Let’s face it - budgets are tight these days. You want to keep up the appearance of your acreage, but you don’t want to break your budget to maintain it. And wouldn’t it be nice to get something in return for the hard-earned money and time you’ve spent cultivating and maintaining your property?
Edible landscaping can beautify your acreage, and at the same time provide you with fresh fruit or vegetables at considerably less cost than driving to fill up your cart at the local grocery store – and this could be in addition to that garden you already have. Below are a few ideas to enhance your property’s value in multiple ways. Since these will obviously vary from region to region, we’ll break a list of suggestions down into categories that will beautify your acreage.
Note: Don’t eat anything where pesticides or herbicides have been applied and remember that too much of these edible plants in your diet could bring digestive consequences. Not to mention some poisonous berries mimic their tasty counterparts, so make sure of your harvest before you consume anything.
You probably don’t need us to tell you that trees are useful in a huge variety of ways. Though you may not think trees when you think landscaping or edible, trees can easily be both. A few apple, pear, plum, fig, walnut, etc., around your property will not only provide you with high-quality, low-cost fruit, but can provide windbreaks from the winter chills and shade from the hot summer sun. This could also create opportunities for recreation right in your own backyard, like bird and wildlife viewing; or simply sitting in the shade in your favorite outdoor chair with a good book or magazine to read while you relax. You’ll also reap the added benefit of seclusion from the outside world, especially if you choose to plant some trees with large leaves.
In addition to beautifying your property and keeping unwanted eyes off your acreage, bushes can also produce additions to your plate at certain times of the year. Back when I was a teenager I would go on a ‘lawnmower buffet’ on one side of my parents’ acreage where the blackberries, raspberries, and Nan king cherries produced fruit in the summer. I still remember how sweet those berries are and make a trip across the yard every time I’m there. They’re great straight off the bush, but I’d say they’re even better in a pie; so don’t eat them all before you get back to the house. Some ideas to get you started depending on your location – raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, elderberries, and/or boysenberries.
In addition to bushes, there are also edible fruits growing on vines you could incorporate into your landscaping. The one that probably comes to your mind first is grapes – give these plants a place to climb, and they will definitely take advantage. The literal fruits of your labor will be sweet once the grapes are ripe, or if you happen to be a wine drinker it would be advantageous to have some grapes handy, wouldn’t it?
Some other vine fruits or vegetables you can make part of your landscaping or garden include watermelon, passion fruit, honeydew, cantaloupe, cucumbers, hops, tomatoes, and even kiwi. You may need a greenhouse or special growing area (and care) for some of these depending on your local growing season.
Most of us usually think ‘ornamental’ or ‘decorative’ when we think of flowers, not ‘edible’ – but flowers are plants just like your apple tree or the vegetables in your garden, so some can be used to provide some added flavor to your diet. For example, we often think of roses just as something aesthetically pleasing or to give our significant other on Valentine’s Day, but many people overlook rose hips. The hips are often not seen because roses are usually cultivated for the flowers so the faded flowers are pruned, and hips appear on the rose bush in place of the spent flowers. Birds and humans alike can enjoy these small red berry-sized hips at the end of the season.
Rose hips aren’t the only edible flowers out there, of course. Depending on your geographic location and your growing season, just some of the possibilities include pansies, lavender, dill, thyme, cilantro, day lily, squash blossom, chives, and basil. There are also times where you can grow flowers not for their blossoms, but for seeds. One example of this, sunflowers, can grow to heights of 12 feet so make sure the roof of your greenhouse isn’t too low if that’s where you plan to grow them.
If you’re looking for something that will make a nice border around part of your acreage, there are edible plants to fill these needs as well. These types of plants don’t need much lateral room to grow but will produce some additions to your plate by growing basically straight up toward the sun. One pass with a garden tiller to loosen up the soil and you have a seedbed. Some of these plants include onions, chives, chard, rhubarb, asparagus, and a huge variety of herbs like oregano or sage. Plant your favorite and watch them create a border around your property, then harvest and enjoy.
If you have too much fruit to eat yourself or to share with your neighbors, you could even take it to a farmer’s market and make some extra money that way. Maybe you also have vegetables from your garden or herbs from your acreage that can tag along with you. Once you’ll get there, you’ll also have the opportunity to trade for or buy produce from other acreage owners. If that’s not a win-win situation, I don’t know what is.