Edible Landscaping with Rosalind Creasy bio picture
  • Rosalind Creasy – Edible Landscaping

    Gardening can be easy, healthy, inexpensive, and best of all, in can be done just about anywhere. As far back as 1970, Rosalind Creasy was a pioneer in the field of Edible Landscaping.Her work has since revolutionized the way that many of us think about gardening. Cooking from the garden, eating organic, and eating fresh are all possible and not as hard as you might think.

    In this website, you can see some of Rosalind's best tips on making the most of your home garden, along with various recipes and advice. 

    Rosalind's new book, Edible Landscaping, was published in November of 2010 and is now in its third printing.

Edible Flowers

The following are what I consider to be the most versatile edible flowers. Please, always remember to positively identify a flower before you eat it. If you are in doubt, check with your local University Extension Service. Further, never serve edible flowers that may have been sprayed with toxic pesticides.

Chives, roses, and scented geraniums

Chives, roses, and scented geraniums

  • Borage - Borago officinalis – Annual; half-inch size, blue, star-like flowers

How to prepare: First remove the green hairy sepals and serve only the blue petals. Enjoy the cucumber-flavored blue flowers in salads or use them to decorate desserts.

  • Calendulas - Calendula officinalis – Annual for cool weather; orange, cream, yellow 2-inch wide flowers

How to prepare: Calendula petals are most often used for their color rather than flavor. To prepare them remove the petals from the heads and use them whole or chopped. Use fresh petals in salads and omelets or dry the petals and use in rice dishes and soups.

  • Chamomile - Matricaria recutita – Annual for warm weather; small white daisy flowers

How to prepare: Annual chamomile has a pleasant pineapple flavor. Use flower heads either fresh or dried in either hot or iced tea. Sometimes chamomile leaves are combined with lemon verbena or mint leaves, or served cold combined with fruit juice.

  • Lavender - Lavandula angustifolia – Perennial, English lavender; tiny lavender flowers

How to prepare: The strong lemon-perfume taste of the petals is used to flavor lemonade, sugars, shortbread, ice cream, and in the herb mixture herbes de Provence.

  • Nasturtium - Tropaeolum majus – Annual; single red, orange, or yellow flowers

How to prepare: The mustard-flavored flowers, leaves, and seedpods of nasturtiums are edible. Mince leaves and flowers and incorporate into butters and soft cheeses, or use the petals to flavor oils, dressings, vinegars, or sprinkle them like confetti over a green salad.

  • Squash Blossoms – Cucurbita spp. – Annual for warm weather; 3 to 4-inch wide, yellow flowers

How to prepare: To prepare the slightly sweet flowers, wash and gently dry them. (Watch for bees sometimes trapped inside.). If you’re making fritters or stuffing them, keep the stems on but remove stamens and pistils. Blossoms can be stuffed with cheeses and meat mixtures; or sliced petals can be added to soups, frittatas, tacos, and salads.

  • Violas, Pansies, and Johnny-jump-ups – Viola cornuta, V. Wittrockiana, and V. tricolor and Violets – Viola odorata – Annual and perennials; small purple, yellow, or blue flowers

How to prepare: Violas, pansies, and Johnny-jump-ups have petals with a slight lettuce taste. Use fresh on desserts and in salads and on appetizers or candy them. Violets have a strong perfume taste and are great for candying or use fresh in tea sandwiches.

Garden celebration salad with calendula petals

Garden celebration salad with calendula petals

May 5, 2009 - 7:08 pm

Chris Prudhomme - I am really excited to see that you have started blogging! After I read your book on Edible Landscaping last year I was looking around online but only found the occasional article and speaking engagement. Glad to see your site up and running and I’ll look forward to following you and am eagerly waiting for your revised book to be published. There is a lot of renewed interest in the subject as climate change, agricultural shortcomings, energy scarcity and a strong desire for healthy, local food have brought the art of growing food to the forefront.

I have been experimenting a lot on edible landscape and edible food forest concepts over the last year but have been bumping into a lack of aesthetic cohesion while dealing with the demanding nature of annual vegetables in my organic garden. There are plenty of how-tos on the functional side of things, but what I really see lacking right now are good examples online of aesthetic successes and instructions on achieving consistent visual interest and artistry in edible landscape design. I have been blogging about my own discoveries, but it will be great to read about your own experiences, experiments and successes. I love the pictures, they really help me visualize edible landscaping vignettes and groupings as well as appreciate the sheer beauty of food! I hope to read more in the near future.

June 9, 2009 - 12:40 am

Rosalind - Thanks for the insightful comments. I will continue to add more content and examples in the next year. Thanks for reading!

Perfecting The Edible Patio

Ros patio1

The right-hand part of my front yard near the driveway is both the sunniest and the warmest part of my yard and a perfect place for sun-loving edibles. Full sun makes blackberries, tomatoes, peppers, and squash stay healthy, and the tomatoes are sweeter in full sun. This is edible landscaping at it’s best; both productive, tasty, and beautiful!

