University of Maryland Extension

Edible Landscaping

Edible landscaping is the use of food producing plants in a constructed landscape in aesthetically pleasing designs. These designs can be incorporate any garden style and can include any number of edible species.

Some Advantages of having an Edible Landscape

  • To include unusual varieties of fruits and vegetables that are not available in stores
  • Save on grocery bills .
  • To increase the food security of your household.
  • To get outside together and interact with each other and the natural world.
  • Space: Limited lot size and smaller homesteads restricts your ability to plant separate elaborate gardens. Edible landscapes take advantage of dual purpose roles to increase space efficiency.

If you are interested in installing this type of planting bed a few things to consider would be that many garden type plants are annuals, which require replanting every year and cleanup after each harvest. Fruit plants can be high maintenance and require attention to prevent disease, insect and wildlife pressure Also there are many cultivars of specific veggies, Finding the varieties that not only look good in your landscape(the actual designing of the bed) but also feel good to your taste buds can be challenging.(hopefully, a fun process!)

First, dream! And then be practical!

Devise a wish list of plants you would like to have, do you want veggies, fruit, herbs, edible flowers with a mix of perennial or evergreen plants? For example: You may really want peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuces, a mix of culinary herbs,  and mini pumpkins.  Plus something to make it look decent in the winter..? Design suggestions are briefly covered here.

When choosing a site for your edible landscape you will need to answer some practical questions like the following:

Will you be constructing a new bed or renovate an existing bed? If you are using an existing bed..consider removing some plants..sickly, overgrown, etc.

Will you be constructing a new bed or renovate an existing bed? If you are using an existing bed..consider removing some plants..sickly, overgrown, etc.

Soil Testing! Recommended for all types of gardens and turf

Do I have an area that receives 3-4 hours of sunlight?(for leafy greens) or an area that has 6 hours of sun?(tomatoes, peppers)  Is it windy? And where is the hose bib?


   What about the dream list?
  • Choose appropriate cultivars; Plot size and growth habit of chosen crops will affect choices. For example:   a bush cultivar of beans are more appropriate than pole beans perhaps because of size of bed?
  • Would you like to incorporate some architectural design features?(arbor, fountain, birdbath, sundial, trellis, hammock, patio, etc)
  • And we can admit it that there are some veggies that are just not attractive…if you want turnips plant them somewhere else.
  • If you only have a 3x4 space—you may not be able to fit your tomatoes, peppers, herbs,  zinnias, cosmos, and marigolds in there…Add containers?

Designing an Edible Landscape Bed..

Thinking and drawing out the design of your edible landscape will help get your ideas clarified. It is a little easier when working with a new location, but if renovating an existing bed take a few photos print them out on regular paper and just draw or make notations on those sheets. Graphing paper can be helpful also. As you plan, consider allowing your landscape to become a visually pleasing space by using several landscape design basics in your plan: 

Lines  -  straight or curved                             -----           ~~~~

                Scale             Rhythm               Balance               Form

                (size)             (repeating)         (unity)                (shape)

                Texture          Color                  Layers                 Aroma

                (feel)              (color)                 (depth)               (smell)

Elements for design beginners:

COLOR-when choosing plants for a landscape, we try to choose plants with colors that look good together.  Colors that are opposite from one another on the color wheel are called complimentary and look pleasing to the eye. Colors next to each other on the wheel are called anagolous and provide a nice uniform cohesive scheme.

TEXTURE – foliage texture can have an impact on how a landscape bed looks

  • Fine-small leaves. Or looks airy
  • Course-large solid leaves,  look heavy
  • Visually it may depend on lighting.
  • Tangible-physical sense of touch

BALANCE- visual weight of all design elements, the sizes, colors and textures will provide you with a visually pleasing edible planting bed.

  • Symmetry – a landscape bed would look the same on both sides of a corresponding dividing line.
  • Asymmetry – not identically arranged around a central point or line. In this diagram the shapes,texture and sizes are different but they have the same visual weight and could be used effectively in a landscape bed.




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