Consider creating an edible garden at your home
over 25 years as a garden designer in the Houston area, I have
had the opportunity to design a wide variety of garden styles,
including formal gardens, contemporary gardens, cottage gardens
and habitat gardens.
I design in response to my client's goals for their outdoor
living space, which has often included carving out a small
portion of the space as a kitchen garden, an area for the
production of fresh herbs, vegetables and cut flowers. With
recent food security scares and emergence of the locavore
movement (those who commit to eat as much locally produced food
as possible), the request for a kitchen garden has almost become
Recently, I have found people wanting edible gardens, but not
the typical isolated area of raised beds between gravel paths,
but rather a more typical ornamental garden that replaces some
or all of the ornamental plantings with edible ones. And why
not? Many edible plants create beautiful floral displays as well
as provide foliage color and texture that is unequaled in the
A number of fruits, vegetables, and herbs can be incorporated
into your garden without making it look like a vegetable patch.
Consider using them in a few areas to replace a patch of tired,
old groundcover like liriope.
In the warm season sow bush beans, spicy globe basil, arugula or
small varieties of watermelon or cantaloupe as summer
groundcovers. Herbs such as prostrate rosemary, lemon balm,
thyme or mint (sometimes a little too well) provide evergreen
groundcover given our mild Houston winters.
Chives or multiplying onions offer a spiky texture for yearlong
accent in the garden. In addition to the onions and chives, the
flowers of these plants add a delicate zest to many foods.
In the cool season leaf lettuces, greens, radishes and carrots
provide a lush groundcover alternative and are easily seeded.
Heirloom lettuce varieties such as Red Sails, Freckles,
Green Deer Tongue and Oak Leaf offer a wide variety of color and
texture. The colors of bright lights chard are so vibrant that
it is often used in ornamental, seasonal color plantings.
Crops that climb by their nature such as pole beans, peas,
cucumbers and squash offer an edible alternative to ornamental
vines and can be grown on trellises or trained to green a blank
wall or fence.
If you've experienced ornamental vines that threaten to overtake
your home without constant pruning, you'll appreciate edibles
vines that reach maturity in one season, can be removed after
fruiting, and then be replaced with the next season's crop. It
beats hauling fig ivy clippings to the compost pile every other
Blackberries and raspberries provide a permanent option for
vertical gardening. They will tolerate some shade and they
display brilliant fall color.
Fruit trees can be added to any sunny spot in the garden.
Apples, pears, pomegranates, figs, and persimmons are a few
fruits that produce very well in our area with little care. We
now grow many tropical fruit trees in our area that lend an
exotic character to the garden.
If your garden has limited space, espaliered fruit trees offer
the answer to the problem. An espalier is a tree or shrub that
is grown flat against a wall. Most fruit trees are sold as bare
root plants in January and their pliable young branches are
easily pinned to a wall. Containerized fruit trees can sometimes
be found in local nurseries, but make sure they are varieties
that perform well in the area where you live.
Your best bet is to purchase fruit trees at the Urban Harvest
Fruit Tree Sale -- the next one is Jan. 19, so check out
their website as we get closer at
www.urbanharvest.org. Treesearch Farms, a local
wholesale nursery, supplies them with varieties that have been
tried and tested in Houston area gardens, so we know they
Citrus trees are easy care as well, but some types need more
winter protection than others may. Mexican limes are the least
hardy while kumquats and Satsuma oranges are the most hardy,
withstanding temperatures in the low 20s.
Citrus blossoms impart a delicate fragrance to the garden and
attract the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly. They are small
evergreen trees, perfectly suited as screen or shade trees in
urban gardens, and they provide an excellent habitat for
You may not realize it, but some fruits of traditionally
ornamental plants are edible and quite tasty. Pineapple guava,
which displays beautiful blue-green foliage, is often used as a
hedge or small tree and produces a striking bloom whose petals
add a tropical taste to salads. The fruit, not a true guava, has
a light tropical taste.
Many antique roses produce fruit known as hips. Pound for pound
they contain more vitamin C than oranges and are great for
jellies and teas.
Barbados cherry blooms with a delicate pink flower almost all
year and produces a small edible fruit that brightens up a
Elaeagnus is a large shrub often used as background plant for
its light, silver-green foliage. Its inconspicuous fall bloom
fills the garden with fragrance and produces a small (almost all
seed) fruit that is often used for jelly.
Hyacinth bean vine is commonly used as an ornamental vine. The
foliage has a purple cast and it and has a continuous display of
lavender flowers during the warm season. The beans in its highly
ornamental, deep purple pods are actually edible.
Some commonly used annuals provide edible flowers such as
pansies, violas, nasturtiums and calendula in the cool season
and marigolds through the summer.
These are only a few suggestions for replacing traditional
ornamentals with something that could double as dinner. Examine
your garden with a fresh eye to discover areas ripe for changing
into edible producing pockets.
This article is provided by Urban Harvest, Inc. To learn about
gardening classes, farmers markets, school and community gardens
and more go to
www.urbanharvest.org or call
713-880-5540 for more information. This article was written by
Suzy Fischer, who is a registered landscape architect and
principal of Fischer Schalles, a landscape design/build firm.