Thursday, June 24, 2010

Is Your Yard a Looker or a Feeder?

My brother (a self-taught gardener) and his wife recently purchased a home, and have spent the past few months turning the entire backyard into a feeding machine. In his small backyard they have planted a variety of both vegetables and fruiting trees/shrubs including (but not limited to) five 4' x 8' raised beds loaded with 8 types of heirloom tomatoes, 4 varieties of heirloom peppers, cucumbers, purple bush beans, basil, chives, and borage (companion plant for tomatoes with edible flowers), 1 peach tree, 1 pomegranate tree, 3 blueberry bushes, 3 blackberries, 3 red raspberries, 1 gold raspberry, 3 potted citrus (lime, lemon, & calamondin [which I’ve never even heard of!]), 5 figs of different varieties, and 1 fig espaliered against a shed. This is what he wrote in an email to me a week ago –

“I'm sending along an updated yard pic. Please disregard the weeds and tall grass. Grass is my enemy and will be dealt with accordingly this weekend. The yard is not supposed to be a looker; it is supposed to be a feeder. Hopefully that'll be the case in the months and years down the road.”

The yard is not supposed to be a looker; it is supposed to be a feeder. I love that line. It really resonates with me. How many people could be fed if instead of ornamental plants and trees we all started to plant edibles? Every year our old neighborhood has a day in November when they plant trees in the parkway donated by the city. This is a great program. But what if instead of Bald Cypress, for example (that while they do grow quickly some say are better suited to a marsh/lake-type environment), they planted numerous varieties of fruit or nut trees?

We’ve only been living in our current house for about a year and a half. While we do have a “looker” section – mainly along the sidewalk and planted before we became so interested in self-sufficiency & knowing where our food comes from – the majority of our property I would classify as being “feeder” or is currently being worked towards that purpose. In our front yard alone, we have a strawberry pot, cucumbers growing up our porch posts, and a variety of peppers (hot & sweet) in homemade “Topsy Turvy”-type planters along our porch where ornamental planters would traditionally hang. We just cut down a dying Cherry Laurel and will replace it with a dwarf fruit tree, though we’re still trying to decide what type. We have rain barrels to collect the rain and water the plants. We also have a long bed for veggies along our property line but the shade from the 80+ year old pecan really cuts down on our production. I’m toying with the idea of replanting that area in the Fall with some fruiting shrubs/trees that can take a bit of shade. I guess what I am getting at is this – the next time you are considering doing or having work done to your landscape, seriously think about adding some edible items. You don’t have to start out like my brother. He’s been doing this for years. But there is great satisfaction that comes from walking out onto your porch and picking off a warm cucumber that YOU grew. No going to the store, no chemical residue to speak of. Give it a shot! - Carrie

1 comment:

  1. Great saying! We building a feeder as well. However, I recently found out that one of our neighbors is miffed because she thinks we should be building a looker. My thought is that a good feeder landscape can look good too.