About Edible Landscaping

According to the Davis Permaculture Users' Group, in its most simple connotation, edible landscaping is the planting of anything that can be eaten, from a fruit-bearing tree in the backyard to rosemary planted on the street median. On this level it can be synonymous with gardening – a traditional annual-based garden is an edible landscape. Usually, however, edible landscaping refers to a slightly more complex assortment of functions, namely edibility and aesthetics. Edible landscaping is one major component of permaculture design where the emphasis is usually on perennial plants. At its most complex, edible landscaping might not even be recognized as such, as in the case of the Amazon rainforest or pre-conquest California. Neither landscape was recognized by European explorers and settlers as having been intensively managed by their native inhabitants see Toby Hemenway’s article), but in truth this was exactly the case to the extent that some plant species even evolved to succeed with the presence of human cultivation. UCD professor M. Kat Andersone’s “Tending the Wild” is an in-depth study of different cultivation techniques used by native Californians, including planting, pruning, and harvesting techniques that encouraged plant growth and diversity, as well as fire management and deliberate creation of habitat and browse areas for other species. Her book is an important resource for those who want to consider the interface between native plants and the people who live with them in California.

In Davis, edible landscaping ranges from the periodic occurrence of purposeful plantings (like the fig and pomegranate trees in front of the Davis Food Co-Op) to more systematic attempts (like the olive trees along Russell Blvd). Though it’s questionable whether the olive trees were originally intended to provide their fruit for any purpose, they’re now being harvested and pressed into olive oil. See http://www.ucdavis.edu/spotlight/0405/extra_virgin.html . On campus there is another example of edible landscaping in front of the Plant and Environmental Sciences building, where the grounds division has planted some winter crops such as chard and onions (http://www.dateline.ucdavis.edu/dl_detail.lasso?id=9049), after the summer’s plantings of tomatoes and bell peppers. Along Russell Blvd. (west of Hwy 113) the street is lined with black walnuts, a native tree, and taken even a step further, many of the oaks in town produce acorns that could be processed and eaten.

Usually, however, designs for edible landscapes rely on ‘exotics’ (simply non-native to the region in which they’re being planted) and there are extensive lists of plants utilized by people in different regions. A very interesting site is related to a well-known book on Permaculture gardening, called “Plants for a Future” by Ken Fern. The website provides information on a great variety of plants, many of which might be new to Davis gardeners – though that may be because they don’t grow well here more than a lack of publicity. This same information is indexed in the back of the book, and is a great resource. There are books available on edible landscaping – some at the public library, and some at the UCD libraries. “Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally,” by Robert Kourik has a section on the landscaping of Village Homes (with pictures taken when the trees were still small which makes for an interesting contrast to how it looks now).

An openness to the concept of edible landscaping can lead to a great benefit – free food! Imagine being able to forage for raspberries on a late spring day, or being able to go outside in the morning and choose herbs for tea, or harvesting fruit for preserves right from your yard . If you like what you imagine, maybe it’s time to landscape with edibles!

The Outside Magazine Article about Davis brings up the concept of "edible landscaping" employed in some areas of the city. This refers to the "community vineyards and orchards yielding grapes, persimmons, cherries, almonds, and peaches".



