tips + how-tos

6 easy plants to start an edible landscape

6 easy plants edible landscape

Have you always wanted to grow your own fruits and berries? Maybe you don’t think you have the room or are worried about killing yet another plant. (I have definitely killed my share.) Even those with a brown thumb can grow many perennial fruits and vegetables.

What could be better than planting something once and reaping the rewards for years and years? You can easily begin to turn your landscape into a productive edible oasis. Try out some of these easy to grow fruits in your landscape.

1. Mulberry

       Morus spp.

mulberry fruit

photo by jamieanne

Mulberries are a delicious but messy fruit  that is super easy to grow. It is an extremely adaptable tree and ends up growing in all kinds of locations(. Because of the nature of growing anywhere and everywhere as well as its dark staining berries, the mulberry is often seen as a trash tree. You ideally you want to keep them away from cars, pools, and patios where they do their damage. You definitely want to avoid parking your car under a fruiting mulberry. In the right place with the right care, they can be a huge asset.

The berries that a Mulberry tree produces resemble blackberries both in appearance and taste. They have a nice unique taste that is not to be missed. As good as they
are picked fresh, they can also be used in pastries, jellies, syrups, juice, and wine.

 

Habit

Mulberries are deciduous trees that grow 30-50 feet tall and are long-lived. They produce flowers in the spring followed by the fruits in midsummer. They prefer growing in full sun but will tolerate shadier locations. Plant them in fertile well drained soil. They do not tolerate wet soils but are very drought tolerant. To harvest, cover the ground with a blanket or canvas and shake the tree to get ripe fruit to drop.

Recommended Varieties

Illinois Everbearing (M. alba x M. rubra)
(Zones 4-8)
 Pakistan (Morus alba)
(Zones 6-10)

2. Serviceberry

Amelanchier spp.

amelanchier serviceberry fruit

photo by UFORA

Serviceberries, also known as Juneberries or Shadblow, are one of my favorite edibles. They are an extremely versatile tree growing from Maine to Florida that has great appeal year round. The berries are often overlooked because they are only on the tree one to two weeks out of the year. They are loved by birds and wildlife. Rightfully so, the berries, which are similar in taste and look to blueberries, are delicious fresh, cooked, dried, or made into wine. With beautiful flowers, a tasty fruit, gorgeous fall color, and nice bark for winter interest, serviceberry is a favorite no matter the time of year. It’s surprising that they are not planted more often.

serviceberry in bloom

photo by AllieKF

Habit

The serviceberry can grow as a tree or shrub between 10 to 25 feet high. They grow in full sun to partial shade. The more sun the tree receives, the more it will fruit and flower. Plant serviceberries in fertile well-drained soil. They are well adapted to a wide variety of soils and are somewhat drought tolerant. A resilient, beautiful, and productive plant? Talk about perfection.

Recommended Varieties

Honeywood (late-blooming – better for late frosts)
(Zones 2-10)
 Thiessen (excellent flavor)
(Zones 2-10)

 

3. Fig

        Ficus carica

Figs are one of the simplest and most trouble-free edibles that you can grow, though a bit unusual for many. They are fairly frost sensitive but can easily be grown in a container and overwintered indoors or in a garage. The good news is that there are some cold hardy varieties are available. Figs are a fruit that we have fallen for recently with so many varieties grown in the southeast. Hundreds of varieties of figs are grown in the United States with even more worldwide in a wide array of colors, flavors, and sizes. They are wonderful fresh, cooked in various dishes and desserts, and even preserved in jams, jellies, and leathers. This summer I tried them as a sweet appetizer for in-town guests – so good. Of course we had
to share on instagram.

fig fruit on tree

photo by fsse8info

Habit

Even with one fig tree, expect a large harvest once established. The trees can reach 15 to 20 feet, but many growers keep the trees pruned lower for an easy harvest. Hard freezes can harm or even kill a fig tree, so plant them in a protected area. In many sensitive or marginal areas, people plant figs along the south face of a wall to utilize the radiant heat.

We are excited to get our starts in the ground this spring.

