Nurture Non-edible Plants for Great Edibles

April 9, 2011 at 2:38 pm Leave a comment

Yes, that’s right – it helps to have an integrated landscape. Some people call this permaculture and the principle is simple: If you integrate many different plants into your garden, mixing annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs and edibles, it does many things.

First, those beautiful flowers attract beneficial insects and help preserve the bee population along with other pollinators. Beneficials, like ladybugs, will more effectively reduce your aphid population than any amount of pesticide and they’re cute too.  All plants that give you fruit from a flower such as tomatoes, squash and beans, require pollinators to create that fruit. Plus, if you have a neighbor with a beehive, you can get the freshest honey with all of its nutrients intact, made from the pollen of your plants!

Next, you can landscape to use water more wisely and create a more interesting look. Installing swales will catch the water when it does rain. You can put in plants that like more water at the base of the swale and those that can take it drier on the top, maximizing your rainfall. Additionally, plant lots of groundcover which will act as living mulch and its roots will stabilize the soil so that it doesn’t run off when it rains.

There are a few notable perennial edibles:  fruit trees, berries, asparagus and rhubarb. Plant these and, once they are established, you will be rewarded with fresh food from early spring through the summer, depending on what varieties you choose to plant. Plus, they look really great in the landscape. Both rhubarb and asparagus die back, but when they are in full regalia, they are an architectural addition to any garden landscape.

Then there is the care of what you already have. Today, even with gale force winds, I was out cleaning up the dead plant matter from last year and getting things freshened up to thrive this spring. Now the yard looks fresh. Air and water can reach the plant roots. I’ve top-dressed with some aged chicken manure from a friend’s little chicken ranch. I’m ready to see what else I want to add to my palette. It’s still early enough that I was able to whack off the dead stems just above the new growth and not damage much. What did get a little shorn will fill in quickly now that longer, warmer days are coming.

Thinking in terms of the whole picture is a great way to landscape and enhance your edibles.

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Entry filed under: Eating, Gardening.

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