Fitting Edibles Into Your Yard

Is it possible to grow a portion of your own food even if you have a small yard, kids and a dog, an apartment with a deck, ravenous neighborhood deer or nothing but lawn? YES!! I have lived with all of these scenarios and love to find ways to fit edibles in my yard. Here are some strategies to use as you examine your yard to find places to fit in more edible plants.

1. Think layers 

An existing shrub or tree with lots of mulch around it could host an understory of strawberries or herbs used as a ground cover. Consider filling your existing beds more fully with plants. My garden philosophy: the earth was created to grow things, either you choose what to grow in each space, or nature does (weeds).

This 3 foot wide bed surrounds our pergola-covered deck. It holds 4 grape vines, 1 Issai hardy kiwi vine, & 6 artichoke plants. The edge around the bed grows alpine strawberries. In the empty space behind the posts are Walking Egyptian Onions, which are my perennial supply of green onions.  I allow my children to plant flower seeds in the empty spaces  between plants. This bed is all about layering plants from high to low, and not leaving any bare ground. 


Many herbs are deer resistant. If you live in a heavily deer populated area, herbs could be grown in an unfenced area of the yard. They work well in a shrub border, a flower bed, or under trees!

Perennial herbs can become part of your permanent landscape:
These herbs can be used instead of shrubs: lavender, rosemary (‘Arp’ is hardy here)
These herbs can be used as middle sized fillers: thyme, oregano, chives, garlic chives
Lavender really fits well near any plant, as
seen here with a Globe Blue Spruce.
This is a beautiful combination of lavender and variegated
sage that would fit well in any flower bed, and most would
not guess that you go and harvest from it regularly to
flavor your meals.

I enjoy keeping a pair of pots planted
with mint by my front door.  Not only
does it smell wonderful to greet guests,
but it is very convenient to harvest.

Annual herbs can be planted along with your annual flowers for summer beauty and harvest: basil, cilantro, stevia, chamomile, parsley, dill

These herbs are best in pots because of their aggressive, spreading nature: mint (all sorts of varieties), lemon balm. 

3. Use the Fence

The 4-6 feet against a fence line may be more valuable as an edible garden, than as seldom walked on lawn. A two foot wide raised vegetable bed could fit against the fence line, or a row of blackberry, raspberry, or even a fruit tree or two. A 4×4 raised bed can fit in a corner or along the fence, can provide spring salad greens and some fresh peas, summer tomatoes & basil, and fall cabbage and broccoli.

Our first home was on 1/10 acre. We used the area against the fence to arrange a row of raised vegetable beds. We added 2 apple trees and several herbs to our flower border against another fence line. Around the living room bay window we grew flowers and strawberries. We still had room for a lawn area and a nice swing set for the children.


Replace ailing or unsightly trees and shrubs with food producing replacements. Replace a dead or dying tree or shrub with a fruit tree. Line a fence with a border of fruit bushes. Grow alpine strawberries at the edge of your flower bed. Grow grapes or hardy kiwi on an arbor or pergola, or on a trellis against your house. Add cherry shrubs beside a tree.  You can choose through pruning the size of all of these fruit plants, so they can fit in even a small space.  

Cherry shrubs are a part of a flower bed.

Blackberry brambles live in a 2 foot wide section against my
back fence.

5. Mix In

Add edibles to an existing flower or shrub border. If you have a large amount of mulch showing, there is room for more plants! 

6.Tour your yard with a critical eye

Determine any underutilized areas that could be used for edible plants. We had an awkward area behind our garage with a basement window well, only 8 feet wide, dropping off at a 4 foot tall rock wall. We decided to use this area for an apricot tree, which gave a very abundant harvest this year. 

I hope that these strategies help you to find ways to grow more food to enjoy fresh out of your yard!

Interactive Plot Map

Visit the interactive plot map for more visual examples and ideas for fitting edible plants into your yard.

My Pinterest board for edibles: 

Some great websites and books for inspiration:

The Prudent Homemaker,
Rosalind Creasy’s books or website: 
Northwest Edible,
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