives at least 6 — 7 hours of direct sunlight will produce lush green foliage, spring blossoms, and early summer fruit. Choose a variety adapted to your area, and plant disease- and insect-resistant plants. Set individual plants 12" — 18" apart in the spring, allowing runners to develop and mass over the entire bed. Clean cultivation is essential. Strawberries are perennials, but their beds need to be renovated every 3 — 4 years.

Blueberry bushes are a good substitute for a ligustrum or burford holly hedge. The rabbiteye type is more widely adapted to different soils than are high-bush varieties. Acid soils (with a pH of 4.5 — 5.5) usually promote best growth. Modify soils by adding plenty of organic matter and by mulching with 4" — 6" of decayed sawdust. Two or more varieties should be planted to ensure proper pollination. Plant the bushes in full sun about 4-1/2'— 5' apart.