Farm Horizons, April 2018

Ideas for an edible yard

Some yards are beautiful. And some are both beautiful and tasty.

Certified Master Gardener Theresa Rooney gave a presentation about edible yards during the 20th annual Carver-Scott Extension Master Gardener Horticulture Day March 3.

“Be the first one in your community to break the rule that your yard needs to be completely green up front – be brave,” Rooney said.

When she first moved to her home in south Minneapolis, everyone around her had traditional turf. But now, many people have started growing gardens on their front lawns.

So, what does an edible yard look like?

Rooney said it can be as simple as one tomato plant, or an entire turf-free yard filled with vegetables, fruit, nuts, berries, mushrooms, and roots.

“And you can do this without worrying the neighbors too much,” she noted. “The more formal and balanced the design, the easier it is for many neighbors to accept less turf in your yard. Edges, boundaries, and fences will let your neighbors know that the area is a planned area.”

When eating from one’s yard, it’s important to be aware of how fertilizers, pesticides, and weed killers are used in or near the area. It’s also good to plan the locations of each plant to make sure they’ll have enough sunshine and the right kind of soil.

For those who’d like to start small, a container of hot peppers, purple bush beans, bush squash, or nasturtiums can be a nice way to go.

Trees can also provide edible landscaping. A few ideas include apple, apricot, pear, plum, cherry, walnut, or serviceberry.

Serviceberry trees and shrubs are good in part shade, as are gooseberry plants, cranberry bushes, and lettuce. Lettuce also works well for edging a garden bed. Planting edibles between existing landscaping can be an effective way to fill small spaces that go to waste each year. It might also help to hide the food from pests.

“Consider growing kale with flowers – how beautiful,” Rooney commented.

A few edible hedge ideas include roses, asparagus, or currents.

“Have you ever seen currents hanging in the sunshine? It’s like rubies in your yard,” Rooney said.

Getting to enjoy the harvest of an edible yard before the animals do can sometimes be a challenge, though. For people who have trouble with squirrels, Rooney suggests adding smells that squirrels don’t like, such as watering the soil with a strong-smelling tea. Chicken wire can also help keep animals away from produce. Another tip is to visit the garden often, so any pest infestations are caught early.

Rooney recommends wandering through once or twice a day to water, weed, and harvest. She joked that gardens provide “vitamin N, which is nature.”

“Your plants love to see you,” she said.

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