Take a fresh look at your yard. Find the spots with the most sun and best drainage, which all edibles need for root development and growth of produce. The sun moves not only east and west, but north and south, high in the sky in summer and lower on the horizon in spring and fall, so be aware of the sun/shade patterns in your garden over the seasons.
Artichokes, asparagus, basil, beans, beets, broccoli, corn, lettuce, parsley, peppers, scallions, sprouts, tomatoes, and zucchini are just a few of the vegetable options to consider amid flower gardens. Lettuce and other greens like arugula are lovely, grow quickly, and come in many varieties. Interplant them with annuals and add some low growing radishes which have nice green tops as well. Avoid families of plants that roam and take over a lot of space like squashes and melons.
Herbs are expensive to buy at the store, so adding them to your landscape makes good economic sense as well as contributing beauty. Rosemary, sages, thymes, winter savory, basils, and oregano all blend in well with flowering perennials in the garden. And in the salad bowl the blossoms of basil, chive, dill, fennel and arugula all add a spark of aromatic flavor and bursts of color.
Edible flowers add a special touch to salads. Once your salad has been tossed with dressing, pick off petals from edible flowers and toss them on top. Nasturtium is available in a range of colors and both flowers and leaves add a peppery flavor to mixed greens. Calendula is a prolific grower, and its blossoms grow abundantly. Sprinkle individual petals lightly on a salad. Delicately flavored violas jazz up a bowl of greens. Borage flowers add a burst of color that contrasts nicely with greens. The flower’s delicate flavor tastes similar to cucumber.
On the sweeter side blueberries, currants, and elderberries are attractive shrubs in their own right, putting out pretty flowers in spring, berries in summer and a colorful show in fall. Raspberries and blackberries produce fruit for years with minimal care. All they need is a sunny spot with well-drained soil, some basic pruning in winter, and a coat of compost over their beds in spring. Low growing, spreading strawberries make an attractive groundcover in sunny spots.
Many fruit trees and shrubs can be landscape plants: apples, almonds, plums, persimmons, and cherries, have long been overlooked in favor of flowering crabs, dogwoods, and forsythia. Use dwarf fruit trees to produce more fruit from a limited area; the trees are dwarf, but the fruit is full size.
On the practical side, how much time do you want to spend raising more food? The more food the more time for soil preparation, weed pulling, tying vines and supporting plants, watering, harvesting and pest control. A little bit more work than growing flowers, but a much larger return. Not only will your landscape look good enough to eat, it will be.
Information about Extension Solutions for Homes and Gardens can be found on the UGA extension website, www.caes.uga.edu/extension/cherokee ; or contact the Cherokee County Extension Office, 1130 Bluffs Parkway, Suite G49, Canton, GA, 30114, 770-721-7803. The Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program is a volunteer training program offered through county offices of the UGA extension. Follow Cherokee County Master Gardeners on facebook at www.facebook.com/cherokeemastergardeners for gardening tips as well as upcoming seminars.