Above: starting in the back row, left to right are: a thornless blackberry vine planted in the ground and trained on my wall. The second row includes a  limequat (in a large wooden box), and two blueberry bushes in terra cotta containers. The next row, starting with the wine barrel planted with sweet potatoes, includes a strawberry jar and a bell pepper. In the foreground  are non-edible geraniums and lantana. On the right is an unusual  basil plant, ‘Pesto Perpetuo’.  This is a variegated, perennial basil that doesn’t flower in the Northern Hemisphere.

 

On the other side of the patio are containers with peppers and sweet potatoes, and another wooden box, this one planted with an heirloom, Potimmaron  winter squash trained over my arbors. This French squash has a rich chestnut flavor, especially when roasted. A planting note: these squash can be planted so they trail on the ground, but if you want to grow them vertically, the fruits are heavy so make sure to train them on a sturdy arbor so they won’t blow over on a windy day. These arbors are made with 4″ x 4s” that are set in concrete. Ros Patio 2 squash

IMG_6119

Rainbow chard is one of the most colorful “greens.” To get my choice of chard color choices for my garden, I sow a few dozen seeds from a package in a pot. Once they sprout they reveal their colors and I choose the color transplants I want to use in a decorative red pot say, or planted in back of a row of frilly chartreuse lettuces or kale in my front border.

 

When in Drought – Plant Vegetables Now More Than Ever

I’ve been a landscape designer for nearly 40 years and this is my third major drought here in California, and this year it’s a “doozy.” I would like to share with you some of my experiences and how can we all use our water more wisely for now and in the future. First, we must cut down or eliminate our lawns, that’s for sure. We should all use drip more and recycle water when we can. That would help local water districts in many ways. What is not as obvious is that we all need to plant lots of vegetables and fruits, Yes!! According to www.Treehugger.com growing the average pound of lettuce commercially uses 15 gallons of water, tomatoes 22 gallons, and a pound of potatoes 30 gallons. Years ago, John Jeavons, author of the best selling How to Grow More Vegetables, concluded that the home gardener, using organic techniques to grow edibles, uses between one quarter and an eighth as much water as does the farmer. Efficient home gardeners can save this entire country plenty of water and eat much better to boot. (BTW, the price of produce is going to sky rocket this year as more than half of this nations produce is grown in CA and many farmers must leave their land fallow.)

When grown using organic techniques and drip irrigation, home-grown tomatoes, peppers, squash, basil, and onions not only taste better, compared to agriculture, they use less than half the water.

Before we discuss edibles let’s first look at the ways you can globally save water. In the house, if you have not already done so: install efficient toilets and washing machines, take shorter showers, and try not to pre-rinse dishes for the dishwasher. For more global ways to save water in the house, go to the websites for Santa Clara Valley Water District www.valleywater.org and Environmental Protection Agency www.epa.gov/.

Saving water in the landscape – Californians use more than half their household’s water on landscaping, so the biggest water savings can be made here. Below are some ways to cut down on water use in the garden.

- Incorporate organic matter in your soil – A 3-inch layer of compost turned into your soil at a 6-inch depth (about a shovel blade depth) is estimated to increase the water holding capacity of that soil 2.5 times more than it would normally hold. Soils composted in this manner can provide plants with water for up to a week between watering. The Rodale Institute has a simple equation: 1 pound of carbon (aka compost) equals 40 pounds of water retention.

Annual vegetables like peppers and zucchini use far less water when generous amounts of organic matter is incorporated into the soil and a 3 or 4” mulch of well-aged compost or other organic matter is used to cover the soil. Add drip irrigation and vegetables can be grown using far less water than the farmer.

- Mulch heavily – Use garden compost, pine needles, aged sawdust, fall leaves, and/or straw to mulch. For annual flowers and vegetables make sure that your compost is well aged or the soil microbes will rob the soil of needed nitrogen. The looser the material the more you need to watch for slugs and earwigs that can hide in the mulch. To prevent diseases, keep the mulch 6” away from the crown of annuals, shrubs, and tree trunks.

- Water deeply and infrequently – Surface roots dry out faster than those at least 6” deep. Set your irrigation timer to water for shorter periods of time and water a second time a few hours later, this way the water will penetrate more deeply. Most irrigation timers can be set to do this.

A great tool to make sure your plants are watered properly is a soil probe. Push the probe into the soil as far as you can, 6” to a foot deep or more, remove it and look at the sample and see if it contains damp or dry soil. You can also use a spade it’s just that the probe is less work. And use the internet to help you identify hydrophobic soil. When soil gets very dry it actually sheds water just like a dry sponge and you need to apply water slowly and let it be absorbed or most of your water will drain away.

