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Grazing the Land: Edible Landscapes


By Nancy Brannon, Ph.D.

Our horses graze the land, but have you considered grazing your land? How about planting to eat and eating what you plant? There’s something most delicious, and nutritious, about freshly picked garden vegetables, prepared and eaten soon after picking. Diane Meucci from  shared some ideas about designing and planting the land space that surrounds you. She begins with the idea of Permaculture – planting a landscape that feeds us.

“Permaculture is ecological design which develops sustainable, self-maintained agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems.” She likes the core tenets of permaculture: take care of Earth; take care of people; share the surplus. “Permaculture in the Mid South,” she writes, means “installing in our yards, all or part of our food, herbs, and sometimes building material needs. The most important aspect is to plant what works best where ever you live through all seasons. Plant trees, perennials, herbs, permanent and semi-permanent food sources, integrated with annual food sources and some small animals, and direct composting.

“Forest is our ecosystem in the Mid South, so fruit trees, trees for lumber, bamboo, mushrooms, with blueberries and black berries mimic our ecosystem and can be the easiest to maintain. Asparagus beds can produce for up to 30 years! Daylilies are great for curbing erosion, suppressing weeds, and all parts are edible.”

In her article published in Edible Memphis (2009), Meucci asks “Why aren’t our front yards edible? Her answers abound with plenty of ideas on how to make your yard beautiful and delicious, whether “you prefer formal gardens, casual landscape, or raised beds.” For example, “add an arbor with grapes and figs planted around it. They both have large, gorgeous foliage, provide shade, and have the added benefit of producing delicious fruit in late summer and early fall.

“Why plant shrubs when blueberries come in a range of sizes and produce the coveted fruit? Rosemary grows effortlessly to enormous sizes here in the Mid South. Thyme will meander under other plants, creating a fragrant ground cover. Marjoram or oregano look elegant filled in between other plants. Italian flat-leaf parsley can be used in almost every meal and is a pretty addition to any garden bed. Dill and fennel add a feathery texture to the landscape.

“Some flowers can be edible as well. Garlic sends up beautiful flowers. The blue, pink, and white petals of bachelor’s button add a faint sweet taste to salads. You see ornamental sweet potato plants everywhere, so why not grow actual sweet potatoes – get the beauty of the vine and sweet potatoes in fall. They are perfect for a slope and will help break up compacted soil.

“And don’t forget your greens! No need to grow ornamentals when swiss chard, kale, mustard, spinach, and a wide variety of lettuces product spectacular leaves that can be enjoyed in a planter, then selectively plucked for dinner.” While you’re at it, “pluck some mint for your sweet tea.”

“Bring the table to the front yard. Invite your family, friends and neighbors to join you. Eat and enjoy!”

So, as you renovate those spring pastures and plant edibles for your horses, consider planting some edibles for yourself, too. Find more of Diane Meucci’s ideas at

Find additional ideas on the National Public Radio website:

“Nettles Bring Spring To The Kitchen,”

“Weed It And Reap: A Meal With Nature’s Outcasts:”

“Weed Eaters: Enjoying Springtime Greens:”

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