Edible Landscaping

Yesterday’s Seed Saver’s Exchange webinar on Edible Landscaping with Rosalind Creasy was fantastic! Rosalind is a pioneer in the field of edible landscaping, and her slide show was even better than I had hoped it would be. The photos of edible landscapes are still in my mind, and I’m excited to start implementing her ideas with my fall planting. If you were unable to view the webinar, don’t fret. I’m going to share my notes.

WHAT IS EDIBLE LANDSCAPING?

Basically, edible landscaping is creating food gardens that are aesthetically pleasing – combining vegetables, fruits, and flowers in a beautiful design – as noted in the picture above. (Photo by Rosalind Creasy via Norfolk Botanical Garden.) Another way of putting it is that you grow food, not lawns, in such a way your neighbors won’t complain!

Until sometime during the last century, everyone grew almost all their own food. There were no supermarkets or grocery stores to supply everything a family needed, nor were there lawns. The only grass on a person’s property was in the pasture for the livestock to feed on.

The idea of a lawn actually originated in Europe during the late 1800s/early 1900s. In an effort to show their wealth, European royalty stopped growing their own food (paying others to do it) and turned their property into manicured grass lands (lawns). This became the new status symbol of wealth, showing how many resources they could afford to waste. It didn’t take long before the idea traveled across the Big Pond, starting with America’s wealthy, then filtering down to the middle class. Now, a lawn is the standard of American home ownership.

BENEFITS OF EDIBLE LANDSCAPING:

There are several benefits to edible landscaping:

  • You can utilize your front yard to grow food (without upsetting your neighbors), increasing your yields (and/or increasing the varieties of food you can plant)
  • Planting flowers among your vegetables will draw beneficial insects to your garden, many of which will eat the bad insects. (That’s reason enough to try it!!)
  • Growing more of your own food saves water in the country’s environment. Your garden will need only a fraction of the water large farms require to grow the plants and wash them.
  • With an edible garden, your mowing days could be over.

EDIBLE LANDSCAPING BASICS:

The most important thing to remember is that an edible landscape must be pleasing to the eye. Think landscape design with vegetable and fruit plants added. Rosalind Creasy stated, “It’s not the plant, it’s how you use it.” When most of us think of gardening, we think like farmers – rows of crops in rectangular or square plots. We literally must start thinking outside the box!

Eyes are drawn to lines, color, and texture. Here are a few ideas she gave for creating an edible landscape:

  • Lines: consider painting a lattice-type arbor (think of a tic-tac-toe board) in a bright color, laying it flat on the ground, and planting a lettuce plant in each square
  • Color: plant flowers around your chard that are the same color as the chard stalks, or plant red chili pepper plants in bright red pots
  • Texture: plant curly kale and stiff cabbage next to smooth lettuce

Use the same rules for your edible landscape as you would for any other landscaping design. Include stone pavers, arbors, pergolas, fruit trees, etc. Unify your design with coordinated pots or containers. And don’t forget focal points such as statues or bird baths.

Other ideas she gave were using boxwood hedges to outline your garden space or creating raised beds in a zig zag design along a walkway. Use your imagination to create unique combinations of flowers and vegetables; my favorite was her picture of deep pink tulips planted among a bronze lettuce variety. Stunning!

EDIBLE LANDSCAPING RESOURCES:

Rosalind Creasy has a great website with pictures, articles, and a blog. She’s also published several books. The most comprehensive book – a veritable textbook on the subject – is titled Edible Landscaping (what else?) and can be purchased at Barnes and Noble or Amazon. The book includes lists of plants by zone, type (plant, shrub, tree), and growing conditions. I’m sure pictures will abound, as well.

I ordered my copy of her book last night and will be revisiting my fall garden plan this weekend to see how I can incorporate flowers into my backyard garden beds this fall. Then, I have all winter to dream of what I can do to my front yard in the spring!

Who will join me on this edible landscaping journey?

 

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