  • Someone may have some Surplus produce to offer to drop off. Or you may be able to offer to pick some up.
  • You can also ask someone in Citrus Circuits Robotics for some good tree suggestions!
  • Figs - Grows in several places. A couple small trees behind the Vegetable Crops greenhouse off of Hutchison on campus. Also, there are a few trees between Olson Hall and Voorhies Hall. (The tree above the bike racks at the Davis Food Co-op is a fig tree, but the City insisted it's fruit be sterile, so that a ripe fig would never drop on a parked car.)
  • Berries - Blackberries grow in many of the wilder areas around the edge of town. Probably other berries, too. The little strawberries you'll commonly see growing around downtown are decorative. They may or may not be poisonous, but regardless, they don't taste good and aren't worth picking.
  • Sort of free - although you have to pay for your final basketful of fruit forage at Impossible Acres, you can eat while you pick. Until they start weighing people before and after they go picking, stomached fruits carry a price equal to only the thrust of your next bowel movement.
  • There are apple trees along segments of the South Davis Bike Path. There is also an apple tree that hangs over the fence at the southwest entrance to Slide Hill Park, which produces lots of felled fruit.
  • There is at least one grape vine on the fence alongside the Russel bike path west of the main campus, as well as other places around town.
  • Tons of delicious golden seedless grapes hanging over the east-bound bike lane on Covell, right past Covell & Sycamore. Ripe in late September.
  • Road tomatoes are free in the summer months. These are tomatoes that fall off the tomato trucks while in transport. Usually plentiful around on/off ramps, and at bends on county roads.
  • The loquat trees in the south courtyard of Cruess Hall - fruit seasonally around late spring.
  • The J Street Co-op has some fruit trees (plums, kumquats, cherries, figs, persimmons and apricots). Feel free to taste whatever is ripe but please don't take lots since the residents like to eat fruit too.
  • Pomegranate trees line the rear parking lot at Chaparral Apartments in north Davis - fruit seasonally around September.
  • There's a few pomegranate trees with complimentary pavement for cracking the things on the Covell Greenbelt.
  • Cook the pomegranates with recipes from Pomegranate World.
  • The apricot trees between the Chemistry Building and Everson Hall - fruit seasonally around late spring.
  • An orange tree has fruit year-round just south of Parking Lot 10 (intersection of A St. & Hutchison Dr.). To get the fruit in the winter, you may have to do some tree climbing.
  • The Prickly Pear cactus has edible branches/pads (called nopales) as well as an edible fruit in the summer (the "pear"). Don't take too many nopales, as these cacti grow very slowly. Be sure to watch out for tiny, hair-thin barbed thorns. (Use two forks to pluck these fruit without turning your hand into a pincushion.) They're found in the Arboretum, behind Walker Hall, and at Cactus Corner.
  • Ornamental plum trees are common and easy to spot with their dark purple leaves and bark. When ripe in the late spring/early summer they are rather tasty. It takes a little patience to spot purple fruit against a backdrop of purple leaves and branches.
    • There's a row of ornamental plums along the west side of F Street between 8th and 9th Streets.
  • For students taking Plant Biology 143 - Evolution of Crop Plants, a free "Crop of the Day" starts off every class meeting.
  • Many university departments, especially Pomology, Environmental Horticulture and Urban Forestry, and others dealing with plants, have copious amounts of plants that have been used in research experiments. These are usually safe for human consumption, and often go home with University employees or go bad. If you get in good with a professor or TA, (s)he might be able to hook you up.
  • Walnut trees grow on the west side of Birch Lane School, on the road-side of the staff parking lot. Don't go between 8am and 3:30 on weekdays- you might agitate the administration by being an "intruder on campus".


  • Many herbs can be found in the herb garden inside the Student Experimental Farm, they are free to pick but please make sure the plants will survive.
  • California Bay - a spice often used in corned beef and mulling spices, leaves from this tree have a powerful flavor and aroma. The Arboretum at UC Davis has bay trees growing there. (Location, anyone?)
  • The Student Experimental Farm features an culinary and medicinal herb garden, complemented by a few fruit trees.
  • Peppermint - Great for tea and mint juleps, this plant grows wild in the EC Gardens. Want to grow your own? Pull a stalk with roots attached and transplant - it's practically a voracious weed.
  • Rosemary - this plant is so ubiquitous as landscaping it's not even funny. But for good quality stuff, try the EC Gardens, where it grows tall and wild.
  • Spearmint - Great for tea, seasoning lamb, and garnishes, find it growing wild in the EC Gardens. Grows most prolifically near water spigots.
  • Lavender - Good for tea, potpourri/essential oils, decoration. There is a huge bush with plenty of surplus at the EC Gardens, and several bushes in the Arboretum.

See Also

Here's the start of a list of some edible landscaping plants:

  • Fruit Trees
  • Free Food has information about edible plants in the Davis area (perhaps we should move that here, then link to this page?)
  • Visit here for a google map of fruit trees in Davis. The map is public and collaborative, so please add trees if you know of their locations. (You must have a google sign-in.) Use push-pins to mark the locations of trees. If the tree is on private property, please indicate that in the note, and only mark it after getting permission from the owner first.
  • Village Homes features communal gardens, vineyards, fruit and nut trees.
  • Gardening is a form of edible landscaping.


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something that could help make this page semi unlame would be the edible landscaping for transients that caused a stir ala toad tunnel —Daubert

With careful planning, it is possible to harvest from your garden and landscape year around. —DonShor

2010-02-11 12:00:23   If anyone's feeling motivated, some of the pages for various herbs, fruit, and so on could probably use some cross-linking where appropriate. I'll try to get to it later, but I've already spent longer than I should. —TomGarberson

2011-03-17 12:26:44   A new business has come about in Davis called Edible Backyards. The specialize in building raised garden beds with edible plants. Very cool! www.ediblebackyardsCA.com —brendanjanet