How to create an edible landscape

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There are distinct benefits to establishing multiple types of plants that bear edible fruit in your landscape. Most important to me is that the fruits can be left on the plants until they have developed all of their flavorful components so you get the best flavor possible. This contrasts with shipped fruit which must be harvested before full maturity.

There are only a few downsides to including fruit bearing plants in your landscape. If no one cares about a particular fruit and the ripe fruit is allowed to lie on the ground and rot, the result can be a smelly mess. Fruit bearing plants may require more pest control to keep the fruit edible. A benefit to fruiting plants is that they will provide a nice floral display before they set fruit.

There are several types of fruit bearing plants to consider when planning an edible landscape. Perhaps it would be a good idea to start with the recommended apples and pears as they generally don’t need winter protection, but generally require a bit longer before they start to bear fruit.

Oriental persimmons ripen in the fall and are classified into two major groups, astringent or non-astringent.

Another excellent choice is the Japanese persimmon. It is not a large tree when mature and has very attractive large leaves. Its tomato acorn-shaped fruit is colorful and much larger than that of the native persimmon. Some varieties are seedless and some are non-astringent, meaning they won’t crinkle your mouth.

Yet another great choice would be pineapple guava. The evergreen foliage is attractive all year round and my specimen survived several winters until the arctic explosion of 2021. Its small fruit is good for making jelly and the puffy flower petals are edible and good to use in the salads.

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Pomegranates should be included in the selection of fruit plants used to create an edible landscape. Be careful when buying this ancient biblical plant as many varieties do not bear fruit. The name of the fruit variety you need to buy is “Wonderful”.

Joe White is a retired horticulturist.

Perhaps the best-known barnyard fruit in this region is the fig. Last year’s arctic explosion brought these plants back to the ground; however, these hardy plants have come back from their root systems. And they’re still a great choice to include when you’re striving to develop an edible landscape. ‘Golden Celeste’, LSU Purple and ‘Celeste’ are all excellent strains.

Only with good winter protection can you successfully grow citrus trees in your landscape and note that the LSU AgCenter advises against planting citrus trees north of Baton Rouge. Sometimes you can get a Myer lemon during the winter months, but the hardiest of the citrus species is the satsuma. The Early St. Ann satsuma did well with minimal protection until the Arctic Blast arrived last winter and now it is no longer available. However, Texas A&M now has a satsuma called “Artic Frost” and another called “Artic Orange”. When protected for the first two years, these trees will withstand temperatures as low as 9 degrees Fahrenheit.

Joe White is a retired LSU AgCenter horticulturist.

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