Charlie Nardozzi is one of a new breed of “foodscapers” that wants lawn owners to look at their yards a little differently. “Look at this with different eyes, with a different lens,” he said. Instead of that pot of petunias? How about nasturtiums? To replace that mandatory suburban lawn accessory of clumps of decorative grass? Sweet corn maybe or a stand of rosemary, maybe even some blueberry shrubs.
Nardozzi is a champion of foodscaping or edible gardening. It’s the practice of replacing non-edible lawn plants with edible plants, without sacrificing either food quality or quantity or the decorative aspect.
“We have 40 million acres in lawn grass in the U.S. That’s the equivalent of Pennsylvania, Delaware and Rhode Island combined. It’s estimated 10 percent of our air and water pollution is due to the fertilizers and pesticides we put on our lawns,” Nardozzi said.
Double Duty – With a little planning, people can choose plants that do double-duty, provide food and an attractive landscape. “Rather than lawn, you’re developing food that may be attractive at the same time,” Nardozzi said. A typical mistaken belief of foodscaping is that in order to replace landscaping with foodscaping, beauty has to be sacrificed. That may be achieved by planting fewer varieties, but planting the varieties you do choose in different areas all over the yard. “The whole idea is to get the right plant in the right place,” Nardozzi said.
One benefit of foodscaping is that the landscape can develop as the different crops are harvested. “Use succession planting, mixing and matching cool-season and warm-season plants. As the cool-season plants go, as they’re harvested or go to seed, the warm-season plants fill in,” said Nardozzi, citing an example of mixing lettuces, which are harvested in the spring, with eggplant, basil and marigolds for pest control. “Eventually that foodscape just changes and changes color over time,” he said.
Additional uses for foodscaping including growing edible hedges, from asparagus that could be harvested in the spring and then left to go to fern. The fronds can reach six feet tall and can be tied up to stay vertical. Blackberry bushes work as a plant that can help dissuade animals like deer. Nardozzi said one key to growing success is finding varieties, especially with growing heirloom vegetables, that are suitable for your geographic area. “You want to look for local sources,” he said.