Beautiful Edible Landscapes
Coastal North Carolina is unique in that our climate is compatible with growing edibles year round. Including edibles among your ornamentals is an exciting way to have the home landscape pull double duty. You can have eye-catching arrangements that are also good enough to eat. You can grow healthy food, save on the grocery bill, and support sustainable gardening practices. Most edible vegetable are annuals. A wide variety of beautiful edibles thrive and even flourish to beautify home landscapes throughout the four seasons. Always begin with a soil test to make sure your soil pH and essential nutrients are right for the plants you have in mind.
Think of an edible landscape area as a three-dimensional painting. Plant taller plants in the rear, short plants in front, and medium plants in between. Include at least one perennial in the edible landscape as a base from which to expand. Herbs like thyme, sage, oregano, lavender, and some mints are evergreen. Perennial edibles include asparagus, stevia, turmeric, ginger, and Jerusalem artichoke. Adding annuals allows for changing those plants out as the seasons change.
Instead of planting another holly bush, try planting a dwarf fruit tree like peach, fig, or pineapple guava. How about a blueberry, pomegranate, or flowering quince bush. Sprinkle colorful vegetables among your flower beds to add a surprising element of interest. In warm weather, Cayenne peppers add a colorful interest point in a bed of French marigolds. Edible perennial flowers include bee balm, marigolds, daylily, dianthus, butterfly ginger and hollyhock.
The cool weather of our Fall, Winter and early Spring welcome giant red mustard, a host of colorful cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower varieties. Cut the lower leaves, dry them, grind them up and use a spoonful of that green powder in your healthy morning smoothie. A wide variety of mustards, lettuces, and spinach add surprising texture and interest. Let them flower and you will attract beneficial insects to the garden when not much else is blooming. Cool weather annual flowers include calendula, snapdragon, pansies and violets.
Edibles are making a comeback in the world of commercial landscaping. In the right setting, edibles add long-lasting beauty to the entrances. An arrangement of Red Russian Kale and brightly colored ornamental cabbages make for a strikingly beautiful design. Edibles come in the form of flowers, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. You may be surprised to learn that some edibles may already exist in your landscape.
Coastal Brunswick County lies in U. S. Department of Agriculture Zone 8 (with average minimum temperatures of 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit) and American Horticultural Society Heat Zone 7 (with 60-90 days of temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit).
Photos and content courtesy of Master Gardener, Mary Dixon