Recommended Varieties

Chicago Hardy (cold-hardy)
(Zones 5-10)
 Celeste (excellent taste & easy to grow)
(Zones 6-9)

4. Elderberry

         Sambucus sp.

elderberry fruit

photo by Andy Rogers

Elderberries are one of the most versatile and rewarding shrubs to add to your edible landscape. They are a staple for many homesteads providing a wealth of medicinal, edible, and habitat value. Elderberries are found growing wild in moist fertile lowland areas, the edges of forests, and along roadsides. They are a very giving plant providing edible flowers that also attract tons of beneficial insects, delicious fruit that contain a high density of nutrients, and even produce leaves that are compost activators and an insecticide. It is one incredible plant and a must have in the landscape.

I transplanted a young one in our small food forest last spring. Kristyn and I can’t wait to start collecting berries and tear up the kitchen.

Habit

American elderberries typically grow 10-15 feet tall while European species can grow up to 20 feet tall with equal spread. Each plant will send shoots out the bottom and form a small colony of shrubs. They are shallow rooted plants that don’t tolerate saturated soil.

Varieties

Adams (large fruit producer; plant pollinator variety like Johns for maximum fruiting)
(Zones 3-9)
Johns (abundant producer)
(Zones 4-8)

 

5. Hazelnuts

        Corylus spp.

hazlenut filbert nuts corylus

photo by kate ter haar

Hazelnuts, which are also known as filberts, are an easy to grow nut that is loaded with protein and healthy fats. They have been a food source for humans and a staple in many diets for millennia.  Delicious roasted and eaten plain or ground up into a paste, hazelnuts can be used in many different ways. One of many people’s favorites is Nutella.

We have a long history with Nutella in our house (starting with our first date). Once we get hazelnuts planted, we can start working on our own homemade natural Nutella.

 Habit

Hazel trees can be grown either as single trunk trees growing up to 40 feet tall or pruned into a multi stemmed shrub form. They naturally sucker heavily around the main trunk. They grow prolifically in temperate climates producing more nuts in sheltered locations. Nut production is best when some cross pollination between varieties can occur.

Varieties

Jefferson (resistant to eastern filbert blight; very productive with high quality nuts)
(Zones 5-8)
Eta (eastern filbert blight immune; pollinizer of Jefferson; consistent producer)
(Zones 5-8)

 

6. Blueberries

        Vaccinium spp.

blueberry fruiting shrub

photo by martin stone

Blueberries are a long lived and relatively care-free fruit to grow. They require some very important soil preparation, but once they are established, blueberries are one of the easiest fruits to grow organically in the landscape. These berries require a very acidic soil, so be sure to do a soil test and amend your soil properly before planting. Once established, blueberries will provide subtly beautiful flowers in the spring, a bounty of fruit in the summer, and beautiful color in the fall. These delicious berries are a must for the edible landscape.

blueberry shrubs in fall

photo by rachel kramer

winter blueberry field

blueberries even shine in the dreary winter. photo by Rachel Kramer

 

Habit

To have thriving blueberries, you have to select the right type for your climate. There are four main types: lowbush, northern highbush, southern highbush, and rabbiteye. Lowbush blueberries are small shrubs native to colder climates that produce a small but flavorful berry. Northern highbush blueberries are native to the northeast United States growing up to 6 feet. Southern highbush blueberries are similar to Northern highbush but less cold hardy and more heat tolerant. Rabbiteye blueberries are tolerant of heat and humidity and thrive in mild winters.

Varieties

Tophat (lowbush; dwarf cultivar with pea-sized berries; great for containers)
(Zones 3-7)
Chandler (northern highbush; largest blueberry available;
(Zones 4-7)
Misty (southern highbush; vigorous and high yielding; one of the most attractive varieties)
(Zones 5-10)
Premier (rabbiteye; medium to large fruit)
(Zones 7-9)

 6 easy plants edible landscape
There are so many easy delicious fruits that can be easily grown in the landscape. This small list is just the tip of the iceberg. Try a few out and I am sure that you will catch the bug of learning to grow your own fruit and vegetables. Imagine stepping right out your back door and being able to pick your favorite fruits to your hearts content.

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