Foodscaping: Sustenance for Body and Soul

by | Jun 17, 2021 | Featured Slider, Industry News, Landscape Architecture, Materials

Lori Hawkins explains a popular new design technique.

The struggles we went through during the pandemic have instigated unique ideas and innovative practices in the landscape industry.

The change has been compelling: I have never seen such a fundamental shift in the types of requests I receive from my customers as I have recently. 

Customers no longer solely request the manicured hedges and lush, water-loving lawns of past years.

Now customers are increasingly moving towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly design alternatives such as “Foodscaping.” 

Foodscaping is defined as the incorporation of vegetables and other edible annuals and perennials into a traditional ornamental landscape.

This can be accomplished either through dedicated garden areas in the yard or interspersing edible plant material in traditional ornamental plantings.

In my observations, I see several reasons why this landscaping trend has begun and appears to be here to stay in our industry:

  1. Health – With so many concerned with their health these days, what could be healthier than fresh fruits, vegetables and farm-to-table dining? Also given the exercise that we all need, you will expend plenty of energy working in your own garden. Urban gardening also provides control over the quality of food you are eating. You will have organic, pesticide-free fruits and vegetables only a few steps away.
  2. Self-Sufficiency and Cost savings – Empty grocery store shelves were quite disconcerting for many of us over the last year. In a way, this pandemic has brought forth a primordial pioneering spirit in the American people to tap into our own self-sufficiency. What can be more self-sufficient than being able to provide food for your family by the sweat of your own brow? Also, the investment of your property can return value to you and your family by helping feed and sustain them.
  3. Entertainment and discovery of new hobbies Lockdown has a funny way of assisting people find untapped interests and hobbies. It is not a method I relish, but it works! Many of us have discovered the joy of gardening in this period and it will serve us well moving forward. 
  4. Sustainability – Homegrown produce is not only healthier for your family, but also for the environment, too. Less pesticides by volume in your backyard reduces the chemical pressures on the environment caused by large scale commercial farming. Backyard gardening also reduces your carbon footprint by minimizing the fossil-fuel use that transportation and packaging store-bought produce can bring. 
  5. Permaculture – A companion trend I also see is permaculture, which is the practice of encouraging flourishing and mutually beneficial ecosystems. One way this can occur is to introduce chickens and other farm animals into the garden environment. These animals not only produce food, but their waste can be composted and returned to the earth to nourish the regenerating garden. The declining garden can in turn become fodder for the animals. Ah, the circle of life!
  6. Beauty – Now in the old days, I would never dare call a vegetable garden beautiful. Now, with the choices we have, I can say that with confidence. Many of our new annual and perennial vegetable varieties are as beautiful as well as tasty. Here are a few to try in your garden:

Vegetables and Herbs –  These can be an element all on their own in the garden or intermixed throughout your ornamental landscaping. 

  • Kale – Now comes in green and purple.
  • Rainbow Swiss Chard – ‘Bright Lights’ come in a variety of colors.
  • Basil – ‘Dark Opal’ has purple leaves splotched with green.
  • Thyme – has beautiful flowers.
  • Tomatoes – They also come in purple and even black.
  • Asparagus – Try the new purple variety. 
  • Peas – They are vining and have attractive flowers. Why grow an ornamental vining rose when you can use peas and then add it to your dinner?
  • Chives – Small, beautiful blooms to be interspersed in larger plantings.
  • Peppers – Come in a multitude of colors for interest in the landscape.
  • Cauliflower – Did you know that it now comes in yellow and purple?
  • Runner beans – Also come in a variety of colors.

Edible flowers – Carnations (Dianthus), Pansies (Viola) and Nasturtiums add additional interest in the landscape.

Trees and shrubs – Along with the staple apple and pear tree, try nut-producing trees like pecan and English walnut to create a “food forest.” Shrubs like blueberry, blackberry and fig can also add landscape interest and delicious fruit.

By introducing a few edible plants at a time, you can ultimately transform your client’s property into a beautiful and functioning urban farm.

At the same time, it will be returning value in the form of a safe, sustainable and plentiful harvest for their family.

Lori Hawkins, RLA, ASLA, is the owner and principal of Hawkins Landscape Architecture.

With over 30 years of experience in the field, she specializes in high-end residential landscape architecture in North Carolina.

www.hawkinsla.com

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