The Intricate Art of Edible Landscaping
Western Washington is a gardener’s haven. With a
mild climate, known as Zone 8 to fruit and vegetable
growers, many plants thrive, often beyond our wildest
expectations. Talk to those with a passion for edibles, and
you start hearing things like, “Does kale ever die?” and
“Do food banks take fresh garden donations?” Neither is
One of the joys of gardening—which inspires advice,
anecdotes, and funny party stories—is the trial-and-error
involved in growing and maintaining a garden. Even with
guidance, you can’t always predict an outcome, especially
year-to-year. Soil, weather, age, pests, and effort all play a
part in how your garden grows, and, in the world of edible
landscaping, this is doubly true.
The Surge of Edible Landscaping
Who knows what sparked the recent revolution of
urban homesteaders? Maybe it was the increasing
price of produce, a need for an outlet away from
technology, not wanting foods saturated with pesticides,
or a farmers market reminding you what
freshly picked fruits and vegetables tasted like.
Whatever the reason, flurries of people have found
ways to introduce edibles into their landscapes.
On top of it all, there are classes, books, and
other resources to help the beginner get started.
Landscapers also offer the specialized service of
helping plan for a garden that produces food. Big
or small, most yards are capable of generating
enough produce to feed a family.
Some people go straight for the full-on food
garden, while others prefer edible-specific beds
here and there. And then there are gardeners who
like to mix and mingle their edibles throughout
the rest of their landscaping. Each method is
doable—but it’s wise to remember that research
can be extremely beneficial before going for it.
The Right Elements
After you’ve visited a garden or nursery and feel
that excitement to get going, it’s easy to forget
that there is so much to think about. Probably the
most crucial piece of information to keep in mind
is that we are Zone 8. You probably won’t be
growing mangos, bananas, or anything that flourishes
in other zones. But don’t despair—Western
Washington has a huge number of fruits and
vegetables that do exceptionally well in our climate—more
so than many other zones. We also
are able to grow much of the year.
Other factors will come into play as well. With
each plant there is growing seasons and knowing
when to plant the seed or start. You’ll want to
research how much sunlight is needed, what temperatures
are ideal, and the pests or conditions
that could ruin the crop. Another thing that is
encouraged is to test the quality of your soil so
you can improve it if necessary. One of the first
things that Steve Smith from Sunnyside Nursery
in Marysville encourages customers interested in
landscaping to do is to look into their dirt. “Most
people have inherited glacial till. It can be miserable
around here.” He offers sage advice to help
people to have gardens that flourish. “The first
place anyone should start is with the soil.” Smith
talks about how in the Northwest, it is beneficial
to invest in soil and drainage. They are the foundations
on which your garden grows.
Once the edibles in the garden are in, some
plants will need to be fed. Others you’ll need to
pinch off or prune throughout the growth process
to maximize production. Last, you’ll have to know
about crop rotation. It’s a lot to keep track of, but
the more knowledge you acquire, the easier it gets.
Design and Beneficials
Each garden is like an artist’s canvas—and the
images that appear are usually a reflection of the
gardener. While some lean toward a wild and dazzling
display of color, others will proudly install
firm boundaries and rigidly uniformed beds. The
same is true for edibles. They will display your
tastes—literally—as will the way you incorporate
them. It is wise to start small. Pick a corner, bed,
or container. Try your hand at one or two things,
and as you gain experience, you can add more.
When incorporating edibles you can choose to fly
by the seat of your pants with a misplaced flyer
about tomatoes somewhere in your home that
would give you insight, or you can ruthlessly outline
everything in your gardening journal. You’ll
probably end up somewhere in-between. Chances
are, you’ll fail a time or two, but those lessons will
Pacific Northwest Resources
With a strong garden community, there are resources and assistance abundantly available. We have several
books dedicated to fruit and vegetable gardening in the Northwest, classes through many different organizations,
and nurseries—and even podcasts—that give excellent gardening tips. Here are some of North
End Metro’s favorite picks.
Edible Landscaping by Rosalind Creasy This
book shows off the incredible talent of landscape
designer Rosalind Creasy. It also gives many indepth
helpful tips, a look into how much a garden
is capable of producing, and gorgeous photos of
edible dream gardens.
The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in
the Pacific Northwest This is the kind of book that
will be full of bookmarks, post-its, and stained by
the dirt as it accompanies you on your gardening
adventures. Chalk full of excellent information,
this is a must-have for the Northwest gardener.
Sunnyside Nursery Snohomish County has its
own wonderful resource with Sunnyside Nursery
in Marysville. Classes and events happen monthly.
Some of our favorites: Bountiful Berries, Growing
Cool Season Veggies, Fruit: It Grows on Trees, and
Organic Gardening. See if there is one that interests
you at sunnysidenursery.net/classes.
The Dirty Cultivator This locally produced podcast
done by our friends at Garden Treasures
in Arlington features topics like pruning tomatoes,
walnuts, and winter gardens. Find all
the episodes at gardentreasuresfarm.com/
Seattle Tilth March Edible Plant Sale Plan to stand
in lines that rival a theme park, this is one popular
sale. The upside—there are some incredible
offerings. The sale is free, unless you nab one of
the limited Early Bird Sale tickets. All the information
you need is at seattletilth.org/special_events/
The Beauty in Edibles
Gardens are beautiful—and edible gardens possess
their own type of beauty. The textures, shapes,
and colors of fruits and vegetables are wonderfully
appealing. But the taste—that is a true delight.
Here in the North End you have everything at
your fingertips to create a work of art in your
yard, one that tantalizes and flavors every sense.