Home Owners Associations exist to keep properties from deteriorating, with some imposing stringent rules on landscaping. Most HOAs forbid conventional vegetable gardens, so what is a homeowner who wants to supplement their budget by growing their own food to do? The trick to growing food in a deed-restricted community is to choose something that doesn't look like food.
Ornamental Fruiting Trees
Most HOAs do allow at least one fruit tree, but if yours doesn't, there are ways around it. Flowering crabapple gives fruit in the fall that makes luscious jelly. Loquat has plum-like fruit, edible fresh or made into jam. In warmer climates consider dwarf citrus grown in a container, peach palm, jelly palm or even a coconut palm if allowed.
Eat the Grass
One of the best ornamental grasses with edible parts is lemon grass, which is used in Asian cooking and to make a soothing tea. Purple millet is a gorgeous, showy grass perfect for hedges that produces edible seeds. Bamboo is actually a giant grass, whose shoots are used in oriental food.
One of the most edible of the flowering plants is daylily, but many of the hybrids are not tasty, so look for the heirloom orange varieties. Every part of this plant is edible, from roots and leaves to buds and flowers. Purslane and moss rose are edible ornamentals that are easy to grow in containers or as a ground cover. Jacob's Coat amaranth, also called summer poinsettia, is a showy plant with edible leaves. Nasturtiums have edible flowers.
Many herbs can be used as ornamentals. Oregano and creeping thyme make good ground covers or grow well in containers. Some of the sages have lovely, showy flowers. Chamomile is a calming herb with beautiful daisy-like flowers, and you can't overlook lavender with its gorgeous spires of fragrant purple flowers.
In warmer climates, taro is a root vegetable which produces beautiful, elephant ear leaves. Make sure you get the edible variety by planting from tubers sold in grocery stores as eddoe or malanga. Jerusalem artichoke is a tall, showy fall-flowering plant with edible roots. Ornamental sweet potato vines also produce edible tubers harvested when the vines die back in late fall. Edible ginger is easily grown in containers or in the ground in more tropical areas.
Beware of Chemicals
If your HOA uses chemicals on your lawn or flower beds, you may want to grow some of these plants in containers. A large mixed container of edible grasses, herbs and flowers can be a lovely show piece in your landscape. To ensure your safety, buy only organically grown edibles or grow them yourself.
There are dozens of edible ornamentals you can use to enhance your gardens. Ask a landscaping professional (such as one from Hickory Lane Farm's Nursery & Landscape LLC) about which edible plants are best for your area and how you can incorporate them into your landscape without raising the ire of your HOA.