"Stealth" Edible Landscaping

August 1, 2012

Some people aren't fortunate enough to have an environment where they can openly grow edible plants.

Whether your concerns are due to theft, privacy issues, sanctions by the city, HOA covenants that forbid growing food, or disapproval from the neighbors, a "stealth" edible garden might be worth thinking about.

Of course, some options might be moving to a different area or working to change the rules, laws, or neighborhood climate to make food growing more acceptable.

But let's assume that you're not interested in or not able to do that.

If that's the case (or even while you're in the process of changing things), then you need to use the principles of "stealth" edible landscaping.

And who knows, it might be fun.

Here are some options:

1) Hide your garden in plain sight

If you put an obviously edible plant (a tomato in North America, for example) right on the sidewalk, by itself -- this is not stealthy.

But cherry tomatoes trained up a trellis a few feet from the sidewalk along with brilliant red and gold nasturtiums might be -- people might not notice that the tomatoes are even there unless they look closely.

And they probably won't consider that the nasturtiums are edible too!

Okra, artichokes, herbs, and sweet potatoes are some other examples of non-obvious edibles.

Also, consider plants that most people in your country don't know are edible (daylilies and hostas come to mind for my area).

Ornamental edible varieties such as variegated tangerines and ornamental alliums can be used for stunning effects while not "looking edible".

2) Hide it behind something else

This is easy: put edibles behind decorative fences, gates, or non-edibles (like boxwood hedges) so it's not immediately evident what you're growing.

3) Make it not worth the bother

For people concerned about theft, making your tasty treats not worth going after can solve a lot of problems.

Here are some ideas:

  • Move obvious edibles close to the house, so a thief would have to leave the street to take something.
  • For severe issues, fence the yard and lock the gate.
  • If your city codes don't allow fencing at the street level, use barrier hedges to discourage entry to the edible part of your yard (this is a great use for rose bushes, dwarf pomegranates, and other compact thorny edibles).
  • Install lighting -- thieves don't like to be on display
  • Get your neighbors on your side. Even a statement like "I've had some thefts from my yard" (without specifying what) can be enough to spur interest in a neighborhood watch, if you don't have one already.

4) Make it gorgeous

If your concerns revolve around your neighbors or the city, go on the aggressive -- keep your edible yard well-manicured and be aware of any grumbling. Most HOA, city or village enforcers won't bother doing anything unless someone complains, so don't let it get to that point.

Growing edible flowers is a way to beautify your yard, hide ugly areas, and add to the percentage of your yard that's edible in a stealthy way.

Christina Santiestevan (who was one of our Edible Front Yard Contest judges!) has a nice blog about her stealth edible front yard at http://www.outlawgarden.com/

Do you have a "stealth" edible garden? Share your tips about keeping it under the radar here.

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