With manicured lawns and perfectly trimmed shrubs, the landscaping surrounding North American homes and buildings was, until recently, mostly considered decorative. Turf grass serves little to no purpose other than to consume water. However, a new way of designing gardens, particularly appreciated by millennials, has just made its appearance: foodscaping.
The principle of foodscaping is simple because it involves designing gardens in which edible plants are grown. By making your own edible landscaping, you will be able to create a functional and ecological living environment that will allow you to produce organic, fresh, tasty and inexpensive food.
Nut trees, fruit trees and shrubs, perennial vegetables, herbs, edible flowers and medicinal plants; any of these has its place in edible landscaping. They have the ability to produce vegetables and fruits in abundance, year after year, with little maintenance. As it is the case for permaculture, edible landscaping is also a sustainable ecosystem that respects living creatures in which interventions are minimal.
Vegetables are considered by a majority of people to be quite unattractive, so they are often grown in a corner of the land far from the house. On the other hand, since it consists of plants that are just as beautiful as they are edible, foodscaping can be achieved almost anywhere: On the front land of a residence, on a patio, or even on a roof.
Numerous edible plants, such as Swiss chard, strawberries, kale, scarlet runner beans and peppers, for example, are just as decorative as most annual and perennial flowers. Furthermore, to make your foodscaping as aesthetic and colorful as possible, you can include edible flowers, such as carnations and pansies with most vegetables.
If you have a mature garden, an easy way to incorporate edible plants is to replace anything that dies or needs replanting or transplanting with something edible instead.
What materials should be used for the creation of foodscaping? Apart from the fact that it is better to choose materials that are in harmony with those of the house, there is no established rule. Some will prefer modern materials such as cut stone and stainless steel, while others will want old farmhouse materials such as rusty steel, barn wood and straw bales. The recovery of used materials for the creation of edible landscaping is particularly popular among millennials.
If you want to be successful at creating edible landscaping at home, make sure you plant fruit trees. In addition to maximizing the use of space, these plants form the backbone of a garden since they are, in a way, pivots around which the lower edible plants are then placed.
I suggest you plant small hardier fruit trees which produce little shade and require little maintenance, such as serviceberry or Asian pear. A dwarf peach or apple might be an ok place to start if you want a little more commitment.
If you live in an urban environment and your land is particularly small, plant hardy kiwi, a climbing fruit species with beautiful variegated foliage producing an abundance of edible sweet berries very rich in vitamin C.
Many species of fruit shrubs can be easily incorporated into edible landscaping. Berries are certainly the most popular. In addition, dwarf varieties are small in size and are well adapted to be grown in containers in urban gardens.
Some native fruit shrubs such as chokeberry, honeyberry and black elderberry are very popular among younger generations of gardeners.
Herbaceous edible plants (perennial and annual vegetables, herbs, edible flowers and medicinal plants) can be arranged very creatively at the base of shrubs and trees. It is possible to associate edible plants the same way one creates an ornamental border, according to their height, shape, texture and color.
To facilitate the maintenance of edible landscaping, it is advisable to plant herbs and perennial vegetables. In addition to growing perennial plants — which should not be replanted each year — the maintenance of edible landscaping can be reduced by planting veggies in a manner so their foliage is touching. It is also possible to cover the ground with organic mulch or to plant ground covers that densely cover the soil while producing edible crops such as alpine strawberries and lingonberries. Finally, rather than placing plants in clumps or rows, opt for a more natural planting method based on a great diversity of plants.
Start small. Are you a smoothie lover? It’s easy to create a small garden including some of your favorite plants to make delicious smoothies. Just plant them in containers on the patio near your kitchen. Kale, strawberries, honeyberries and spinach are among the easiest plants to grow in pots and will do wonders in your smoothies. Love salsa? Plant all the necessary items such as tomatoes, cilantro, onion and peppers just outside your front door. Pasta is what you crave? Plant things that work well in a good homemade sauce.
Since more than 75% of North Americans live in urban settings, many of them do not have a lot of space to create a garden. They must grow edible plants in pots on balconies, patios, roofs or even on walls. Several small edible plant varieties have been developed in recent years to be grown in containers. Some plants even survive harsh winters in Utah if they are grown in textile pots promoting excellent drainage and some insulation.
For more information on Tooele County friendly foodscape ideas, follow the “Create Better Health Tooele County” or “Foodscape Tooele County” pages on Facebook. You can also reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Patino is the Certified Nutrition Educator for Food Sense at the USU Extension – Tooele County office, which is located inside the Tooele County Health Department Building, 151 N. Main, Tooele. She can be reached at 435-277-2408 and at email@example.com.