Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Tasty Way to Landscape

Long before the Berlin wall came down, the arbitrary horticultural barriers between the vegetable garden and the flower border, between fruit trees and shade trees, and between herbs and ornamental flowers had already begun to crumble. This was due to a new trend known as edible landscaping, which sprang up in the mid-1970’s and combined food-growing and landscaping with a sense of design, an eye to color and the intention of producing bountiful harvests.

A beautiful edible landscape, garden or allotment is a feast for all the senses — imagine sculptural green broccoli set off by vivid orange and yellow calendula petals; the sweet fragrances of rosemary and lavender wafting throughout the garden; the taste of sweetly-tart 'Pink Pearl' apples with marbled pink and white flesh (Seen above in bloom and as cooked in a tart.) or a rainbow of color on salads topped with the spectacular edible blossoms of pansies, nasturtiums, roses, or anise hyssop.

Peasant farmers are perhaps the world’s greatest organic edible landscapers, since without the resources of wealthy industrialized civilizations, they naturally grow a great amount of their food right next to (or very close to) their homes, practically guaranteeing well-tended fresh produce. Edible landscaping is peasant gardening done within the limitations of our busy modern times. In other words, organic edible landscaping is nothing new, just a timely revival. In my book (Designing & Maintaining Your Edible Landscape - Naturally - still in print after 24 years, see my web site, I draw upon both the intuitive peasant gardeners as well as the latest in horticultural science.

Golden Rules for Edible Landscaping
Regardless of where you live, there are a few important guidelines to consider for a well-designed and productive edible landscape. Over the past 25 years, while teaching about, installing and designing such landscapes, I’ve formulated what I call the “Golden Rules of Edible Landscaping,” to deal with common stumbling-blocks. Some examples:

• Start ever so small.
• Try to plant your vegetables no further from the kitchen sink than you can throw it
• Be lazy; let nature work for you.
• Time and money spent early means even more time and money saved later.
• Plan in advance; make your mistakes on paper, not in your landscape.
• Try to incorporate plants that serve more than one use.

Avoiding the Tyranny of Edibility
Some people assume that an edible landscape involves replacing all their ornamental plants with edibles. Heavens no! A landscape made entirely of edible plants would be an enormous burden to all but the most compulsive gardener, the wealthy, or the retired. The concept is to have a productive landscape which appears ornamental in its overall design. In my book I recommend those with yards less than 2400 square feet should have no more than 50% of the area planted with edibles (and this figure may be ambitious). The main point is to start very small and grow only what you can reasonably harvest without having to turn your edible landscape into another full-time job.


Let me know what you think. Visit my web site, www., to learn about my new book on drip irrigation and other gardening books. Thanks, Robert

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