Why Edible Landscaping?
Edible landscaping is the practice of removing ornamentals and replacing them with edible plants. In our water district, it is estimated that over 50% of all household water is used to water landscaping. With sustainability in mind, it stands to reason that if you are going to spend money and resources to water a landscape, shouldn’t it at least give something back? The use of edible landscaping presents an opportunity to exchange something that mostly consumes resources, such as a lawn, with other plants that produce food, save money, conserve resources, and are attractive as well. In this article, I’ll show you how to plan and implement an edible landscaping project.
Before You Begin
The most important thing you need to do before you spend any time or money converting your lawn to edible landscaping is research. This cannot be overstated. Depending on where you live, there may be ordinances at the community, city, county, or even state level that will have to be taken into consideration. Do not fear them, understand them. Knowledge is power – by putting yourself in a position of knowledge you can make sure your efforts will not be in vain. Additionally, by knowing the rules you can then work with them creatively. You’d be surprised at how you can adapt edible landscaping techniques to suit a broad range of circumstances.
Design and Materials
Once the research has been done, prepare a garden design. Your project will go much more smoothly if you have thought through the design first. Having a plan on paper will allow you to coordinate details such as drainage, hardscaping, irrigation, plant choices, and disposal options, all before you remove a single piece of lawn. Plus, you may be able to spot opportunities to upgrade or repair existing features, such as repairing buried pipe, that would otherwise be very disruptive to your garden once you have completed it.
Next, gather your materials. This may include:
- Building materials (based on your design)
- Edible landscaping plants
- Disposal options for lawn (I recommend the compost pile)
Once you have all your materials collected, it’s time to begin the work.
Phase 1: Lawn Removal
There are several ways to remove the lawn. They range from digging it up, to sheet mulching, to using a sod cutter, and more. I personally chose to use a shovel and dig it out, mainly because my project was in a very public area and I had to be sure the grass was removed thoroughly and quickly. Using my shovel, I began to cut into to lawn to a depth of about four to six inches. I continued this cut along the width of the project (about four feet). After that, I made a second cut on the opposite side of the first about six inches apart. I then used my shovel to pry up a chunk of lawn. The roots came up easily this way, and I was able to load chunk after chunk into my wagon for disposal in the compost pile. In my case, the lawn removal phase of my project was about 80% of the total time and effort required by the project.
Phase 2: Preparation and Repairs
Now that the lawn is gone, it is time to do preparation and repairs. If you need to implement design elements addressing drainage, irrigation, or build features such as swales, now it the time to do it. This phase is also an opportunity to make repairs to hard-to-reach assets, such as buried pipes. In my project, I used this time to dig a channel around the perimeter of my project and fill it with gravel. The purpose of this element was to to collect and store runoff water. I also repaired and cleaned broken sprinkler heads for more efficient irrigation.
Phase 3: Construction
Now that the project has been prepped and repaired, it is time to add any features that require construction, such as garden paths. In my project, I added our urbanite (recycled concrete) walkway. We removed dirt from the chosen area, put down a layer of sand, added the urbanite pavers, filled in the spaces with pea gravel, and added a border of rocks sourced from the project site.
Phase 4: Planting and Mulching
This is the fun part. Now it’s time to add plants, compost, and mulch to your project. In our case, I carefully dug holes under our existing fruit trees and added the edible landscaping plants. This included pumpkin, squash, peas and more. To each hole, I also added homemade compost, as well as added a layer of compost on top of the soil between the holes. After the plants were in, I added a thick layer of bark as a mulch to protect the soil from evaporation and scorching summer temperatures.
Phase 5: Enjoy Your Edible Landscaping!
Congratulations, your project is complete! Don’t forget to kick back and admire all your work. You’ll be rewarded over and over again every time your harvest something delicious from your edible landscaping project.
Things to consider:
- Don’t forget to check local ordinances. This is the most important step.
- Be mindful of access to utilities that may be near your project. Plan and plant accordingly.
- Build safety into your plan. If your project is in a public area, make sure your design includes safety for pedestrians, kids, pets, etc.
- Leave room to grow. Edible landscaping plants can get big in a hurry. It is tempting to overcrowd plants in the beginning because things look so “bare”. Resist. You’ll end up with a jungle on your hands if you don’t leave room.
Sharing is Caring!
If you enjoyed this article, please share it![sharexy] I’d also love to hear any questions or comments you may have regarding this project. Thanks!