Gardening Tips: Garden Like A Ninja

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I am so excited to have Angela England back to Earth911 with another interview and more great gardening tips. We got so much great feedback about her last interview about her book, Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less) that we had to talk with her about her new book – Gardening Like a Ninja: A Guide to Sneaking Delicious Edibles into Your Landscape.

Slealth gardening tips

Gardening Like a NinjaFor a long time, the thought of gardening in our front yards has been taboo. Gardens were meant for the backyard, right? Wrong! You can grow plenty of edible plants in your front yard that will look perfectly in their place right in your front yard. I had no idea some of the edible plants Angela mentions were even edible!

If you’re curious about how you can grow food in your front yard, read this interview for some great gardening tips. Then head over and check out the Gardening Like a Ninja book and Edible Landscaping e-course so you can get your hands dirty and your yard edibly beautified!

1. What inspired you to write Gardening Like a Ninja: A Guide to Sneaking Delicious Edibles into Your Landscape?

When I wrote Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less) I got a lot of questions from people wondering how they could incorporate some of the principles I mentioned, even if they had an HOA, smaller spaces, or were renting.

I chose to expand the brief mention of Edible Landscaping into a full book because I wanted to people to realize there is a far more rich option than either or. You can have a gorgeous, landscaped home. And grow edibles there.

2. Why should someone consider adding edible plants to their landscape even if they have a backyard garden?

Most backyard garden plots tend to focus solely on annual vegetables, but the world of edibles is so far beyond that one sub-section of plant. Flowers, vines, trees, shrubs, and perennials might all be out of place in a vegetable garden row. But these plants have been used in decorative beds and borders for centuries. Why not use edible versions to maximize your food potential? If you want to have a lovely home garden by your front door, side yard or backyard, you might as well get your money’s worth from it!

3. What plants tend to look the “prettiest” in front yard landscapes?

High visibility areas call for rockstar edible plants that can hold their own in any landscape. Look for trees, shrubs and perennials to form the long-lasting foundation of any garden space. These will come back year after year so you want to choose wisely.

I recommend plants that have interest through more than one season. Evergreens look especially good near the home with their year-round color. Some trees have interesting bark, winter flowers or fruit, or unique silhouettes that are beautiful even in the dead of winter.

Make every plant serve maximum duty – if you have to choose between a plant that looks good one week, or a plant that produces flowers all season long, choose the one that gives you the most benefit.

Containers can be a great way to fill in any gaps as well, especially in the front yard where curb appeal is vital. Don’t be afraid to move plants from the backyard into an attractive container and place them in an area where cool season annuals have gone dormant or you just want a little more color.

Yellow and red Daylily flower in a garden

Daylilies are flowering plants with edible or medicinal value that also have a wonderful place in any garden landscape. Image Credit: DGSHUT / Shutterstock

4. What edible plants would you suggest someone grow that traditionally leans towards flowers?

It’s amazing how many gorgeous flowers are available on edible plants. My favorites are in the viola family – pansies, violas, and violets. Our summers are too hot for them so I enjoy them in our fleeting springs and falls and let them reseed so I can enjoy them each year. Asters, daylilies (right), chives, borage, lavender, Echinacea, and nasturtiums are all flowering plants with edible or medicinal value that also have a wonderful place in any garden landscape.

5. What tips would you give to someone that lives in an apartment?

Move! OK maybe not. I would look at maximizing your container options and grow the plants that will give you the most return for your space. Think about things like basil, for example, which will produce an enormous amount of plant material for you to enjoy just from one plant in one pot. Other plants that produce well in containers are pole beans (let them drape over the side or grow up a trellis), leafy greens (hint – they don’t have to be green but come in a stunning variety of colors), chives, lavender, rosemary, peppers and mints

6. We know that some homeowners’ associations and city codes have policies against front yard gardens. What advice do you have for our readers to help them change these policies in their communities?

The cool thing about these policies is that they usually don’t preclude landscaping in the front yard which is where edible landscaping can be such a powerful technique. You can follow the principles of landscape design that professional landscapers would use to create curb-appeal-filled gardens, but substitute ornamental plants with edibles. And, your HOA will be none-the-wiser.

When it comes to changing restrictive policies I like to look to the facts and the changing culture. The First Lady grows a garden in her yard and I figure if it’s good enough for the White House it ought to be good enough for any house, right?

Share statistics on the benefits of garden in every area of health. Gardeners have higher self-esteem and decreased depression. Gardeners have a decreased risk of cancer, heart attacks, diabetes and more. The more you can calmly arm yourself with the facts and research, the more likely you are to have an effect.

7. Is there anything else you’d like to share about your book or edible landscapes?

I just want to encourage everyone to realize that you don’t have to “a farmer” or “a homesteader” to learn some of these techniques. I grew up in a massive city in Southern California and was as city as you could be. It was only after I got married and pregnant with my first child that I really began to explore the possibilities and develop a more self-sufficient lifestyle. Don’t feel like you have to do everything all at once – in fact I recommend you don’t! Focus on one thing to add, change or replace and start there! Maybe you just switch out your mailbox planter this year or put a container garden on your bare patio deck. Maybe you take out that flowering shrub along the fence line and put in elderberries or raspberries instead. Whatever it is, it can be small to start. Give yourself a chance at success with that first shift and then grow from there.

Find out more information about Gardening Like a Ninja book and online course on Angela’s website, Untrained Housewife.

Angela is truly a Renaissance woman. In addition to growing food for her family, she also homeschools her five children and is the founder of the website, Untrained Housewife, the editor-in-chief of Blissfully Domestic, co-founder of the Homestead Bloggers Network, a freelance writer and popular speaker. You can connect with Angela on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with her adventures in backyard farming, front yard gardening and more.

Feature image credit: Foodio / Shutterstock

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Chrystal Johnson

Chrystal Johnson, publisher of Happy Mothering, founder of Green Moms Media and essential oil fanatic, is a mother of two sweet girls who believes in living a simple, natural lifestyle. A former corporate marketing communication manager, Chrystal spends her time researching green and eco-friendly alternatives to improve her family's life.