Tony Bertauski: Creating an edible landscape
I do the growing, my wife does the cooking. You don’t want to eat what I cook unless you’re a fan of Tater Tots.
I’ve always experimented with landscaping, using different trees, shrubs and flowers. My wife’s and my duties always have been mutually exclusive.
That is, until I embraced edible landscaping.
The new planting bed in the backyard is filled with broccoli and onions. Peppers, eggplants and ochre have been interplanted to fill in as broccoli is harvested.
The main feature is a sculpturesque dead tree to support cherry tomatoes. There are numerous opportunities to use the ornamental value of vegetables and herbs and then eat them.
Rosemary has been a longtime favorite in the landscape, and for good reason. It is an easy-to-grow evergreen shrub that handles some drought and prefers full sun. New cultivars offer a variety of growth habits.
Blueberry shrubs provide an array of cultivars featuring different sizes, most displaying ruby fall color. They flower in early spring and set plump blueberries by late spring. You’ll have to be diligent to harvest them before the birds. Newer cultivars are self-pollinating, but many sources recommend having a couple of varieties in the yard to ensure adequate pollination.
Many citrus enthusiasts have a variety of orange, grapefruit and lemon trees. However, cold winters can damage certain varieties. We’re growing a Meyer lemon in a container this year so that we can place it in full sun and bring it inside during cold snaps.
Keep in mind, citrus greening is a serious disease that is threatening the citrus industry. Citrus plants are quarantined inside the Lowcountry to slow the spread. It’s OK to grow in your backyard, you’re just not supposed to transport it out of your county.
Peppers are some of the easiest crops to grow. There are numerous bell peppers of all shapes and sizes that add variety and interest. It doesn’t take many hot pepper plants to satisfy the household needs. Many peppers start off green and slowly turn colors depending on the variety. Tri-color peppers can be used in the garden and flowerboxes that have purple, red and yellow peppers on the same plant.
Eggplants have great ornamental value, producing large oblong fruit that is commonly dark purple, although some varieties produce elongated white eggplants.
Swiss chard is an upright shiny leaf with a vivid red or yellow stem, providing a great accent in form and color.
Some beets have wrinkled foliage and red stems, while others have burgundy leaves.
Collards can be used as a nice blue-gray foundation planting.
Rhubarb has large, bold foliage and red stems.
Carrots, thyme, fennel and parsley all provide fine-textured foliage that is somewhat fernlike.
Fennel and parsley also are great butterfly foods for caterpillars. Lemon grass is an easy-to-grow clumping grass that gets 4 or 5 feet tall.
Indeterminate tomatoes grow like a vine and can be used alongside an arbor, climbing over the top with hanging fruit.
Cherry tomatoes are the easiest to grow, and red or orange tomatoes develop in clusters.
Peas can replace tomatoes in the winter and provide attractive flowers and sweet pods. For seasonal variety, pole beans can substitute tomatoes on the arbor.
Prostrate rosemary and strawberries can be grown in planters and cascade over the sides, providing unique form and texture.
The staff at MUSC does a wonderful job of incorporating edible plants into the beds all around campus in addition to featuring a large urban garden and herbal medicinal garden.
Also, Lowcountry Local First is sponsoring a Farm Tour on Saturday that offers an inside look at local farms. This is a great opportunity to learn what’s available locally and what you could be growing in your own backyard.
Go to http://lowcountrylocalfirst.org and click the events page for more information.
Tony Bertauski is a horticulture instructor at Trident Technical College. To give feedback, e-mail him at tony. email@example.com.