UC Master Gardeners

Landscaping with decorative plants you can eat

UC Master GardenerFebruary 13, 2013 

Chamomile, above, is a seasonal plant that may be grown in the garden for flowers and can also be used to brew tea.

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When we think about planting home gardens, we think of either landscaping with inedible plants or planting a separate vegetable garden. Why not combine them into a beautiful and useful garden you can eat? Edible plants can provide decoration and give us a healthy food source at the same time.

Incorporating edible plants into your existing landscape can provide interesting and varied displays for every season. They can attract butterflies and birds, reduce chemicals compared to store-bought produce and yield food that is fresh and tastes better than store-bought products.

Herbs, vegetables and even fruit grow well in containers. Mixed into your existing garden, they can give spice and visual variety, provide borders for walkways, be used as hedges and walls, provide striking canopies and shade and be used as replacements for high maintenance lawns. They can give brilliant shows of seasonal colors and double as fresh food.

If you let seasonal plants grow to maturity, they will show off wonderful flowers that contrast with your everyday green landscape plants. A few of them are basil, chamomile, chives, and mint. Attractive borders can be achieved with kale, lavender, marjoram, parsley, and shallots.

Instead of grass and other traditional ground covers, think about using creeping mint, Alpine strawberry, thyme, and trailing rosemary. Both nasturtium and mint will cover large areas. Some plants can be started and pruned into hedges, even lemons and limes.

Planting many edible crops is seasonal, so you have to plant warm-season crops (the soil should be between 60 and 80 degrees when planted) in spring, and cool-season crops in fall. Edible plants normally need at least six hours of sunlight a day. Vegetable plants often need plenty of water, so plants that are interspersed with other plants must have compatible water requirements.

To find out more about landscaping with edible plants, the Master Gardeners are giving a free “Advice to Grow By” workshop from 10 a.m. to noon Feb. 16 in the Garden of the Seven Sisters, 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo.

GOT A GARDENING QUESTION?

Contact the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners: at 781-5939 from 1 to 5 p.m. on Monday and Thursday; at 473-7190 from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Arroyo Grande; and at 434-4105 from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Templeton. Visit the UCCE Master Gardeners Web site at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo or email mgsanluisobispo@ucdavis.edu  .

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