Access to healthy food is one of the main challenges facing Americans due to economic status and local accessibility.  Food deserts—neighborhoods bereft of healthy food—abound. Even when farmers’ markets and grocery stores are accessible, many Americans cannot afford to buy fresh, organic produce.  Many have proposed community gardens as a solution to increase access and lower cost of fresh and healthy food. Yet many communities lack the necessary available land or organizational infrastructure.  But every person and family with a yard can consider adopting one particularly innovative and homegrown solution to this nationwide problem:  edible landscaping.

 Photo credit: Marion Brenner @

Many American homeowners spend a lot to have their yards landscaped with ornamental trees, plants, and lawns. While these plants may serve aesthetic purpose, this is often their sole function. Additionally, purely ornamental landscapes often require costly maintenance and harmful chemicals.  Landscaping with plants that provide foods and herbs, on the other hand, can help improve access to healthy, homegrown foods and cut down on grocery bills.

Humans have been growing their own food for most of their existence, and they reap both health and environmental benefits from doing so.  Mounting evidence suggests that homegrown food can be more nutritious, especially when attention is paid to soil quality and appropriate plant varieties. Homeowners can also ensure that the food they grow is free of pesticides.

When designed with a set of ecological concepts known as permaculture, homeowners can create gardens and landscapes using perennials that are virtually self-sustaining. Well-designed edible landscapes require little maintenance, in contrast to other popular forms of landscaping. In addition to providing healthy, fresh, nutritious produce and helping American families save money, edible landscapes have the potential to enrich human health, the environment, and the communities in which they are built.


Author: Claire Bailey