Eating our yards with foodscaping
My favorite author on edible landscaping, Rosalind Creasy, says in her book, “If Johnny Appleseed were to visit present-day suburbia, he would weep. Rather than fruit-laden trees, he would find ornamental cherries, non-fruiting crabapples and ornamental pears.”
She suggests that we “reject the impulse for the uniformity of traditional landscaping; that we choose not to be imprisoned in a home surrounded by lawn, bordered with a mustache of evergreen shrubs.” We can break out of the confining tradition of using strictly ornamental plants in our yards. We don’t have to hide our veggies, grapes and fruit trees behind the garage. We don’t have to have an edible complex. We can embrace foodscaping.
With foodscaping, we can eat our yards. Instead of picking up dead leaves from an inedible tree, we could collect apples, pears and other fruits for food. Instead of picking dandelions out of a lawn, we could eat those dandelions. We could enjoy fresh raspberries or grapes off bushes and vines that add visual interest as well as fruit. Beauty can be edible not just visual and of course edible is beautiful.
Beauty isn’t our only concern. Of all the water on Earth, only a small amount is available for us to use: 97.2 percent of all water is saltwater. Only 2.8 percent is freshwater and of this, 0.6 percent is groundwater, 0.01percent is in lakes and streams – we can use only some of this. The rest is in glaciers and icecaps or is water vapor and is unavailable to us.
Fresh water is an extremely limited resource, as we well know in Nevada. Fifty percent of water used in our homes goes to the landscape, and about 50 percent of that is applied unnecessarily or wasted. We could get so much more value out of that resource if we could eat what grows.
Another advantage to eating our yards is that we can eat locally. We can reduce our dependency on commercial agriculture with its high use of pesticides and petrochemicals. We can reduce our fuel consumption if our food doesn’t have to travel so far. And best yet, home-picked fruit and veggies are fresher and usually tastier.
There are so many beautiful edible plants such as serviceberries, currants, fruit trees with showy blossoms and luscious fruit, rhubarb, red cabbage with colorful foliage, string beans with purple flowers, chives as a creative border, multi-colored lettuces, rainbow chard and purple eggplants. If you would like a list of edible plants, e-mail me at skellyj @unce.unr.edu or call 887-2252.
JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.