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Foodscaping Ideas That Put Your Yard to Work for You

Garden Seeds Sales at a Historical High

Gardening, foodscaping and edible landscaping is not only a recession-proof hobby and industry, it’s one that tends to thrive in harder times.

While the lawn and ornamental plant industry struggled following the 2008 housing bubble meltdown, then as now, the food gardening segment grew and is still growing.

W. Atlee Burpee & Co., the largest seed and gardening supply store in the country, says it has seen a 25 to 30 percent spike in vegetable seed and plant sales this spring compared with last.

In 2009, George Ball, Chairman and CEO of the W. Atlee Burpee & Company said, “I’ve been in the business for 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it—even remotely like it.”[1]https://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/04/01/recession.garden/

Well… now he has. In March, 2020, Burpee & Co sold more seed than any time in its 144-year history.[2]https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-gardens/home-gardening-blooms-around-the-world-during-coronavirus-lockdowns-idUSKBN2220D3

Even as the economy showed signs of recovery, interest in gardening did not decline. The first year of establishing a garden is your most expensive year. After that, if you plan right and harvest seeds from your crops your additional expenditures are greatly reduced.

If you’re a landscaper, consider a gardening business that also offers foodscaping, vegetable and herb gardening as a part of your services

You can’t eat the grass.

But you can create an edible landscape design, called foodscaping.

So here’s the thing. As much as we may enjoy seeing a lovely lawn and feeling fresh grass beneath bare feet, a lawn is not sustainable. Lawns require work and produce nothing to sustain human life.

Sure, lawns are lovely, and definitely require less work than an edible garden. Lawns help keep weeds out and a yard looking neat (when mown). Lush green grass may feed our aesthetic sensibilities, but they don’t feed our families or nourish our bodies.

Today, lawns are shrinking and gardens are expanding. It may be time to put your yard to work for you instead of working so hard to keep it up.

But if you love your lawn, there’s still a way you can have the best of both worlds.

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Swapping Grass for Greens

Growing your own food is not only a great way to save money, it’s also a healthy activity with so many benefits, including the freshest food on the planet!

If you enjoy gardening, then like most gardeners, you’re likely always on the lookout for ways to grow more in less space and time. One of the best ways to begin replacing lawn with an edible garden is a little at a time.

Even if you’re under Homeowners Association restrictions (HOA), there are ways of foodscaping edible flowers and plants a into lovely yard gardens. You can gradually widen your landscaped patches and add favorite edible plants, shrubs and fruit trees.

One of the best ways to begin replacing lawn with an edible garden is a little at a time.

We’ve written about how to turn your yard into an urban farm in another article that may interest you.  First, here we share a few tips to help your “back yard” vegetable garden grow and your lawn, shrink. (Or it could be your front yard or side yard garden too).

Here’s more on best plants for beauty and food.

If you’re a landscaper, consider a gardening business that also offers foodscaping, vegetable and herb gardening as a part of your services.

From Mowing Grass to Growing Food

First, if you have more lawn than garden, it’s time to convert some of that turf into a garden patch or greenhouse. You can go from mowing grass to growing food.

Imagine walking out your door into a yard garden—and urban oasis—and a greenhouse of plants that’s producing food. Instead of stopping off at the store for fresh produce on your way home from work, you go straight home, stroll into your own yard garden and pluck fresh ripe produce. From yard to table, “farm to fork” locavore.

Instead of spending precious time and money on your lawn… you’re saving money growing food that’s healthier and more delicious. How rewarding! You can also avoid spraying chemicals to get rid of weeds and make your grass greener.

Imagine… at day’s end, as you relax in your garden oasis and pluck fresh vegetables for dinner.

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Imagine a stroll in your backyard “store” of food… your own edible garden, over mowable grass.

Gardens Improve Quality of Life

Consider the quality added to our lives in time saved and easier access to the healthiest, freshest food on the planet. You’ll spend less time cutting things down (grass), versus growing things (edibles).

It’s not so expensive or odd to have a garden and even a greenhouse in your backyard. In fact, it’s rather odd not to if we think about it. It’s an anomaly that so many have moved so far from being directly connected with their own sustenance by growing food as our ancestors did.

A backyard garden just makes sense. Imagine a stroll in your backyard “store” of food… your own edible garden. Plucking fresh produce in peace and quiet instead of riding or pushing a noisy mower. Communing with nature in fresh air and sunshine for vitamin D.

