Friday, August 27, 2010

fruit for the edible landscape

When talking edible landscapes, vegetables are often at the front of our minds, while fruits take the back seat. Maybe it's because there are just so many vegetables we can grow here, or that they're relatively easy to grow, or that they're low commitment because they're generally only around for one season. Fruits are generally perennial, and many are in the form of trees, shrubs or vines, which makes them great to use in the landscape for structure and a sense of permanence. Fruit plants can also provide stunning color. Did you know the foliage on blueberry bushes turns a deep crimson in autumn?

Photo courtesy of University of Minnesota Extension.
You might be thinking that it's just too cold here in Minnesota to grow fruit, and for some varieties that is very true. We won't be growing bananas or peaches here any time soon. (Well, I'm keeping my hopes up on the peaches.) But...did you know we can grow grapes, plums, cherries, and even a type of kiwi? There's a great range of fruit we can grow in Minnesota, and thanks to the trusty and talented plant breeders here at the U of M, many varieties have been developed just for us. How great is that? Check out these links to learn about the best fruit varieties to grow in Minnesota.

Selected fruit varieties for Minnesota gardens
Stone fruits
Currants and gooseberries
Hardy kiwifruit

edible landscaping at the minnesota state fair

Coming to the State Fair this year? If so, stop by the Ag-Hort building to see the new stage called The Dirt. There are a lot of great presentations and demonstrations on the schedule. We'll be talking all about Edible Landscaping on

  • Friday 8/27 at 9am and noon
  • Tuesday 8/31 at 11am and 2pm
  • Thursday 9/2 at 10am and 1pm

Hope to see you at the Fair!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

and now...this year's plants

This post has been hiding out in my drafts folder. It's about time I post it.

This year the edible landscape came together in a hurry. As some readers may know I was planning to move out of the state this summer. Well, those plans changed a bit and I discovered I would be in Minnesota for the entire summer at which moment I thought I must do another edible landscape demo garden. This was in early May, so I had to act quickly. There was no time to labor over designs and plant choices. I would not be starting flats and flats of seeds in the greenhouse. I would be designing by the seat of my pants with the plants I could find leftover from spring semester classes, herbs that survived the winter that could be transplanted, and so on. Oh, and I forgot to mention....considering the last-minute nature of this project there's also no budget. Perfect, I thought! This year will be a more real representation of what one can do with edibles in their home landscape on a budget, with little time and not a ton of space. Enter favorite!

Armed with a few packs of seeds and a few flats of plants from the Hort. Department Floriculture Crop Production course (which also grows some edible plants) I began planting. Now that's not to say no forethought was put into this. I spent an hour or so one afternoon in the garden just walking, stopping, sitting, thinking, imagining what might go where. I stopped out at different times of the day to determine where the shade traveled from the ginkgo and Honeycrisp trees. I took a good hard look at what was already growing in certain areas, and thought what might look nice near those existing plants, what requirements they have and what edibles might share the same requirements for light, moisture, etc. All things one should ponder before sticking a trowel in the ground. By spending time with your garden before you plant, it will tell you where things should go. Well, that's a little bit of a stretch, but I think you know what I mean. The better you understand your yard, the space, the light it receives, the existing plants...the more you'll be inspired to choose plants that will work really well.

So here's a list of plants in the edible landscape this year. Throughout the season, this list will be amended as certain plants will be removed after reaching their prime and others take their place -  usually direct-seeded greens, beans, radishes, and so on.

Apple ‘Honeycrisp’
Bean 'Scarlet Runner'
Bronze fennel
Chinese pak choy
Creeping thyme
Eggplant ‘Calliope’, ‘Gretel’, 'Rosa Biaca', 'Hansel'
Garlic chive
Kale 'Red Russian'
Lavender ‘Munstead’
Lettuce ‘Freckled’, ‘Green Oak Leaf’’, ‘Lollo Rosa’, ‘Yugoslavian Red’, ‘Red Oak Leaf’
Mints: spearmint, pineapple, chocolate
Mizuna mustard
Pattypan squash
Pepper ‘Ciliegia Piccante’, ‘Cuneo Giallo’, ‘Jumbo Sweet’, ‘Numex Sunrise’, ‘Sweet Chocolate’
Purple pak choy
Rainbow Chard ‘Neon Glow’
Rhubarb chard
Signet Marigold ‘Lemon Gem’ and ‘Orange Gem’
Summer savory
Tomato ‘Cuora di Bue’, ‘Italian’, ‘Red Zebra’, ‘Stupice’, 'Red Currant'
Zucchini 'Cocozelle'