Cultivate a dual-purpose yard that's both beautiful and functional with our edible landscaping tips
How convenient would it be to harvest cooking ingredients and healthy snacks right from your yard? Planting an edible landscape allows you to do just that, all while cultivating a lush and vibrant garden to surround your home.
Edible landscaping incorporates food plants into your yard. Instead of focusing on sectioned-off garden beds, edible landscapes highlight the ornamental qualities of vegetables, herbs, and fruits, integrating them naturally into your landscape design.
It can be challenging to successfully start a vegetable garden while evading hungry deer, rabbits, and squirrels. That's why many options on our list can be planted strategically among other wildlife-resistant plants to ward off hungry foragers. Read on for our list of the best plants by hardiness zone and planting season, as well as some design pointers for your tasty garden project.
The Best Edible Landscape Plants
Edible plants like leafy greens, corn, and peas tend to easily attract hungry animals, so they are best suited for covered or sectioned-off garden beds. The plants below are either somewhat resistant to wildlife or fare better when planted along with ornamentals out in the open.
One thing to note is that if you plan to harvest and eat these fruits and vegetables, make sure not to treat them with chemical pesticides. Many pesticides and herbicides are not intended to be ingested by people. Research organic, safe products for edible plants, and feed them with organic compost instead of fertilizer. You can also practice companion planting, or the pairing of plants that enhance each other’s growth, to keep your garden lush without the need for chemicals.
Juicy and delicious, strawberries are the perfect summer fruit to please just about everyone. Strawberry plants are perennials that make excellent ground covers. Their runners spread quickly and may need frequent trimming, but those bright red berries that make for great salad additions or smoothie ingredients are well worth your while.
Hardiness zones: 4 to 9
Season: Plant in spring in cool climates and spring or fall in warmer climates
A handful of fresh blueberries makes for a delicious, healthy snack—so why not plant them right in your yard? Perfect for breakfast smoothies and fruit salads, blueberries sprout lantern-like, white flowers on their bushes in the spring and turn a deep red-purple in the fall.
Hardiness zones: 3 to 9
Season: Plant blueberries in spring or late fall
3. Fruit Trees
Who wouldn’t want to pluck delicious fruit from a tree in their own yard? Planting and nurturing fruit trees is incredibly rewarding, allowing you to enjoy different fruits without having to purchase them at the grocery store.
Hardiness zones: Pear: 4 to 8; Fig: 8 to 10; Plum: 3 to 8; Cherry: 5 to 7; Lemon: 9 to 11; Peach: 4 to 9; Orange: 9 to 11
Season: Plant in the fall
Herbs and Vegetables
Herbs are an obvious choice for an edible landscape, but make sure to go with perennials like oregano, lavender, rosemary, sage, and thyme. Annuals like basil and cilantro tend to attract animals with their strong aromas. For those herbs, stick to planting them in an enclosed garden or kitchen herb garden.
Hardiness zones: Sage: 5 to 9; Rosemary: 7 to 10; Oregano: 5 to 12; Lavender: 5 to 9; Thyme: 5 to 9
Season: Plant in early spring
There are many varieties of hot and sweet peppers to choose from, and they all have excellent uses in salsas and salads. Bell peppers and cayenne peppers bring an interesting pop of color to the garden. However, their leaves tend to attract hungry animals, so make sure to wait until they’ve grown taller and hardier before planting them in the open.
Hardiness zones: 9 to 11
Season: Plant seeds in late winter or early spring
Perennials, often grown as annuals
Baked, grilled, or steamed, artichokes are delicious additions to meals. What’s more, artichoke plants will introduce one of the most interesting shapes to your landscape. Their spiky, thick foliage makes a statement, but when in bloom, their purple flowers bring vibrancy to the whole yard. An artichoke’s prickly leaves are unappealing to hungry wildlife, making this edible a safe bet for an open landscape.
Hardiness zones: 7 to 11
Season: When grown as annuals, plant in spring; in warmer regions, plant in fall
Annuals in cooler regions, short-lived perennials in warm regions
Eggplants can offer some interesting texture variety among a bed of flowers. While the shiny, purple varieties we all know and love are beautiful, there are also other types to choose from, some round and some white. Eggplants mature quickly and have scratchy leaves that can keep wildlife at bay. Their star-shaped flowers add even more beauty to a landscape, and the roasted vegetable makes a satisfying addition to meals.
