Edible Landscaping for Beginners: Elements of a Sustainable Plan

Edible Landscaping for Beginners: Elements of a Sustainable Plan

In my last post I told you how to begin planning for an edible landscape and how to determine what to grow. Today let’s examine what elements you need to incorporate into the plan.  With an edible landscape we need to focus on one thing: sustainability.  Sustainability is a word used a lot these days and for our gardening goals we’re using it to describe an edible landscape that can replenish itself with as little use outside resources as possible.

Once you have put together your To Grow list identify anything that may need special care because you will need to account for these items.  Those elements could range anywhere from structured elements like trellises to soil additives to make things more acidic.

Elements of a Sustainable Edible Landscape Plan:

A Good Soil System

The most essential part of any sustainable edible landscape is the soil.  Most subdivisions in our country have really poor soil as a result of bulldozers scraping the usable topsoil from the land.  Then the houses are built and poor soil is put back as a cover up.  Clay soils can be fixed.  Clay actually has many micronutrients that are great for growing plants but the problem is clay is made of particles so small that they are tightly packed together and don’t allow roots to grow easily.  To fix poor clay add organic material.  Lots of organic material.  How you get organic material can vary.  I contacted landscapers in our area to bring in fall leaves in mass quantities from people who don’t want their leaves.  You could also get manure from farmers in your area who may have more manure than they want.  Both of those methods require outside sources so in our plan for sustainability lets make our own compost.

Somewhere in a sustainable edible landscape plan a system of composting needs to be established.  A simple three bin compost system can be set up with fence panels, pallets, concrete blocks, or can be custom built. Compost piles can be established right on the ground in an out of the way area of the garden.  If you don’t have much space you can buy a rotating compost bin with multiple chambers.  Worm bins are very effective ways to get great organic matter for you plants.

The important thing is that you retain any waste material from your kitchen or plants that can be recycled back into the soil.  Any organic vegetable matter can be used so don’t waste it in the trash!

A Good Water System

How are you going to water your plants?  This is very important in areas that frequently experience drought conditions in the summertime.  You could simply use the faucet connected to your house.  Depending on the quality of water in your area and how it is treated this may not be the best option.  Filters can be attached to garden hoses the faucet to prevent chlorine from killing off beneficial bacteria in the soil.  Rain barrels are great options so long as you have a cleanout system to remove sediment from the water.  You really don’t want asphalt from your shingles as a soil amendment!  Keep in mind that rain barrels are only effective if it rains.  They are great at bridging the gaps between dry spells but if it does rain on occasion you will run out of water.

In our garden we use a system of soaker hoses to put water directly on the soil at the base of the plants. After the soaker hoses are put down we cover with mulch to prevent moisture from evaporating.  The less water lost the more water the plants get!  Last year I put together an alternative watering method for the garden called ollas. The rain last year was plentiful and so I could not fully evaluate their effectiveness.

Excellent Pest Control

No matter where your edible landscape is you will run into pests from time to time.  In our garden we experience losses from deer, aphids, rabbits, caterpillars, and an assortment of other creatures.  An edible landscape plan should include ways to help mitigate losses.  Nothing is 100% fool proof and the gardener needs to understand and accept that some losses will happen.

cabbage looper

My favorite method of pest control is companion planting.  Companion plants mask, repel, or trap pests to help keep them away from plants you want to grow.

Good fences make good neighbors and also keep the deer out if you make them high enough.  To keep rabbits out fences need to extend under the soil, rise at least 18 inches above the soil, and have a tight enough mesh to prevent them from squeezing through.

Marigolds make good companion plants for edibles.

A sustainable landscape can’t rely on chemicals for pest control.  Chemicals kill off the beneficial creatures that pollinate our plants and eat the bad bugs.  An organic landscape is what we should all strive for!

We’ll stop there for this post today on these three elements to plan a sustainable edible landscape plan.  In the next post of this series we’ll discuss crop rotation, weed control, and a couple other very important elements of that edible landscape plan!

Dave

Dave has written GrowingTheHomeGarden.com since 2007. He gardens on an acre and a half where he raises his 4 children. He enjoys growing vegetables, herbs, and propagating plants. Dave has a side business growing and selling heirloom vegetables and herb plants through Blue Shed Gardens and works as a real estate agent in Spring Hill, TN.

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