by Suzanne DeJohn
Historically, edible plants were incorporated into the plantings around homes. A typical yard might have included a few fruit trees, some berry bushes, a grape vine and perhaps a salad garden just outside the kitchen door. For the last several decades, homeowners relegated edibles to a separate garden in the back yard, with the bulk of the landscape taken up by ornamental plants and lawn.
Starting in the 1970s, during the "back-to-the-land" movement, some people began growing more of their own food and integrating their food gardens into their landscape plantings. But for the most part, suburban yards were dominated by flowers and grass.
The last few years have seen a resurgence of interest in food gardening, as people begin to rediscover the satisfaction of growing their own food, as well as the money-saving aspects of harvesting dinner from their own backyard. "Edible landscaping" is a catch-all term that describes integrating food-producing plants into an overall landscape plan.
One of the easiest ways to incorporate edibles into your landscape is by planting fruits. Blueberries, for example, make ideal foundation plants — they're tidy shrubs with glossy green foliage that turns brilliant red in autumn. A grape vine trained up an arbor can provide a shady retreat beneath.
Another technique involves adding edibles in your ornamental plantings. For example, tuck a pepper plant, some basil or leafy chard in between perennial flowers. Or grow a container of herbs among your pots of petunias. Remember to avoid spraying pesticides on these mixed plantings, or use only pesticides labeled for use on edibles and follow directions carefully.