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edible landscape

Edible Landscapes: Grow Food, Not Lawns

By Laura BourlandRise Writer
May 27, 2019

Landscaping your yard with edible plants is an incredibly rewarding method for creating a beautiful, beneficial and sustainable environment for you and your family.

Nowadays, many homes are landscaped with just grass and a few ornamental shrubs and trees that do very little besides providing greenery and maybe a little shade. The Food, Not Lawns movement encourages us all to do away with weekly mowing and grow healthy, hearty foods instead. 

You may not realize it, but edible plants can be just as beautiful, if not more so than ornamentals, producing vivid colors and big, juicy fruits and vegetables. Growing your own food is a great way to reduce your footprint, saving energy and money on costly food production, processing, and shipping. You’ll also be able to control the use of chemical sprays and maximize the nutritional content of each plant by feeding it with nutrient-rich, organic materials like compost. If that weren’t enough to get you excited about planting an edible landscape, gardening is an excellent exercise and a wonderful way to connect with nature, family, and your neighbors.

How to Create Your Edible Landscape From Scratch

Whether you’re starting your edible landscape journey with a grassy lawn or a plot of dirt, you’ll need to start by laying out a rough plan. Creating a list of to-dos and drawing your ideal landscape will help you stay focused and achieve your dream landscape more easily. 

As the idea of an edible landscape begins to grow in your mind, take some time each day to study your yard. Paying attention to the sun’s position throughout the day will help you map out areas where full sun plants will thrive and areas that receive less sunlight. You’ll also want to take note of any animals that visit your yard as some, like deer and rabbits, will happily snack on your edible goods, and dogs may trample them. Observe areas of heavy foot traffic, such as where your kids throw down their bikes and the path visitors take to reach your front door. 

As you observe the intricacies of your yard, your mind will probably begin excitedly drifting to plans of what to plant and how it’ll all look when complete. Now’s the time to start mapping out the reality of your new edible landscape! You might write out a list of plants, placement, and planting timelines, or you might even draw it out to visualize the outcome. The true beauty of gardening is there really is no right or wrong way to plan. Every garden is unique to the gardener who dreams it up, and in a way, its own piece of art.

What Fruits and Vegetables Should I Grow?

To maximize the enjoyment of your landscape, plant the things you enjoy eating. If you love a fresh salad, you might plant leafy greens, tomatoes, and carrots if you have a sweet tooth, plant berries, fruit trees, and melons. Or, if you love to cook, an herb garden can really open your eyes to new flavors growing in your front yard.

vegetable beds
Photo Credit: Rosalind Creasy

What's the Difference Between Perennial Flowers and Annuals?

Consider the time you’re willing to commit to gardening, as some plants require more attention than others. Perennial plants will grow back year after year, even in cold climates, while annual plants will need to be replanted each year. Fruit trees, berries, and many herbs will begin producing on their own again in the spring, while leafy greens, beans, and tomatoes only produce for a season.

Should I Start With Seeds or Plants?

There are two easy ways to start your new edible landscape: buy ready-to-go plants from the nursery or plant seeds and wait for them to pop up. If you’re on a budget and landscaping a large yard, seeds are considerably more affordable. You’ll also have access to a wider variety of unique plants when you buy from seed. If you’re working with a smaller yard or want immediate results, planting purchased plants will create instant beauty and produce food more quickly. Timing is also a factor, as seeds require more time in the ground before the growing season. 

Mixing In Flowers

Any edible landscape is made more beautiful, delectably fragrant, and more productive with flowers interspersed with edible plants. Flowers will draw happy bees to your garden to pollinate your edible plants and increase their output. Marigolds are an excellent choice that is affordable, readily available, low maintenance, constantly bloom all summer, and provide stunning pops of orange, yellow, and red. As an added benefit, their scent helps deter unwanted pests and predators from vegetable gardens. If you do purchase marigolds (or any flowers that attract bees, for that matter), make sure you buy organic ones or labeled as not having been treated with insecticides, as these are harmful to the bees. (If you are searching for other pollinator-friendly plantings, these native plants for native bees posters by author Heather Holm are one of the best resources we have found.)

plants for bees
Photo Credit: Pollinators Native Plants

Planting for Privacy

Edible plants are not only beautiful and delicious; they can also create privacy from your neighbors. If you’re thinking about trees, fruit trees grow tall and full while producing bountiful baskets of apples, lemons, cherries, and more. Other plants that vine and climb like peas, beans, grapes, and cucumbers can be grown over arbors and up fences to create natural, luscious fences. 

