Edible Landscaping Interview
Recently, I was contacted for an interview for an upcoming article about Edible Landscaping, so I was happy to oblige and answer a few questions. When the article comes out, if I am contacted, I’ll post a link to it. Thanks Rachel!
1. Why do you do edible landscaping? I used to have the traditional vegetable garden, separate from the other gardens, plus a fruit tree or two, but the house that I live in is a small one on a small suburban lot with mature shade trees. I started fitting in fruit trees and bushes, herbs and vegetables wherever I could find enough sun, and included flowers (some of those are even edible) to pretty things up and have the landscape look fairly traditional. I used to watch a show on TV called the Victorian Kitchen Garden, that I just loved, and learned a lot from that, plus doing some studying on my own. Didn’t really explain the why though, did I? I think I get a lot of satisfaction out of knowing how to grow my own food, even if I really don’t grow enough to be self sustaining. I try to grow varieties that aren’t usually available at the supermarket, or are super expensive to buy. The fruits I grow because by growing them myself, I get fruit picked at the peak of flavor, and I know exactly how clean and un treated it is too. There is just nothing like the flavor of a tree ripened peach or apricot!
2. What do you grow? When my daughter was younger (she’s on her own now), and we needed more produce, I grew more vegetables, purple pole beans, purple broccoli, redbor kale, various lettuces, several kinds of tomatos, eggplant, and of course peppers, zucchini and summer squash all tucked in here and there among all the other plants in the back yard. Additionally I have currants, rhubarb and ever-bearing raspberries along with June-berries (the birds eat most of these- but they are delicious as a snack). In the front yard, I have strawberries, blueberries, white peaches, nectarines, apricots, and sour cherries, along with herbs such as sage, chives, thyme, oregano, lavender and basil, and I found that red lettuce makes a very attractive edging plant. I still have most of the fruit trees in the front yard, along with the blueberries and herbs, and have added an espalliered sweet cherry next to the driveway. Things have gotten very shady now at the back of the yard, too shady for vegetables, so I grow those in large pots right on the driveway- four pots of tomatos, two with pole beans (green this year). Each pot is under-planted with flowering annuals and my favorite cinnamon basil, or a variegated nasturtium (also edible) I also tried summer squash in pots this year, but it was not all that successful, in my opinion. A couple of years ago, I grew a red variety of sweet corn in pots, and got some really nice ears, on some very attractive looking plants!
3. Are there any challenges to this type of gardening? The same as any other gardening, it’s always a challenge to keep it looking it’s best, weeded, fertilized and somewhat pest free. When growing food- most of the food producing plants really require an adequate amount of sun to produce well, so placement is very important. For the fruits- there is an art to pruning and maintenance, a routine that really must be done on a yearly basis for good fruit production too. It’s not difficult work, anyone can do it really, you just have to learn how, when and why.
4. Is it a “pretty” landscaping or just more functional? Mine is actually very pretty. I have simply replaced some of the traditional decorative shrubs and trees with food producing alternatives. Instead of a variety of flowering crabs, I have a huge wonderfully fragrant white flowered apricot tree, and a pink flowered peach. The flowering cherry has been replaced with a sour cherry, and a June-berry. The burning bushes were replaced with blueberries- they also turn bright red in the fall, plus have pretty little flowers in spring. Whenever possible, I try to find an attractive low maintenance food bearing alternative to use. The veggies always have flowers tucked in at their roots, or I simply plant unusually colored varieties- the purple pole beans for instance have stems and leaves that have a purplish tinge to them, lavender colored flowers and deep purple beans. The purple headed brocolli had the same blue leaves as some hosta, but with purple veins and stems, and the heads are a lovely shade of purple. Calendula triangle flashback (a soft yellow with a deep rose color reverse to the petals), looks outstanding combined with those two, and calendulas are an edible flower. Alaska Nasturtiums and cinnamon basil along with some annual phlox and trailing lobelia look gorgeous at the base of the tomatoes, and looked stupendous with the red corn- the red corn had red stems, red tassles and silks on the ears, and red veins on the normal green leaves- just a beautiful combination.
5. Overall, do you think it is better environmentally… I.E., not using water just to keep the grass green. In my particular instance, it is better, I think- I practice organic gardening techniques, so chemicals are very seldom used here- I have a real balance of nature, trying to attract beneficial insects to come take care of the damaging ones, use compost, keep the leaves from my shade trees to use as mulch and leafmold, and grow varieties that are disease resistant. I probably use less water growing my edible landscape than I would having more lawn- I actually have very little lawn at all, it takes about 15 minutes to cut all that I have. Another way to look at it, is that some of my food didn’t require a truck to get it to my table, I didn’t have to drive my car to go buy it, and it arrives with all of it’s vitamins and nutrients intact at the peak of flavor.
A short interview, hopefully I gave some answers she can use in her article, and fun to be contacted, although, I am by no means an authority on the subject- I find it fun, and a bit more productive than growing ornamentals.