WOOSTER, Ohio -- Innovative horticulture designs, such as the "edible landscape", are breaking the bonds of traditional planting principles.
Martin Quigley, an Ohio State University landscape ecologist, said such designs shatter the concept that all food-producing plants must grow in a straight row, be confined to a separate garden area, and shouldn't be mixed -- that is, ornamentals and edibles shouldn't share the same garden.
"We still carry on agricultural practices on our horticultural plants -- that our gardens have to be in straight rows and that production plants are meant for the field and not the garden. There is this division that anything that is productive can't be planted with nonproductive," said Quigley. "But horticulture ideally has aesthetic and ecological values that are more important than just the production aspect. And the great thing about edible landscape plants is that they can work with purely ornamental plants. You can use herbs and salad plants as foliage edges, grow tomatoes along the back of a herbaceous flower border, or plant a fruiting cherry tree instead of a sterile crabapple."
Quigley will discuss how to design an edible landscape at the 2001 Apples...Crabapples...The Edible Landscape, an Ohio State Extension and Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center program on Oct. 20. The event focuses on growing apples, ornamental crabapples and other edible plants in the landscape. Registration is $10 and includes refreshments, handouts, presentations and edible landscape cuisine such as cherry dogwood juice, serviceberry pie and cider.
Quigley likens mixing ornamentals and edibles to companion planting, that is, growing marigolds around lettuces, for example, to keep pests away. "You can decrease the density of any given species and add aromatics like herbs such as garlic, sage, or thyme to ward off pests," he said. "There's no limit really to what you can do with edible plants. You can follow all the principles of horticultural design with edibles and they work very well, even in a container garden or a water garden."
Gardeners interested in creating an edible landscape should choose hardy plants that don't require excessive maintenance and don't need a lot of room to grow. "Apple trees, for example, need a lot of skillful pruning, but blueberries and raspberries require less maintenance," said Quigley. "Vining fruits such as cucumbers and melons may take up too much room unless you grow them vertically on a fence or trellis."
Examples of edibles that grow well in Ohio include pears, quinces, plums, apples, strawberries, gooseberries, carrots, elderberries, currants, chokecherries, blueberries, all temperate zone herbs and all conventional vegetables.
Apple varieties that grow in Ohio will also be discussed at the program, as well as a tour of the crabapple plots at Secrest Arboretum. For more information contact Sandy Winkler or Ken Cochran at (330) 263-3761 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.