Delicious, edible landscapes

Rob Zimmer Special Contributor
Now Media Group

One of the biggest trends in gardening and landscaping has been the transformation of traditional lawns and borders into edible landscapes or foraging gardens.

Out are traditional vegetable garden beds and neat rows. In are interspersed plantings of ornamentals and edibles, edibles in containers, edible front yards and a variety of crops designed for backyard foraging throughout the seasons.

Transforming your traditional garden into an edible landscape is actually quite simple and can be done on any scale.

You may want to start small by interplanting herbs, berries, edible flowers and other crops among your traditional annual and perennial garden beds.

Another great way to get started is to grow a variety of edible crops in garden containers or pots. These can be placed throughout the landscape where they can be harvested as you wander among your plants and borders.

An increasing number of berries, nuts, greens, edible flowers and more are available in dwarf or compact forms, perfect for containers of all shapes and sizes.

Plan ahead for trees and shrubs

When planning an edible landscape, especially one consisting of trees and shrubs, it's important to plan ahead and realize that some fruit and nut trees, along with berry-producing shrubs, may take several years to begin producing.

Popular choices include shagbark hickory, American filbert or hazelnut, blackberry, raspberry, currants, blueberries, strawberries and others.

Of course, fruit trees, such as pear, apple, cherry and plum are excellent additions that will provide decades of flavorful, nutritious treats.

Edible blooms

Many gardeners are surprised to learn that there is a large variety of edible flowers available. Perennials, including daylilies, anise hyssop, lavender, violets, roses and others are wonderful additions and you can find many wonderful recipes online for each of these plants.

Annual flowers are also available for foraging and collecting. These include sunflowers, calendula, pansies, violas, nasturtiums and more.

Herbal delight

What would an edible landscape be without wonderfully textured and beautifully scented masses of herbs sprawling, climbing and blooming throughout summer and fall?

Mix and match herbs such as mints, lavender, chives, oregano, basil, rosemary, horseradish and others among your existing beds.

In addition to the endless bounty of flavors and textures, many of these plants actually benefit your existing annual, perennial and food crops. Many herbs repel damaging insects with their powerful scents.

Even many plants we consider annoying weeds are highly nutritious and extremely edible. Some of these, such as dandelions, Queen Anne's lace, clovers, garlic mustard, stinging nettle, milkweed and more are surprisingly delicious.

A simple online search will reveal hundreds of recipes for even our most common backyard weeds.

There are edible plants for sun, shade, what soils and dry, making it easy to start a foraging garden of your own right at home.

Extend the season into fall and winter by potting up some of your annuals, herbs and lemongrass to provide a flavorful harvest throughout the winter season in a sunroom, under growing lights or in a bright window.

Find Rob Zimmer online at www.robzimmeroutdoors.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RobZimmerOutdoors.