More harvesting and less pushing a shopping cart through aisles of highly processed packaged foods. Less need to pay high prices for organic produce, or else settle for chemically treated fruits and vegetables that have traveled many miles away from the source.

It’s time to implement landscaping ideas that put your yard to work for you. A wonderful side benefit is that the more time you spend in the garden, the happier and more optimistic you’ll become.

Now let’s move into garden details like effective watering strategies and garden planning.

Watering for Every Last Drop

We probably all grew up with sprinklers and loving running through them as kids on hot summer days, in swim suits or short… barefoot and giggling. So, there’s a time and place for sprinklers, and hey, it’s a healthy activity of relatively cheap entertainment for kids, (unless you live in a water-restricted area).

Most Efficient Garden Watering Methods

Water conservation is vital in some parts of the country, so when it comes to gardening, sprinklers are not the most efficient way to water your plants.

Drip Irrigation and Soaker Hoses

Many traditional irrigation methods waste a lot of water. When designing an irrigation plan for your lawn and garden, use drip irrigation or soaker hoses to conserve water.

Sprinklers

If you must use sprinklers, make sure they don’t shoot water too high, as wind can blow the water away from the yard where it belongs. So be sure to position them so no water is landing on sidewalks, the driveway or the street as much as possible.

When to Water Your Foodscape

Plan your watering, too. Watering in the middle of the day can cause you to lose a significant percentage to evaporation. Water in the early morning or evening, or set a timer to water at night, to allow the water enough time to soak in.

Before the kids can play in the sprinkler, have them water the plants!

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Oh, and before you let the kids play in the sprinkler… have them water the plants. 🙂

Plant with a Plan

Fruit trees are a great addition to foodscaping gardens, especially dwarf fruit trees for yards. Make the best of them by planting them in locations that can reduce your reliance on air conditioning in the warmer months. Plant a tree in a place where it will help to shade common areas inside your home so such rooms are comfortable without the air conditioner cranking all day long.

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Consider the Plant or Tree in All Seasons

If you choose deciduous trees, like peaches, pears and figs they will shed their leaves when the weather gets cold, ensuring that sunlight can get in and help to warm the house in the winter with passive solar.

Consider Growth and Shedding when Planting Trees

The advantage of trees near your home are many, but there are liabilities to consider. Just be sure to plant them far enough away from the house that you don’t end up with fallen fruit rotting on your roof, gutters and under your windows.

Also, never plant fig trees near the foundation of your home or shed as the fig tree roots can grow so big and strong as to destroy your foundation. Nut trees are a great yard addition too, but again, plant them where they’re not shedding nuts onto your home or outdoor living space.

Don’t Let Your Trees Steal from Your Plants

Of course it’s best not to plant trees too close to the garden or other plants. Not only will they block the light but they provide ready access to your garden for squirrels.

Something we’ve learned the heard way is that having trees—or a tree—growing too close to the garden may strengthen the tree at the expense of your edibles. Not only will the tree block some of the sun your garden need, they will also steel valuable garden nutrients from your foodscaping. They send their roots in that direction and leech nutrients intended for garden plants.

Trees can steal light and nutrients from your garden plants, so be sure to account for mature tree height and breadth.

In general, when it comes to any kind of garden design and edible landscaping, it’s best to draw up a plan that takes into account future growth, and plan accordingly. We really like the garden planner app we use.

This app takes into account companion planting, other landscape areas, growth size for space needed and is super easy to update. Once you add your garden dimensions you can use, adjust and update that same template season after season.

It also takes into account companion planting, seasonal gardening and provides color visual schematics of your garden plan.

Our guiding mantra that helps in deciding whether to invest in a plant or seeds is to ask: “Is it edible?”

FOODSCAPING: When planting anything, consider edibles first.

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Garden Friends – Companion Plants

Companion planting is a great way to keep your food garden healthy and productive. Knowing which plants support each other and which may harm each other in a garden can make all the difference.

It’s interesting how some plants—like people—get along better than others. Some don’t get along and others are just meant to be together. So definitely consider companion planting for the greatest efficiency of space and production.

For example, did you know that, it’s best not to plant tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant near each other? Being members of the same family, they are susceptible to the same diseases, so planting them close to each other increases the risk of all of them suffering.

