Edible Landscape

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Welcome to Good Dirt Radio, reporting on positive solutions taking root.

With food prices going through the roof, folks across the nation are turning to an age-old tradition…planting beautiful, edible landscaping. Instead of just colorful vegetation, growing beautiful andedibleyard plants can provide an energy saving source for local food and save money on the grocery bill. It also can also help offset the amount of climate changing gases produced by petro-based, industrial agriculture, packing and long distance shipping.

Author Rosalind Creasy has been a landscape designer in Northern California for 30 years, specializing in solutions related to soil, water and air pollution. The neighborhood kids love to come to her gardens to work andharvest.

Creasy: For me, edible landscaping is taking your yard and instead of putting what are called ornamentals in this country, start putting edible ornamentals. So, for instance, if you’re going to put in azaleas that bloom for only a few weeks out of the year, why wouldn’t you put in blueberries that not only bloom but they bear fruit that’s absolutely delicious and expensive in the store. Why would you put in a crabapple when you can put in a real apple and make your own cider and apple juice and applesauce.

Creasy sites several advantages of edible landscaping available to most everyone.

Creasy: Talking sustainable landscaping, there is nothing more sustainable than growing your own food. It doesn’t have to be shipped to you, it doesn’t have to be mechanically picked, it doesn’t have to be refrigerated, you don’t have to drive your car to get it so it saves energy ands water. And you know people don’t think about it but we lose a tremendous amount of soil in agriculture because the water runs off and with it, it takes our wonderful top soil. So you’re going to renew your soil, you’re going to grow things organically and you’re actually going to repair the soil around your yard.

We spoke with Michael McConkey, a musician and owner of a local and online edible landscaping nursery in Afton, Virginia. He’s been an advocate of edible landscaping since 1979.

McConkey: Oh, the benefits are extremely good for everyone, health-wise, extra nutrition value, for saving money. To pick your own fruit is just so much more vital and so much more alive. People who are renting might want a quick turn around of something like strawberries or raspberries, something that’s a small bush. If everything’s planted right and they’re watered well, they pretty much take care of themselves. There’s a lot of nutrition in the berries and you get a quick return.

Durango, CO is lucky to have Katrina Blair, working at the grass roots level. A naturalist and co-founder of Good Dirt Radio, she also founded and operates Turtle Lake Refuge, providing a rich, local source of food and education. Blair takes us on a tour around her yard and shares some garden wisdom.

Blair: Welcome to the garden! This is our edible backyard and in my philosophy, if you’re going to put water on to something, why not have it be food producing at the same time as well as shade and beauty. I planted this plum tree about three years ago and this was the first year it actually produced fruit, which is super exciting. And then down below from the tree, I always like to plant a whole perma-culture garden, we call it the seven stage forest garden. So I like to plant perennials below the fruit trees, I’ve got a patch of strawberries here. Over here behind the greenhouse I’ve got a big patch of buffalo berries mixed in with some Nanking cherries. These are all just native berry bushes that encourage birds and other wildlife but in addition, they’re edible for me and my family too. They make a great windbreak in addition to creating a moist environment down low that I can plant other edibles that I like to grow such as my melons. I’ve got some squash plants and peas. I always put peas near trees because they’re nitrogen fixers. So if you’re gonna water the trees and water your peas, why not have them be benefiting each other at the same time and then you get to come out and feast.

Creasy: And it’s a spiritual experience. Everybody gets the goose bumps. And by the way, you can save a lot of money by growing some of your own food. In a hundred square feet, I grew $700 worth of vegetables. There’s no downside to putting edibles in your yard. Its beautiful, its sustainable and its delicious.

While eating industrially farmed food may contribute to climate change, edible yard plants and trees offer a way that many consumers can get involved in shaping a better world.

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