Edible LandscapingNew Residential
What is Edible Landscaping?
Edible landscaping refers to the practice of incorporating food-producing plants in the landscape. Combine fruit and nut trees, vegetables, herbs, edible flowers and shrubs with berries to create an attractive design that produces fruits and vegetables for home consumption. Consider including food plants throughout the landscape or residents may wish to dedicate a section of the yard to a vegetable garden. Growing even small amounts of fruits or vegetables encourages healthy eating and sustainable lifestyles protect the environment and give gardeners a sense of personal satisfaction (see Active Living).
How to Implement Edible Landscaping
There are a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and herbs that grow well in New Jersey’s climate. The following items guide developing a landscape with edible plants.
- Conduct a soil test in various locations, especially if growing food-producing plants directly in the soil (see Soil Test).
- Consider organic gardening methods especially for edible gardens (see Native and Adapted Plants). Pesticides and fertilizers used in conventional gardening may leave a harmful residue.
- Create a landscaping scrapbook filled with inspirational images. Include edible plants that are aesthetically pleasing as well as images of walkways, walls, fences or other landscape features of interest.
- Consider consulting a landscape professional with expertise in edible crops.
- Know the local climate – for instance, the northwestern and shoreline areas of New Jersey have slightly cooler and warmer year-round climates, respectively, than the rest of the state. Get to know the landscape – note the conditions at various times during the day. Where is it sunny and for how long (see Energy-Efficient Landscaping)?
- Sketch out a preliminary design.
- Create a mock-up design by using props in the yard. This makes it easier to envision various landscaping elements before installing them.
- Commit the plan to paper – draw a map, use accurate measurements, establish locations, and create a list of elements to install.
- Create a cost estimate based on the plan.
- Consider one-to-one substitutions such as replacing an existing shrub with a fruit-bearing shrub.
- Consider using indoor sunspaces or insulated porches for winter growing.
- Protect fruits and vegetables from being eaten by animals (i.e., deer, gophers, voles) with a fence.
- Choose natural organic repellents that use various smells and tastes to keep pests out of the garden (see Integrated Pest Management).
- Call your County Extension Office for free advice from the county Master Gardener Program. njaes.rutgers.edu/county
Challenges to consider:
- Careful planning – like all plants, food-producing plants have specific growing requirements. Most fruit trees and vegetable plants need at least 6 hours of sunlight per day and like well-drained soil. Creating an aesthetically pleasing landscape that incorporates food-producing plants requires planning and design. Plant vegetables or herbs harvested frequently in a garden dedicated solely to production.
- Toxic plants – research plants carefully as some plants contain natural toxins.
- Inputs and maintenance – some food-producing plants may need as much water, fertilizer, pruning, and pest management as a lawn or ornamental plants. For example, vegetables like sweet corn, tomatoes, and melons and fruits such as peaches and apples can be high maintenance crops (see Water-Efficient Landscaping).
- Seasonality – many vegetables are annuals, requiring replanting every year. Plant annuals in an area dedicated solely to production. Incorporate perennials, including herbs, berries or fruit trees into a year-round landscape.
- Harvesting – at the height of a plants production, fruits and vegetables may need to be harvested on a daily basis. Harvest ripe fruit promptly to avoid rot and attracting vermin.
- Cooking and preparation – some highly perishable fruits and vegetables may require quick processing.
For more specific information see the Rutgers NJ Agricultural Experiment Station’s – Planting a Vegetable Garden guide.
Edible Estates illustrates the conversion of an entire front lawn in Maplewood, NJ to an edible garden. A steep slope surrounding the yard was planted with strawberries, while 15 raised beds include various types of vegetables.
- Saves money on purchasing food and the seeds and small plants needed to get started are inexpensive and widely available.
- Reduces energy use and overall pollution associated with the transportation and production of food products.
- Contributes to a diverse and healthy habitat (see Wildlife Habitat).
- Improves nutrition – plants have the highest nutrient content and flavor immediately after being harvested. Conventional produce bought from the grocery store may have been harvested up to two weeks prior.
- Increases fruit and vegetable intake – gardeners consume more of the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables than non-gardeners.
- Improves food security for the household.
- Reduces dependence on sources of food grown with pesticides or herbicides.
- Increases convenience – growing food at home takes some maintenance but encourages the consumption of fresh, healthy foods and can facilitate easy meal preparation.
- Increases exercise and reduce stress – even moderate amounts of gardening can increase muscle strength and endurance as well as contribute to a sense of general well-being. Many gardeners report increased levels of personal satisfaction (see Active Living).
- Provides an opportunity for fun and education – gardening provides learning opportunities for families with children. Growing, caring for, harvesting and cooking foods grown in the home landscape are great ways to teach kids a variety of skills.
- Provides access to unusual varieties of fruits and vegetables that may not be available in your local grocery store.
- Reduces time spent on mowing traditional turf grass in a lawn (see Turfgrass Reduction).
In a study conducted by the National Gardening Association in 2008, 54% of respondents cited saving money on food bills as the reason for growing edible plants. On average, households growing food (including vegetables, fruit trees, berries, and herbs) spent only $70 annually on edible plants. The majority (57%) of households growing food did so in gardens 100 square feet or smaller. A production garden, 20′ x 30′, geared towards growing food for consumption can yield an average of 350 pounds of vegetables, valued at over $600 at an initial cost of $70.
Edible landscapes offer the opportunity for homeowners and neighborhoods to grow some of their food, reducing dependency on food supply chains and transportation networks disrupted or compromised due to storms or other events.
 Oregon State University – Edible Landscaping http://extension.oregonstate.edu/mg/metro/sites/default/files/edible_landscaping.pdf (accessed April 16, 2018)
 Aime Sommerfeld et al. (2011) “Gardening linked to increased vegetable consumption in older adults.” American Society for Horticultural Science. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110317141428.htm (accessed May 22, 2018).
 University of Maryland Extension. Edible Landscaping. https://extension.umd.edu/st-marys-county/home-gardening/edible-landscaping (accessed November 26, 2018).
 Bellows, Anne C., Katherine Brown and Jac Smit. 2003. Health Benefits of Urban Agriculture. https://www.csu.edu/cerc/researchreports/documents/HealthBenefitsOfUrbanAgriculture2003.pdf (accessed April 16, 2018).
 National Gardening Association. Edible Landscaping with Charlie Nardozzi. http://www.garden.org/ediblelandscaping/?page=201003-garden-saves (accessed April 16, 2018).
- ASLA – Applying Ecological Design: Gardens and Permaculture
- National Gardening Association: Edible Landscaping
- New Jersey
- Virginia Cooperative Extension, Intensive Gardening Methods