It’s interesting how some plants—like people—get along better than others. Some don’t get along and others are just meant to be together. So definitely consider companion planting for the greatest efficiency of space and production.

Planting nightshade plants together increases the risk of disease.

Beneficial Garden Plantings

Helps Keep Slugs Away

Planting marigolds near your lettuce or cabbage crops helps keep slugs and snails away.

Fertilizes the Soil

Beans planted near corn promotes healthy, abundant crops without needing additional fertilizer.

Edible Flowering Plants

Nasturtiums are a perennial floral plant that helps keep all kinds of harmful bugs away. Every part of the nasturtium plant, from roots to flowers, is edible. We love to eat a nasturtium or two whenever we go to the garden, as well as place them in salads.

Word of caution: You may not want to eat nasturtium blossoms straight from the garden. Tiny ants are prone to live deep inside the blossoms and be completely invisible until you take the blossom apart.

We bring the blossoms inside and soak them in a bowl of cool or cold water first. This serves to separate any ants from their hideout while keeping the flowers fresh until you place them on your salad. You can munch on the leaves in the garden though. Both the nasturtium leaves and blossoms have a delightful peppery flavor.

Edible flowers are a great addition to any yard garden and are great for foodscaping. With edible flowers you have food and beauty.

You can make any meal or salad look exotic instantly by adding an edible flower or two!

Grow Food Not Lawns

Rolling green lawns look great. If you want to keep your lawn, then of course, keep it. However, if you’d like to grow more edible plants that feed you, consider trading in some lawn for edible landscape.

Grass is a major water-hog and can easily invade your food growing space easily. If you really want a patch of lawn, keep it as small as you can, and make your vegetable and flower beds as large as you can. For play space, look at other options, like low-water ground covers, which we cover more in a minute.

With just a small lawn, for dogs and kids and barefoot delight, you can easily clip the grassy patch with the old-timey non-motorized reel mowers that are making a comeback. They’re quiet, require no fuel and relatively inexpensive. 

Or, if you want to go fancier, there’s this cute little motorized mower by Greenworks. We have a Greenworks blower and also their cordless pole saw and are pleased with both. As with many brands, their batteries are proprietary, so best to decide on your preferred brand, where the batteries are interchangeable.

Okay, back to plants.

Edible, Medicinal Ground Covers

Better yet, how about edible ground covers? There are numerous options. We’re favoring those with culinary, medicinal and repellent properties such as Creeping Thyme, Creeping Rosemary, and Oregano for full sun herbal ground covers. Wintergreen and mints work well for low sun or shade. Wintergreen berries and leaves are edible, and all mints aid in pest control.

Creeping Thyme is an edible, medicinal herb helpful in repelling mosquitos, contains oils that are antiseptic, antiviral, antifungal antibiotic, detoxifying and more.

Plants to Repel Fleas and Ticks

Another advantage of planting mint and rosemary as ground cover is they tend to repel fleas and ticks, so if you have pets, that’s a perfect choice. Thyme is also a natural mosquito repellent, yet attracts butterflies and pollinators.

Thyme attracts what you want and repels what you don’t, plus it’s edible and medicinal! Hmm… should probably be planted with a cape! 🙂

Creeping Rosemary is an edible and medicinal ground cover that repels, mosquitos, flies, fleas and ticks!

Rosemary is a perennial herb with woody, evergreen needles and has an incredible fragrance. The blooms can be purple, white, blue, or pink. While not minty in flavor, it's a member of the mint family. #PurpleFlowers #Landscaping #Flowers #Rosemary #Growing #EdibleGarden #GardenIdeas

Though if you do have pets, while you’ll want to plant these flea and tick repelling ground covers, be careful if you plant to use them for human consumption. Or, you can grow them in a raised container or fenced in pet-free (and pet pee free) area!

Taking some time to plan your food garden properly and do a bit of research will make all the difference between a handful of tomatoes and bushels full of abundant produce. If you can add in a greenhouse, you can even grow food year round!

Imagine how much money you’ll save in not having to buy as much of the store bought goods that are less fresh, less tasty and less nutritious overall! 

Time to take that yard off “welfare” and put ‘er to work, aye?!

One of the best ways to begin replacing lawn with an edible garden is a little at a time, such as by widening your landscaped patches and adding in your favorite edible plants, shrubs and fruit trees. #PurpleFlowers #Landscaping #Flowers #Rosemary #Growing #EdibleGarden #GardenIdeas

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