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Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Plant Edible Ground Cover

“North Americans now devote 40,000 square miles to lawns, more than we use for wheat, corn or even tobacco.” —The Lawn: North America’s magnificent obsession by Robert Fulford

LigonberriesIf you are planning on replacing your lawn with something that requires a lot less water and maintenance, but you also want to plant something in its place that is more than ornamental, you have a few more choices than you think. If you can’t or don’t want to plant a full-on vegetable garden, consider planting edible ground cover instead.

Following some of the basics of xeriscaping, ground cover plants are good alternatives to turf grasses since they can be more drought tolerant and, if you have covenants or other restrictions requiring you keep your yard landscaped, they are a good way to sneak in food crops without being noticed. Even just replacing a few feet of lawn around the borders will provide food and add variety to your yard.

For fruiting ground cover, try planting a mix of lingonberries, strawberries, American cranberry, Creeping Oregon grape (tart but edible) and wintergreen. With the wintergreen you can use both the leaves and the berries that appear during the winter.

If you want to stick with herbs your best bets are sage, mint, oregano, chamomile and thyme. All of these grow low to the ground and are good spreaders.

You can interweave a number of these different edible cover crops into attractive patterns or around walkways, stones and pavers to achieve a well-manicured yard that is also edible. And the neighbors won’t even notice.  

Photo by Deanna Duke  

12/8/2008 4:20:23 AM

dandelions are also edible and have more nutrition than almost anything you can eat

11/2/2008 5:07:49 PM

What about planting bush cherries and mulberry trees, they have very good fruits and are pleasing to the eye, also sage....

max gersenson_1
10/29/2008 11:32:07 AM

I am plagued with deer and racoons. Will this edible ground cover bring more or bring the present ones more often?

10/27/2008 9:09:31 AM

We have also covered purslane (Portulaca oleracea). Check it out here: -Tabitha Alterman, Mother Earth News

10/24/2008 6:51:45 PM Hi, D, you might try this one too, very edible, very nutritious, produces massive amounts of seed for new plants, can be cooked many ways, added to soups or raw in salads.

paul gardener
10/23/2008 5:25:51 PM

Deanna, I just realized who you were... what a pleasant surprise, I've read your blog for a long time. I love this idea of Lingonberries planted in the yard! I was born in Sweden and absolutely love them so this would be perfect for me. I am currently in the process of liberating some of my lawn and expanding the garden at our place by about 100 sq ft. I will definitely have to look into adding these in there somewhere. Good to see you outside the Crunchy world! P~