JoAnne Skelly: Foodscape: Eat your landscaping
I have a hero whose name is Rosalind Creasy. This landscape designer coined the phrase, “edible landscaping,” in her first book “The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping,” first published in 1982 and updated three times since 2010. Since I first read this book and her “Gardener’s Handbook of Edible Plants,” I have dreamed of foodscaping our yard.
I’m not much of a vegetable gardener. I never could get passionate about a separate section of the landscape dedicated to veggies planted in rows. However, I’m a firm believer in incorporating edibles into an aesthetic landscape design in lieu of non-edible plants. Rhubarb is one plant I have used for its great expanse of leaf, red stems and soaring white flower stalks. Golden and red currants are others that provide flower and leaf interest as well as delicious, although seedy, fruit. I love rows of purple-flowering chives in a border. But, Creasey takes foodscaping to a much higher level.
Her premise is why waste water and resources such as soil, fertilizer or fuel (for mowers and such) on something you can’t eat. Why would you grow an ornamental non-bearing pear, plum or peach when you could grow succulent fruit in addition to a shade tree? Why have mere ornamental vines when you could grow cucumbers, beans, kiwis, grapes or other edible climbers instead? Historically, as we shifted away from a rural lifestyle to an urban one, we were lured away from growing edibles at home for the so-called benefits of an ornamental landscape. Initially, this was an expression of wealth and status, but has since become a standardized-looking norm.
We live in the arid West. Our fruitless, non-bearing trees, shrubs, flowers and, especially, lawn are truly wasteful. We are guilty of this at our house. We have way too much lawn and few fruit-bearing trees. Although I do a lot of birdscaping, foodscaping would be a boon. Eggplants, asparagus, artichokes can all add beauty as well as bounty. Berries make good barrier plants. The currants I mentioned are a perfect hedge. For herbaceous borders basil, bush beans, my rhubarb, sage, parsley, summer squash all add beauty and food. Our apple and cherry trees are perfect shade trees. Think what we can do with herbs!
If you don’t have a lot of room, grow edibles in containers, hanging baskets or in small beds. Cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, oregano, strawberries and thyme are just a few good choices.
I wholeheartedly suggest Rosalind Creasey’s books to help with designing your foodscape.
JoAnne Skelly is associate professor and Extension educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.