Creating an edible garden in your backyard

Hello fellow gardeners, this week I’d like to discuss growing edibles in your home garden. I’ve previously emphasized the use of compost in your soil, and any organic fertilizers, to “build up” the soil health, and that’s critical for edibles as well. Edibles can be anything from fruit and nut trees to tomatoes and herbs and there are just as many ways to integrate them into your garden setting as there are gardens.

Let’s talk about fruit and nut trees. Why grow them? Besides the obvious advantages of being able to grow your own organic food, they are also beautiful trees that can replace other trees that basically don’t do a thing for you in the garden landscape.

Citrus are “evergreen” trees – they do not lose their leaves so they are great where you want constant coverage and some shade year round. A few of my preferred citrus trees are the “Improved Meyer Lemon,” “Minneola Tangelo” and “Rio Red Grapefruit.”

The more well-known deciduous fruit trees would be apples, peaches, pears, and nectarines, and all are available as dwarf, semi-dwarf and even miniatures for large pots on the patio. They can blend in beautifully in any landscape and will reward you for years to come, just make sure they receive ample water for best fruit production.

How about some berries? Strawberries can be grown in a large “strawberry bowl” type clay pot, or as I do, in the ground in a raised bed. Boysenberries, raspberries, blueberries (they need acid soil) will reward you for years for your efforts – just watch out for the thorns on some varieties. Grapes are another great fruit for the garden; they do get large though, so you will need to learn how to prune them for best production, same with the raspberries and boysenberries.

Again, many of these plants can be mixed into your regular landscape – they will go dormant in winter however so bear that in mind.

Ever go out to the garden and pick your own squash, cucumbers or sweet snap peas? Once you do, you’re hooked. I recommend a special area for these types of “rambling” veggies. Tomatoes need support, you don’t want the “fruit” lying on the ground, same with other veggies mentioned, and I like to lay down a couple inches of hay around my plants for mulch as well, great around strawberries also. It helps keep the fruit off the bare soil, which would cause them to rot. Be sure to add any organic amendments to soil at the time you’re planting and mix in well.

These plants do well on a drip irrigation system and the system puts the water where it is most appreciated and useable. Melons, squash, and cucumbers all have varieties that stay smaller, usually called “bush-type”, so look for those if you plant from seed as I do, to keep them within bounds if you are limited on space.

Last but definitely not least, herbs – these are essential, in my opinion, to good cooking, and what better way to be able to use them than growing them yourself? Again, the choices are unlimited as to how and where to grow them, but the “annual” herbs I tend to grow right in the veggie beds I have – parsley (its actually a “biennial”), basil (I’m growing four kinds this year), and chives.

Many herbs can be grown right in your perennial border; mine includes rosemary, lavender, thyme and sage. There are many ways to utilize herbs and I will devote another entire article to this topic. As always, I’m available for consultations and landscape designs.

Linda McDonald


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