Color and Dimension

You’ll certainly want your edible landscape to look just as good as it tastes. Considering your preferred color palette may open your eyes to plants you hadn’t considered, like vibrant red swiss chard or the large yellow blooms of zucchini. And don’t forget to consider the height and spread of plants. Some plants, like tomatoes, start small and grow tall and bushy very quickly, while others, like lettuce, won’t grow nearly as large. You might use taller plants to border walls and the backs of large beds and shorter plants like the delectable cover crop of sweet strawberries along walkways. Also, consider that the taller ones may end up blocking the sun (or your access) from shorter ones, so placement is essential.

How Often Should You Water Your Plants?

Plants don’t require a whole lot, but they certainly can’t do without a bit of water. If you’re not up to regular watering by hand, consider installing a drip irrigation system that will keep your plants happy. Drip irrigation is also an excellent way to conserve water rather than using sprinklers or hoses. Rain barrels can also help you capture rainwater from your roof to have water readily available for plantings. 

Make Use of Mulch

Adding mulch around your edible plants is an excellent way to reduce weeding requirements, protect the roots from the heat, help plants retain more moisture, and add more color to your landscape. Red or black bark can do wonders for adding rich color between leafy greens, and reflective mulch will bring more sunlight and warmth to plants in shady areas.

recycled rubber mulch
Recycled Rubber Mulch. Photo Credit: TRACC

Are Potted Plants Easier To Grow?

Planting edible plants in containers is an excellent way to use spaces where direct planting isn’t possible: on patios, decks, and porches, near sewer and sprinkle systems, and under trees with exposed roots. Container planting is easier on the back since plants can be potted off the ground on a table. Potted plants also benefit from being easy to move from one place to another to get more or less sunlight or to decorate for an outdoor event, like a wedding or birthday party. Planting your edible plants in pots, recycled wine barrels, old wheelbarrows, and galvanized tubs can be an excellent way to add more dimension and interest to your landscape.

Don’t Forget to Decorate

Once you’ve got your edible plants in the ground, you can continue adding to your landscape's visual appeal with yard décor. This is truly the time to let your personality shine through. You might consider adding in lawn statues, birdbaths, feeders, wine bottles, wood barrels, galvanized tubs, cattle troughs, wind chimes, stone, brick, or even handmade crafts from children, friends, and local boutiques. The opportunities are endless!

edible plants garden
Photo Credit: Rosalind Creasy

What Vegetables and Fruits Grow Best in the Sun?

When choosing vegetables and fruits to plant in your garden, you'll want to pay close attention to the amount of sunlight your garden receives. It's important to be mindful of their lighting requirements. Below is a list of fruits and vegetables that require at least six hours of sunlight daily:


  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Mulberries
  • Huckleberries
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes


  • Zucchini
  • Cucumbers
  • Pumpkins
  • Acorn Squash
  • Butternut Squash
  • Garlic
  • Onion

What Vegetables and Fruits Grow Best in the Shade?

When choosing vegetables and fruits for your garden, it's essential to be mindful of the amount of sunlight your garden receives. It's important to be mindful that not all plants require constant daylight and thrive in the shade. Check the tags and plant descriptions for more information before you plant them. Below is a list of fruits and vegetables that prefer the shade:

Leafy Greens

  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Fenugreek
  • Pak choi 


  • Mint
  • Ginger
  • Dill
  • Cilantro
  • Celery
  • Parsley 
  • Chives
  • Mustard
  • Basil

Root Vegetables

  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Beets

What Vegetables and Fruits Grow in Dry Soil?

Many us live in drought conditions. If your town doesn’t get much rain, you might consider planting drought-tolerant edible plants that make a beautiful landscape and produce food with minimal watering requirements. These herbs, fruits and vegetables include:


  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Tarragon


  • Pomegranate
  • Grapes
  • Limes
  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Tangerines
  • Grapefruit
  • Kumquat
  • Raspberries


  • Corn
  • Fennel
  • Green beans
  • Fava beans
  • Tomatillos
  • Peppers
  • Artichokes
  • Sugar Snap Peas

Grow Food, Not Lawns

A grassy lawn consumes a great deal of water and time in regular mowing. Instead, consider planting a beautiful edible landscape, represents your unique personality, and will provide you and your family baskets full of delicious, homegrown fruit, vegetables, and herbs. Tell us about your own edible landscapes and your favorite plants to grow below!

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-08-03T17:20:30+0000
Laura Bourland

Article by:

Laura Bourland

Laura grew up in the California suburbs, far removed from environmentalism, but nature always has a way. She uprooted her life in 2015, moving to the countryside of Washington to live a more sustainable and simple life on 12 acres. She and her fiancee are learning on the job as they attempt everything from gardening and natural pest control to eco-friendly building and home improvement.