Many gardeners live for blooming flowers and stately shrubs. Others prefer rows of juicy vegetables and fruit trees. A few gardeners enjoy both in their landscape. But how often do you see ornamentals and edibles grown in the same bed? Foodscaping is a trend in its infancy, but it's growing fast!
What is foodscaping?
Foodscaping is landscaping by adding edibles to your existing framework of ornamentals. The result is stunning beds that also feed your family. This practice is the perfect marriage of form and function. It's a trend we're very excited about here at the Florida Master Gardener Volunteer Program.
How does one begin foodscaping? Writer and foodscaping expert Brie Arthur recommends starting small: a lettuce border along a bed, kale in with the coleus, or edible grains posing as ornamental grasses. As you become more comfortable mixing these two worlds you will grow more adventurous. Sunflowers and corn make a bold backdrop for zinnias and a natural privacy screen. Hydrangea branches are an excellent support for larger tomato plants. Climbing beans look like ornamental vines, winding up your porch railing. When it's dinner time, your produce is conveniently close at hand.
The benefits are obvious. Homeowners enjoy fresh food at lowers costs. Without the dozens of middlemen between farm and table, the risk of food-borne illness is lower, as is the carbon footprint. And of course there is the joy of a new challenge. Foodscaping can bring fresh fun to your daily gardening.
Pest management in your foodscape
Due to the higher biodiversity, expect less dramatic pest infestations in your edibles and ornamentals. Most pests prefer concentrated masses of their host plants. When your crop is spread out, pests cannot multiply as rapidly.
When foodscaping, practice caution in pest management. Always read the label. When in doubt, contact your local county extension office for assistance. Many of the pesticides you would normally employ in your ornamental beds are not labeled for edible crops.
Use products labeled for vegetable gardening and edibles, and be sure all professional lawn care services do the same. If you employ professional landscaping services regularly it is a good idea to point out your edibles. Landscapers may otherwise mistake them for weeds or apply unwanted chemicals.
You'll be surprised by the beauty of an edible landscape. And if you're going to spend the time weeding, mulching, and managing pests anyway, why not bring something back to your table, too?
If foodscaping intrigues you, we recommend Brie Arthur's book, "The Foodscape Revolution." It's filled with tips and tutorials from a gardener who has tried it all. The book also contains hundreds of pictures of Brie's impressive, edible landscape and plenty of strategies for preserving and preparing your harvest.
As you head into the unknown of foodscaping, contact your local county extension office with your plant, pest, and other landscaping questions.