Edible Landscaping

How to eat your yard, feed your soul…and improve your property value....

How to eat your yard, feed your soul…and improve your property value

“Life begins the day you start a garden.”
– Chinese proverb

The sight of a pristine, green front yard is as iconic as apple pie. But there’s a better way to landscape your property, and feed your family, too.

Edible landscaping is, well, exactly what the name implies. It means growing fruit, vegetables, herbs, and medicinal plants instead of grass or ornamentals. 

It’s a trend that’s burgeoning nationwide, and Hawai‘i is uniquely qualified to adopt it.

Growing an edible landscape has many benefits. Courtesy Malama Aina Permaculture

First off, there’s our year-round growing season. While mainland gardeners are forced to wait out frigid temperatures for a portion of the year, it’s always plant-friendly weather here. 

Next, add the high cost of produce. Shipping tacks on a lot; grow your own and the savings add up.

What you choose to plant and tend relies upon your taste, obviously. Pineapples, papayas, mangoes, liliko‘i etc. thrive in our climate. Kalo (taro) is a longstanding, traditional option. Most leafy vegetables do well, particularly at higher elevation where the temperature is cooler. Really, though, it’s your salad. Toss in what you want.

Thirtier plants may raise your water bill. But again, much of that cost can be offset by the fact that you’re raising your own food.

Using organic gardening practices is obviously best, for the health of you, your family, and the island. And sprinkling in some non-edible native plants can add aesthetic appeal.

Per Malama Aina Permaculture, here are some of the benefits of edible landscaping:

“Enjoy the freshest local organic food. Many types of produce lose their nutritional value very quickly after being harvested, by picking a salad or vegetable moments, not days or weeks before eating it you receive substantial gains in the nutritional value of your food. Not to mention fresh food tastes so much better. 

Save money. Edible landscapes can quickly pay for themselves from food they produce. With the cost of organic produce as it is, economically speaking, home gardening and edible landscaping is an idea whose time has come again. 

Gain food security. Disturbances in the food supply affect Hawai‘i much harder than the mainland. It is said that there are only a few days of food stockpiled if shipping were interrupted for some reason. Having food already growing in our own backyards keeps you prepared for the worst, while you are enjoying the best.   

Protect the environment. Roughly 80 percent of Hawai‘i’s food is imported. Eating locally grown food reduces large amounts of pollution from transportation and packaging. 

Increase property value. Enhance curb side appeal and livability. Strategically placed trees can provide shade making houses and patios much more comfortable and reduce cooling costs.  Living privacy screens are cheaper and more colorful than fences and last longer.”

Maybe you don’t have a green thumb. Perhaps the notion of tending a garden feels like too much work. You’re not alone.

But the benefits outweigh the cost. It’s good for your body. It’s good for your soul. It’s good for the land.


Further reading:

“The Ornamental Edible Garden” by Diana Anthony
(University of Hawai‘i Press)

“The Edible Front Yard”
by Ivette Soler (Timber Press)

“Specialty Crops for Pacific Islands”
by Craig Elevitch
(University of Hawai‘i Press) 

Jacob Shafer

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