Hardiness zones: 5 to 12
Season: Start seeds indoors, plant outside in late spring
Perennial, often grown as an annual
Pole beans can grow tall on a trellis, which adds height variety to your garden. They also make healthy and tasty vegetable side dish additions. Just make sure to put chicken wire around the bottom of the plants so wildlife can’t get to them first.
Hardiness zones: 3 to 10
Season: Plant in spring after danger of frost has passed or in fall 10 weeks before expected frost
9. Onions, Garlic, Chives
Alliums such as onions, garlic, and chives are perfect for an edible landscape because not only will wildlife not target them, but they also make desirable ingredients. You can plant them among other veggies to try to keep animals away from them, too. Chives bloom in cute purple tufts that will look right at home in the garden.
Hardiness zones: 3 to 9
Season: Plant in early fall
Kale is one of the healthiest vegetables out there and it’s a beautiful addition to a landscape, too. This vegetable comes in a variety of colors, from green to red, and grows frilly, ornate leaves that will make the whole garden look even lusher than before.
Hardiness zones: 7 to 9
Season: Plant in spring
Tomatoes are a garden favorite, so why not work them into the landscape? This sun-loving plant will add height to your garden wherever you decide to place a trellis or stake for it to climb. Before long, you’ll have plenty of this essential ingredient for homemade salsa, salad, sauces, and stews.
Hardiness zones: 5 to 8
Season: Plant in late spring or early summer
Perennial, often grown as an annual
12. Edible Flowers
Don’t overlook edible flowers in your landscape. Daisies, dandelions, hibiscus, honeysuckle, pansies, roses, lavender, lilac, and sunflowers all add exuberant colors to your yard while also making lovely garnish options for salads or cocktails.
Hardiness zone and season: Varies by flower
Edible Landscape Design Tips
Edible plants can also be attractive. For best results, start small and choose just a few fruits or vegetables that you actually like to eat. Mix these edible plants with ornamental plants, and you can expand your selection of edible plants over time.
You don’t have to have a massive budget to make your garden look beautiful. All you need is time, a little patience, and a willingness to play around with your layout to see what you like best. To help you get started, we’ve compiled a few design tips below.
Know Your Landscape
Study your outdoor space to find out which areas get the most sunshine per day. It’s a good idea to pick a spot with at least six hours of sunlight and access to water, where most vegetables and fruits will thrive.
For other areas of the yard, consider these edible plants that thrive in the shade:
Make sure to test the nutrients of your soil before getting started as well. You can add mulch and topsoil to your edible landscape, but it’s important to know if you have a good foundation to start with and to be able to identify the most healthy areas of the yard.
Create Unity and a Focal Point
For unity, group similar plant types together. For example, use a tall row of berry bushes as a backdrop for low-growing greens. You can also create an eye-catching focal point with fruit trees or large, vibrant bushes.
Pick a Color Scheme
Because there are so many colorful options to choose from, mixing edibles with ornamental plants allows you to play around with the color schemes of your landscape. If you have a small space, try to stick to just two to three colors and repeat them throughout the space.
Here are some edible plant pairing suggestions:
Purple and pink: chives, red kale, eggplant, sage, lavender
Yellow: bell peppers, yellow cherry tomatoes
Red: tomatoes, cayenne peppers
White: oregano, plum tree, honeysuckle
Add a Walkway for Accessibility
To create clear lines that separate the edible landscape from walkways, consider rock borders to differentiate your edible landscape from a stone or gravel path. A stone and gravel company can help you plan this out.
Make sure all areas of your edible landscape are accessible for watering. You don’t want to have to trample your plants just to get to the ones in the back!
It’s also a nice touch to plant fragrant herbs and flowers, such as lavender and mint, along a walkway so that passersby will get a whiff of their sweet scents.
Fruit trees, rows of tall-growing shrubs, and tall edibles like asparagus can form a natural privacy screen for your yard. Plant these along the edge of your yard or against a wall of your house.
For even more visual variety, include several plants in containers throughout the landscape. Common container ideas include stone pots, horse troughs, and raised beds.
Hiring a Pro
It can be extremely rewarding to grow your own food and have it look great at the same time. Hire a local landscaping professional to make the most of your edible garden aspirations in your specific region.