05 Mar FOODIFY YOUR LANDSCAPE: EDIBLE GROUND COVER PLANTS
You’ve probably used groundcovers in your garden for some time now, whether it’s to control erosion, replace lawn under a shady tree, or simply to decrease garden labor. But here’s the thing — you can’t really eat ivy, mondo grass, or Asian jasmine, can you? Which brings us to our topic of the day: edible groundcovers.
I love it when a plant does double-duty, don’t you? And when one of those duties is serving up a side helping of food, I’ll take seconds, thank you. If you’ve got some ground to cover and would like more food to eat, plant some of these and watch them take off.
EDIBLE HERB GROUND COVER PLANTS
Creeping Thyme: (Thymus serpyllum) This tiny aromatic herb offers a wide array of leaf color, tiny flower color, and heights. But they’re all adorable, edible, ready to choke out weeds and light up your pathways. Give it full to part sun (a minimum of 4 hours of direct sunlight a day) in order for it to perform its best, and extra soil moisture as it’s getting established. Once it’s established, it’s actually fairly drought tolerant, but it will still appreciate a little care every now and then. Because there are seemingly endless varieties of creeping thyme, each will have its own flavor, scent, and culinary uses.
Prostrate Rosemary: (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’) This fragrant herb is often passed over in favor of its more upright, bushy form, but this trailing variety is a scented keeper. It’s more commonly observed spilling over walls, but it’s that very same growth habit that makes it an excellent evergreen groundcover. Pinch off some rosemary to garnish salad, add to marinades, and pump up your cocktails (rosemary simple syrup is divine) — just give it plenty of sun, well-drained soil, and enough water to get it going.
EDIBLE DESSERT GROUND COVER PLANTS
Mint: (Mentha spp.) Who doesn’t love mint? This fragrant, fast-growing herb can be quite the vigorous grower, so don’t plant it if you don’t truly want it to cover some territory. It grows best in full sun (but will take a bit of shade) and ample soil moisture. Harvest the tips regularly for salads, marinades, teas, lemonades, and cocktails — I even throw mint into my chocolate-flavored smoothies. Mint is a particularly ideal groundcover in-between stepping stones in walkways; it’ll release its fragrance as it’s brushed against.
Alpine Strawberries: (Fragaria vesca) Now, while alpine strawberries don’t serve up the large fruits of the garden strawberry (Fragaria ananassa), their fruit in nonetheless amazingly delectable. And though you may not opt to cover a hillside with Alpine strawberries, you can successfully interplant them among your other veggies. Their ground-hugging habits are more manageable than garden strawberries because they don’t spread by underground runners, so you can plant them without anxiety. Give them full to part sun (if you live in a hotter climate), rich, well-drained soil, and consistent moisture.
EDIBLE FLOWER GROUND COVER PLANTS
Nasturtiums: (Tropaeolum majus) To be fair, nasturtiums actually do triple duty, so they deserve extra gold stars. If they like their environment, they will happily cover some square footage for you while producing charming and colorful edible flowers. Groundcover, food, and flowers — a garden trifecta if ever there was one. Full sun, and moist soil are the requirements, and don’t worry about fertilizing. Too much of a good thing like fertilizer will produce lots of foliage but fewer blooms. Best ways to eat nasturtiums? Any way you want, but I adore them in salads and as garnishes in cocktails and lemonades.