If I were to landscape a front-and-back yard – of the postage-stamp size found in most of my neighbourhood, for example – I would want:
Two fruit trees – like a dwarf sour cherry and a two-variety pear, or maybe a weeping black mulberry and three-variety apple or plum tree. (I’m a big fan of multi-variety dwarf trees, fyi. There are a lot of fruits – apples, plums, pears – that need two varieties present to fruit well. If the two varieties are growing on the same root stock, so much the better!)
A berry bush – think red currants (prolific and tasty), haskaps (a super-hardy, early-fruiting shrub whose yields taste a little like blueberries or service berries), or thimble-berries (aka: purple flowering raspberries, which come with big, beautiful purple-pink blossoms in the spring).
A perennial early-spring favourite – such as ostrich ferns (which, in their just-sprouted form are better-recognized as fiddleheads), asparagus, or even rhubarb.
Some large pots for herbs and/or container-loving plants (like bell peppers, strawberries, and tomatoes – even a hardy fig tree, or Meyer lemon, if you’ve got the deck space and can bring it inside for the winter)
A pergola or garden arch or similar that could be used to trellis grapes or some other vining crop (like runner beans, hardy kiwi, or even cucumbers and winter squash)
A sun-lit space for annual veggies, hopefully at least six feet square, but preferably double that, to be grown in-ground (although, if your “yard” has been paved over, which many of them have, there are Things you can do with large containers that effectively simulate raised beds).
This would give you plenty of “dependable” perennial foods – mostly fruit, plus some Very Early vegetables – that you can enjoy as they come off the tree/vine/etc, but that you can also preserve (think jams, chutneys, jellies, butters and compotes) for use over winter. Plus you’d also have the space to grow, for example, hardy root crops that keep well through the winter.
So many front yards in my (centuries-established, working class) neighbourhood come equipped with fruit trees — sour cherry, plum, sweet apple, choke cherry, service berry, pear, crab apple, hawthorn (the list goes on), frequently with grapes added into the mix as well — and so many of my neighbours under-plant their trees with carefully trellised beans, squash, and tomatoes, along with herbs, bok choi, garlic, leaf amaranth, and all sorts of other veggies. It astonishes me how much food they can grow off six square feet of earth, in partial shade, year after year.
Right now, of course, I’m growing stuff out of rubbermaid bins on my balcony (my butternut squash might maybe-just-maybe produce an actual fruit! ZOMG!) but, eventually, I’m hoping to get my hands on a yard like the one I described above — the kind that can feed me just by being what it is.
What kinds of food plants do you grow, or dream about growing?
– Meliad the Birch Maiden