Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014
Agri Leader

Instead of landscaping, try foodscaping


Published:

While landscaping allows us to beautify our lawns and properties, foodscaping also allows us to beautify our plates.

The whole idea of foodscaping, also known as edible landscaping and front yard farming, is the implementation of edible foods into the landscape. Instead of just planting shrubs, trees, vines, grasses and ground covers, foodscaping involves adding edible plants that add interest, color, texture and, of course, taste.

You can add traditional seasonal plants, such as: citrus, mango, avocado, guava, lychee, banana, pineapple blueberries, peaches, mulberry, blackberry, apricots, persimmons, pomegranates and figs to your landscape. Or you can branch out a bit more. "You can also grow peanuts, pecans and macadamias," said David Austin, environmental horticulture agent, Highlands County Extension, UF.

Another choice is to go for something unusual, or add a bit of the unusual into your mix.

"Some non-traditional edible leafy perennials like Malabar Spinach (a perennial tropical fast-growing and soft-stemmed vine), Okinawa spinach (a perennial vegetable plant that also grows as ground cover), New Zealand spinach (a perennial vegetable whose leaves are edible and have a flavor similar to lettuce), Cranberry Hibiscus (an easily-grown perennial that can be used as a border or hedge plant, while it's lemony flavored leaves can be eaten in salads or stir-fry), and Roselle Hibiscus (a perennial that used by the many Mexicans to make Jamaica tea, pronounced "Hamaica"), make for good choices, said Austin. Austin also explained that Moringa (a fast growing tree with edible leaves), is said to be one of the most nutritious plants in the world, and is also a good one to consider.

While you may not have heard of all of the above-mentioned plants, or know where to purchase them, the good news is that some of them will be for sale on Nov. 9 (8 a.m.-2 p.m.), at the Bert J. Harris Jr. Auditorium Center at the Highlands County Extension facility. The sale is to raise funds for scholarships. For more information, visit highlands.ifas.ufl.edu.

ECHO's Tropical Fruit Nursery & Bookstore, located in southwest Florida, is also an excellent resource for unusual, edible plants. For more information, visit http://echonet.org/nursery.

You might also check with your local nurseries that likely have a selection of traditional edible plants to choose from.

Something else to keep in mind is the addition of herbs or vegetables that can be grown along with the other edible plants. Herbs such as basil, fennel, lemon balm and oregano look wonderful planted in a landscape, as do vegetables such as strawberries, sweet peppers and lettuce.

"Any of the vegetables and herbs we grow seasonally can be incorporated into the landscaping," said Austin, who added that by incorporating these edible plants, it makes use of areas that are already without grass and possibly with irrigation in place.

Like with all plants, one should first consider the principal of the "Right plant. Right place." The idea is to plant the plant in the ideal location for maximum growth. Austin offered this example: "Most of your vegetables need six hours or more of sun, whereas some of these perennials will tolerate more shade."

There is also soil, and moisture and water to consider when planting. And then one needs to think about cold tolerance. "Mangoes, avocadoes, guavas, lychee, and bananas might need to be protected from cold," explained Austin. This can be accomplished by covering such plants during cold spells and planting them in more protected areas.

Another thing to consider is the height and width of plants. You want your foodscaping additions not to conflict with your landscaping, but rather add to the theme. For example, leafy perennials will likely be leggier but shade leaves are usually larger.

According to studies, on average, much of the food we eat travels 1,500-2,000 miles from farm to plate. Foodscaping helps keep those miles down. Plus, it helps reduce mowing and weeding, and can assist in preserving native species. Besides that, growing your own plants helps make your food taste like it is homemade. Well, that's because it is.

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