Edible Landscape

Designing and Constructing Your Edible Garden

By Alli Addison | May 07, 2014
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edible garden box with fresh greens
Photo by Addison Landscape, Inc.

As members of the Edible community, an interest in growing your own is inherent. For those who have fearlessly conquered (or dabbled in) the process of planning and tending to an edible garden, you come with questions. Questions on what to plant, when and where. You look for answers on succession plantings and lessons in direct sowing. You ask experienced edible gardeners and at-home farmers about harvesting and storage.

But from a landscape designer and contractor’s perspective, our team encourages members of the grow-your-own movement to think carefully about the foundation and roots of your edible garden. There are countless edible gardening guides available, answering many of the questions above. But here we dig deeper, giving insight and advice into the design and construction of your edible garden. As landscape design and build professionals, we believe three elements are fundamental to the design and construction of an edible garden: location, function and aesthetics.

edible garden plants
Photo by Addison Landscape, Inc.

Location

In a perfect world, your edible garden would be located directly outside your kitchen, offer easy access and possess ideal light, slope and soil conditions. You would be gifted with the world’s greatest green thumb and produce the most delicious vegetables, fruits and herbs for your table and family. Now awake and realize this scenario may only be possible if your home was designed and built with the edible garden in mind. Instead we are captive to the dwelling we call home and the parameters presented within that dwelling. When designing your edible garden based on location, consider the following.

•    Space must have proper and adequate lighting (six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily) to allow your garden to flourish with the edibles you wish to grow.

•    Garden must be easily accessible and preferably constructed on level ground.

•     Location needs to provide necessary protection from the elements and pests.

• If close proximity to a kitchen or cooking area is available to you, plan your edible garden near the hub of food preparation and consumption.

Function

Next to location, the function and construction of your edible garden must be correct. There are several rules we abide by:

•    We prefer raised planter beds for the purpose of controlling your soil environment.

•    Rectangular raised beds work well in a four- by eight-foot size. This allows for ample planting space and multiple varieties. Additionally, a four- by eight-foot raised bed is a good standard when working with wood materials as boards are commonly sold in four-foot increments beginning at eight feet.

•    We recommend a maximum of four feet in width for accessibility purposes. Anything wider makes tending to your edibles difficult.

•    Ergonomically constructed edible gardens are always suggested. At a minimum, we build our raised edible gardens to 18 inches in height and prefer to work with gardens at 24 inches in height.

•    We do not use treated lumber for the construction of any edible garden.

•    The walkways surrounding your edible garden are an important component to the overall function. When selecting the walkway material, choose a material that binds well together. Pea gravel is very decorative, but it is soft, spongy and sprays when walked through. Crushed granite is preferred for its binding properties.

•    Consider enough space for your walkways, at least 2 1⁄2 feet for main walkways and 1 1⁄2 feet for between beds.

•    If you are using a gravel material, you will need a border to contain it. Interlocking concrete pavers function well and look fantastic.

Aesthetics

As a landscape design and build company, we strive to make certain each element we incorporate into a client’s yard is not only placed in the ideal location and functions perfectly for their needs, but is also pleasing to the eye. Edible garden designs range from simple containers planted to herbs resting on a patio to intricate showcases of edible goods spanning an entire landscape. To make your edible garden aesthetically pleasing, consider the following:

•    Incorporate a water feature into your edible garden.

•    Add decorative rocks, like large boulders, surrounded by culinary plantings of lavender.

•    Add pops of color by anchoring your edible garden with brightly colored containers planted to dwarf citrus trees.

•    Include decorative elements such as garden art or decorative brackets in your raised beds.

Additional design tips

If a mini-farm is not available to you and your home’s layout, consider adding edibles into your regular landscape. Edibles are beautiful in a landscape setting and coexist quite well. Favorites include the combination of succulents with culinary sage, leafy greens like kale as planter bed borders, and thyme combined with flax, or used as a ground cover.


 

edible garden design layout
Design by Addison Landscape, Inc.

Edible Garden Design #1

A simple edible garden is elevated in design through the use of two L-shaped redwood planter beds surrounding a natural basalt stone water feature that sits atop black Mexican pebbles. Ideal for small spaces or young families with children, this edible garden is designed on a single level with easy accessibility.

The design features palomino rock walkways bordered with interlocking concrete paver stones and incorporates a small row of culinary lavender planted around a large “high desert” boulder for added interest. Additionally, three dwarf citrus trees are included in the far south corner of the space.

The raised planter beds are 18 inches in height and approximately four feet in width by eight feet by 10 feet in length. They are constructed of 2-by-12 redwood on the vertical face, 4-by-4 posts set into the ground and finished with a 2-by-6 redwood cap. Gopher netting barrier is placed at the bottom of the raised beds to help prevent access by pesky pests and the beds are filled with an organic compost blend. Remember that compaction is key—fill your beds with four to six inches of soil, compact and repeat.

This edible garden design is cost effective, perfect for the DIY-inclined, low maintenance and easily adaptable to any landscape or hardscape you may already have in place.

edible garden alternative design layout
Design by Addison Landscape, Inc.

Edible Garden Design #2

The ultimate design bringing the edible lifestyle full circle—a single location where edibles can be cultivated, prepared and enjoyed.

This edible garden design features a built-in barbecue island/cooking suite on the main patio extending from the residence. Next to the outdoor cooking suite is a large reclaimed-wood pergola, which acts as the main entertaining and dining space, providing cover for the 10-person, family-style dining table beneath.

But what makes this dining space unique is that it is, within itself, an edible garden. The pergola features built-in raised vegetable corner planters constructed using the same stone veneer used on the outdoor cooking suite.

There is a formality to this design, with the angular shapes and compact, raised vegetable planters. Additionally, this pergola acts as the main growing structure for vine edibles, such as espaliered table grapes, growing up the six- by six-inch posts. To provide intimacy, this dining area is bordered with opposing rows of citrus trees, positioned slightly offset for visual interest.

Design elements in this space also include a calming water feature and additional herb planters positioned against the residence. For this specific design, an interlocking concrete paver patio is suggested, offering a solid yet elegant foundation. Extending beyond the dining and raised bed area is a formal, semi-circular bed of culinary row lavender. This completes the patio area. This edible garden design then continues beyond the patio area, providing additional row ornamental edibles and a thyme ground cover.

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