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Foodscaping: Practical And Innovative Ways To Create An Edible Landscape

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Well-known veteran Vermont gardener Charlie Nardozzi brings more than 20 years of gardening experience to the table, which he shares “with all home gardeners through radio, television, talks, online and the printed page.” In his book, Foodscaping, he expresses his viewpoints on “practical and innovative ways to create an edible landscape.” His book’s dedication: “To my daughter Elena, who grew up grazing in a foodscape. May you always love fresh fruits and veggies,” says it all.

“The popularity of growing your own food continues to be one of the main food trends of the twenty-first century,” Nardozzi begins, “Young and old are realizing that growing their own vegetables, fruits, and herbs has many benefits beyond just having something tasty to eat. The edible gardening trend reaches into personal lives and communities to help create a culture of growing healthy, safe food; eating better; and creating more livable communities.”

Nardozzi says, “Combined with this trend is the need for having a beautiful, ecologically-balanced, healthy—yet functional—yard. We want our yards to fill so many needs. Yards need to be a playground, sports field, attractive showcase, and quiet oasis. Often the temptation is to segment the yard into areas with the edible garden relegated to the corner of a back yard. But that’s all changing as gardeners realize that you can combine edibles with most any planting in the yard and still have it look beautiful.”

He notes, “The foodscaping trend couldn’t be coming at a better time. It’s capitalizing on a great interest and enthusiasm for more food gardens. There are always the tried-and-true older vegetable gardeners, but increasingly it’s another group that’s showing up to talks—younger people who are eager to learn the nuances of food gardening. They’re bringing with them increased interest in different ways to grow food in large gardens, small spaces, and even rooftops. One topic that always draws an interest from the crowd is edible landscaping, or foodscaping.

“You don’t have to do a total yard makeover; it’s more like a touch up,” he adds, “Foodscaping is integrating edibles into your gardens without sacrificing beauty. It’s a great way to produce food for yourself and your community and still have the beauty and functionality you want in the landscape.”

Nardozzi says, “Certainly any fresh food harvested directly from your own garden is going to have a higher nutritional content than store-bought produce. But in a foodscape, you can really focus on those foods that make the biggest nutritional and health impact.” In his special list of “superfoods,“ he recommends the likes of asparagus, blueberries, broccoli, garlic, kale, pomegranate, strawberry, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard and tomatoes.

“The health of our food depends on what’s used to grow it,” he explains, “Many home gardeners start growing their own fruits, vegetables, and herbs out of concern for what’s sprayed on commercial produce. By growing your own, you’ll know exactly what has been applied to those plants to get them to produce so wonderfully. Many gardeners have turned to organic gardening techniques to feel safer about the sprays and fertilizers they are using.

“Organic techniques emphasize building soil health, using natural fertilizers, and using organic pesticides and herbicides only as a last resort,” he says, “With the advent of improved organic products, it’s easier than ever to grow home produce and fruits without using synthetic sprays.”

Nardozzi fervently believes foodscaping helps the environment by creating an ecological balance, featuring the plant diversity that it adds to the landscape. “The more diverse a landscape, the fewer problems you’ll have with damage from insects and diseases and nutrient deficiencies,” he says, “Mixing ornamentals and edibles provides benefits to each. Each will support a balance of beneficial insects and creatures that will reduce the need for spraying.”

Throughout the book, Nardozzi talks about “matching edibles and ornaments with similar needs in a garden. This will help both kinds of plants because as you fertilize and amend the soil for one, the other right next to it will benefit as well.” He also stresses the importance of your own foodscape helping to grow a better community.

“Food can build a lasting relationship,” he says, “When I first started integrating food plants into my yard at my old house, I planted many edibles right in the front yard near the road. As people walked by at night, they often struck up a conversation about the plants they saw growing. The edibles in the yard were a perfect opportunity to talk about the neighborhood and build better community relations. You can literally be breaking new ground in your neighborhood.”

Nardozzi encourages us to start small and have a plan.—“But most of this book is about the plants,” he concludes, “Even though many edibles are beautiful and work well in a foodscape, I highlight forty of my favorites. For each plant, I include the why, where, and how of growing them, including the most beautiful varieties to try. This is not the be-all and end-all of beautiful edibles that you can grow, but it will help you get started with some ideas for integrating food plants into all aspects of your yard.

“Finally, a book on foodscaping wouldn’t be complete without some basic gardening information on planting, feeding, pruning, and general care for your plants,” he says, “Because the most beautiful foodscape plant will not look great if it’s under attack from pests or doesn’t have the right growing conditions.”

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