- Install a drip system – Use drip for shrub borders, fruit trees, flower beds, and vegetable gardens – Drip irrigation is dramatically more efficient than overhead sprinklers; some experts say as much as 50%. Further, it cuts down on weeds, water runoff, and fungal diseases. That said, a well-thought out system will save many headaches. To be realistic, drip takes effort to install and attention to keep it running well. Hints: 1. Avoid cheap irrigation “kits.” They can be unreliable. It is hard to find replacement parts for repairs and cheap plastic tubing can expand in hot weather forcing the emitters to pop off. 2. Instead, use professional grade in-line emitters that drip water from holes in the line rather than a solid tubing system with installed emitters. 3. Choose “shrubblers” and micro-sprayers for annuals in containers; look for flow control so you can adjust the water pattern for changing individual plants. 4. Install a good filter and change it every few months. 5. Cover the tubing with mulch, not only because it looks better, but because it protects the plastic from ultraviolet light so it lasts longer. 6. Run the system every few weeks to make sure that there are no leaks or clogs.

You can have an irrigation specialist install your system or for DIY, seek out information on line. The Urban Farmer Store in San Francisco (www.theurbanfarmerstore.com) , Harmony Farms Supply in Sebastopol, CA (www.harmonyfarm.com/ ) and/or Peaceful Valley Farm Supply in Grass Valley, CA (www.groworganic.com) all have web sites with extensive information for installing drip, watering schedules, and lots of equipment options.

Deep water trees and shrubs – Deep root-watering large trees is much more efficient than most irrigation techniques as it distributes water a foot or more below the surface. Done properly a few times a summer, it eliminates surface run off, and reduces erosion and evaporation. Use an old plastic 5 gallon pail or garbage can. If it doesn’t have a few holes in the bottom make them, you want the water to leak out slowly. Move it to the drip line of the plant and fill it with water, grey water from your house or water from the hose and let it slowly leak into the soil, when it is empty move it to another quadrant.

Use gray water when possible – Gray water is defined as relatively clean waste water from showers, baths, sinks, and washing machines. I keep a few plastic gallon buckets near my kitchen and bathroom sinks and put the buckets under the faucet when I’m bringing hot water to the sink or shower, and I use them when I rinse vegetables, my hands, etc. Gray water is suitable for use in the garden as soil microbes tie up most disease organisms and toxins. Care must be used when watering edible plants. I only use clean potable water. Avoid laundry soaps that contain sodium, salt compounds and boron which can damage plants. Look for products such as Dr. Bronners for the kitchen and bathroom sink and Oasis for your laundry. For much more information on gray water and soap brands consult www.greywateraction.org.

Install rain barrels – What you say? Why have rain barrels in a drought when we are getting so little rain? Yes, I use two 75 gallon barrels all year long to store gray water to water my plants. For a diagram and guidelines on how to best use rainwater see the city of Berkeley’s website under: Rain Water Harvesting for information; and Gardeners Supply, www.gardeners.com/ and the Urban Farmer Store for rain barrels and how to set them up.

All my favorite culinary herbs can be grown in a few recycled wine barrels. Notice that one is a smaller one nested on top of a large one. Here Thai basil, chives, savory, tarragon, sage, French sorrel, and thyme are grouped together and watered by drip irrigation on an automatic timer that comes on twice a day for 3 minutes all summer. A bonus container of strawberries is on the same system.

If you have any other ideas let me know in the comments section below!

Rosalind Creasy – Landscape Designer and author of Edible Landscaping, Sierra Club Books, 2010

August 19, 2014 - 5:55 pm

Jan - I have always been concerned about water consumption, good common sense ideas

September 6, 2014 - 11:10 am

Alicia - I figured I was using less water than commercial farming here at home, with my mulch and direct watering, etc… But I had no idea it was that much!

November 4, 2014 - 3:17 am

Emma - May I say that you have incredible beautiful plants! I also have a garden in my backyard and I live in a dry climate too, so thanks a lot for this article. Regards!

December 19, 2014 - 5:13 am

landscape gardening - We are a group of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community. Your blog provided us valuable information to work on. You have done a marvellous job!

February 14, 2015 - 10:21 am

Carola - Hi, Rosalind.
I’ve been a great fan of yours for many years.
Your books are beautiful, informative, and inspiring.
I do have a question about the water collected in rain barrels. We have five barrels here at The Pink House and most of our plants are edibles. I avoid using the water collected from the roof on edibles for fear of toxins.
I’d appreciated your advice.
Thank you for all the inspiration over the years.
Carola in Los Angeles
(90 degrees in February?!)

April 23, 2017 - 3:47 am

Regina Lu - I would love to start an edible garden. I’m in nyc with no outdoor space. Can I do thi inside with a proper setup? Any advice or leads?

May 12, 2017 - 3:46 pm

Rosalind Creasy - Sorry Regina, You need at least 6 hours of sunlight for most edible plants. You could however grow some mint and parsley on your window sill, especially if you get a few hours of sun in that window. Another option as you mentioned it to set up some grow lights and then you could grow salad greens as well as the mint and parsleyinside. You also might be able to find a community garden close enough by to be able try your hand at some edible gardening.