Who doesn’t want to enjoy a freshly harvested, “garden to table” meal? It is truly one of life’s greatest pleasures and one of the major bonuses of foodscaping.
The idea is simple: add purpose to your landscape by incorporating your favorite food crops into easy to manage areas. From simple crops like garlic to low maintenance edibles such as radish and lettuce, bed edges are an opportunity waiting to be planted.
This idea isn’t new. Planting food crops in convenient locations goes back centuries. From cottage gardens and French potage to the edible landscapes described by Rosalind Creasy, foodscaping is just a modern term for a logical and easy way to grow meaningful amounts of food in the spaces you already have cultivated.
Start by thinking “outside the box.” Lumber encased beds are not the only way to grow food. In fact, raised beds are generally the cause for the “no food in the front yard” mantra of suburban HOA restrictive covenants. Containing edibles also limits available square footage and creates monocultures.
By incorporating popular annual crops like tomatoes, peppers, kale, and chard directly into the landscape, you will add brilliant colors and textures that blend beauty and abundant harvest. The ornamental plants offer the biological diversity to attract beneficial insects. Focus on developing the sunniest areas of your landscape, as most edibles prefer bright exposure.
Did you know that only four plant families make up the lions share of the edibles grown by home gardeners? The top four plant families for grown edibles are:
–Amaranthaceae: beets, quinoa, spinach, and Swiss chard.
–Brassicaeae: cool season crops such a broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale.
–Fabaceae: beans, peas and peanuts.
–Solanaceae: warm season crops like eggplant, peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes.
You can start foodscaping by planting the edges of your garden landscaping; you will be amazed by how much square footage is available. Bed edges are a great place to grow low maintenance plants such as arugula, basil, garlic, lettuce, peanuts, and potatoes. This location is easy to access for watering and harvesting, and really makes a visual impact. I had a professor in college explain that any combination of plants could make sense with a tidy edge. That advice continues to inspire me as I look for strategies to increase local food production.
My top picks for bed edge plantings range from traditional southern agricultural crops like peanuts to hardy greens that self sow such as arugula. Many edibles are effective at deterring grazing mammals so consider plants like garlic that will help ward off moles and voles or ‘Micrette’ basil, which has a strong, bitter flavor that bunnies hate. Most importantly, be creative in your plantings and change them seasonally so they look beautiful year round.
Critter Proof Your Crops
No plant is completely mammal resistant, but here are a few edibles that resist browsing damage from deer, rabbits, moles, and voles.
Cool season edge
Arugula – bitter flavor deters rabbits
Garlic- smelly bulb deters moles, voles and deer
Onion- smelly bulb deters moles and voles
Potatoes- Solanaceae plant foliage is poisonous which helps deter deer and rabbits
Warm season edge
Basil – bitter flavor deters rabbits and deer
Dwarf Peppers – Solanaceae plant foliage is poisonous which helps deter deer and rabbits
Ultimately, the goal of foodscaping is to show the vast opportunities that existing landscapes offer. From reducing your food miles and carbon footprint to eliminating food deserts in every community, incorporating edibles in traditional ornamental landscapes is an easy way to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.
As professional horticulturist, I strive to meet the needs of a growing population and focus on ways to extend the relevance of gardening in the modern American society. I am proud to see plants being recognized for all of the attributes they represent: beauty, ecology, health, wellness, nutrition, and lifestyle.
Foodscaping is a design technique that embraces the heritage of home gardening while developing a new level of sophistication for modern day living. Join the foodscape revolution and harness the sun, soil and irrigation systems of the everyday landscape. Start using your growing skills to nourish your family, community and environment.
Brie Arthur is an author, horticulturist and international speaker living in Fuquay-Varina, NC. She has been dubbed a revolutionary for her leadership in the suburban foodscape movement. For more information, visit BrieGrows.com or email Brie@BrieGrows.com.