Design an Edible Landscape: Turn Your Front Yard Into a Beautiful Edible Garden

Design the perfect edible front yard with a few principles: structure, repetition, form, texture and color.

  • A small espaliered apple tree is nestled in this colorful border.
    Photo By Ann Summa/Courtesy Timber Press
  • Treat your edibles, such as artichokes, just like you would ornamental plants when designing a front yard food garden.
    Design and Photo By Laura Livengood Schaub/Courtesy Timber Press
  • Basil and sages are planted in multiples of threes and fives along this gravel path—a garden this eclectic needs the strength of numbers.
    Photo By Ann Summa/Courtesy Timber Press
  • Ornamentally planted borders give the front garden visual interest and a sense of lushness while the edibles are starting out for the season.
    Garden Design By Chirs Saleeba of Fresh Digs/Courtesy Timber Press
  • "The Edible Front Yard" offers step-by-step instructions for turning your front yard into a beautiful, edible garden, with specific guidelines for selecting and planting the most attractive edible plants, as well as design advice and plans for the best placement and for combining edibles with ornamentals.
    Photo Courtesy Timber Press

The following is an excerpt from The Edible Front Yard: The Mow-Less, Grow-More Plan for a Beautiful, Bountiful Garden by Ivette Soler (Timber Press, 2011). The excerpt is from Chapter 4: Design Primer and Garden Planner. 

I am an unabashed plant maniac. When I design, everything is in service of the plantings and the enjoyment of those plantings. I create relationships between plants based on color, shape, texture, mood, and how the plants in question grow together. The result is a complex planting scheme that engages us on many different levels: the visual, the tactile, and the emotional. Successful gardens grab us by the heart, and there is no reason an edible garden can’t do the same thing.

Why not make our edible gardens extra pretty by applying the same techniques garden designers use to make fancy gardens look great? Smart, decisive plant combination takes the kitchen garden beyond a utilitarian planting of food crops. It becomes an edible landscape. Don’t be afraid to think of your edibles as pure ornament when designing your planting beds. The architectural value of artichokes and rhubarb are clear, but don’t stop there. Take a look at other edibles with a fresh eye: the vertical stalks of corn draw the eye up and give drama to your garden (or if you live in a more tropical zone, why not try sugarcane?). Think of vegetables as flowers—they will be ripening on the vine and adding interest to your garden for as long as most flowers would. In my front yard I have a ‘Sungold’ tomato that uses a blue pole cactus as a trellis. The little golden globes ripening next to the cool, spiny tower makes me as happy as any flower would. Happier, maybe, because I get to enjoy their sweet sunny taste as well as their visual appeal.

This chapter gives an overview of the basic design principles—structure, repetition, form, texture, and color—before diving into a few specific elements of edible front yard design, such as herbal groundcovers and traditional companion planting.

The Importance of Structure

Structure can be built into a garden through hardscape that gives strength and focus. But by using the right plants in the same purposeful way, you give the softscape of your edible garden a backbone. Most of our edibles will be planted, bloom, set fruit, and the remains composted all in one season. It is the planted structure that keeps your front yard looking well put together for the entire year.

Planted structure refers to plants that shine in a landscape from season to season. Their strong shapes, interesting foliage, and endurance give the eye something to hold onto when other plants with more fleeting lives are waning. Structural plants are often dramatic architectural accents but quieter plants can also be used in structural ways (by repeating them in clumps or ribboning them through the landscape). The important factor is their ability to command interest in the garden throughout the seasons, whether as a standout diva or a supporting player.

Kimberly Fordyce McDonald
3/21/2013 1:40:40 PM

Better than mowing!!!

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