Design an Edible Garden

'Edible Landscape' author Emily Tepe offers tips for creating a space that feeds you in more ways than one.

Garden of Possibilities

Emily Tepe is a fruit researcher, gardener and "a person who loves to eat fresh food and spend time outdoors," she writes in her book The Edible Landscape. "I believe that anyone can and should grow some of their own food and that doing so doesn't have to mean setting aside part of the yard to be the 'vegetable garden.'" 

Sun And Shade

Tepe suggests tracking the light in your yard over the course of a day. "You'll discover how much light different areas receive and determine which plants will do best in which areas," she says. Though edibles don't love shady areas, nasturtiums are a great way to add color.

Consider Terracing

Sloped yard? No problem. "By creating flat terraces that step down the slope, water runoff and erosion are virtually eliminated," Tepe writes in The Edible Landscape. "Even the walls of the terrace can be utilized for containers and other decorative items."

Test Your Soil

Discoloration in this blueberry leaf indicates iron deficiency in the soil. Tepe says that sending soil samples to state university labs is the best way to get an accurate reading on your soil's Ph. Take "responsible steps towards maintaining healthy soil instead of reacting and going for a quick fix, which is less sustainable in the long run," she says.

Add Curb Appeal

Why hide all the beauty in the backyard? "Incorporate a variety of color and forms, keep everything pruned, pinched, trellised and weed-free and visitors will be surprised at just how fabulous a food garden can look," Tepe writes.

Old Yard, New Eyes

Turn an unused area of your yard into a tranquil destination with a variety of plants. "Consider your yard a blank canvas and start having fun with bed shapes and paths in addition to plant selection and placement," Tepe writes.

Angles of Mercy

"Straight lines and angles immediately give an air of formality," Tepe writes of this strict structure amidst rows of chives and mizuna. "A few simple measurements and the aid of stakes and strings make layout of geometric patterns easy."

Take Notes

Tepe says a garden notebook is a great place for plant descriptions that you can revisit later when you need the right plant for the right space. Purple-blue cabbage does its job on the ground while Malabar spinach climbs the trellis above.

Pairing Plants

"Sun-loving eggplant, purple basil and tomato offer some protection to low-growing signet marigold," Tepe writes. "The intense heat of the summer sun can cause signet marigolds to stop flowering, so planting them at the base of tall plants gives them a little reprieve."

Plot It Out

In the upper right corner of this design, perennials like sage, tomato, peppers, strawberries and basil group up for a summer showcase. Bottom right, colorful greens comprise a border and, bottom left, nasturtium and tomatoes climb an obelisk.

Draw Conclusions

This design of a shady border area shows grapes on a trellis alongside currant, beans, goldenrod, redbor kale, Russian red kale, gooseberry, broccoli raab, skyblue aster, chard, chive and Alpine strawberries. "Four or five hours of sun will suffice for a garden filled with greens and plants with woodland relatives," Tepe writes.

Create a Path

"A path is like an invitation into the soul of the garden," Tepe writes in The Edible Landscape. She suggests keeping neighborhood materials in mind when planning a path. "The deep red brick of these paths contrasts nicely with the weathered gray wood of the house and makes the greens and herb beds pop," she says.

Grow Up!

Invite new materials to the garden to give it character. "Steel reinforcing bar (AKA rebar) is inexpensive, and with a welder or even a bit of wire it can be used to construct sculptural plant supports," Tepe writes. "The rusty patina is a plus, too!"