Overcoming obstacles to edible landscaping



February 3, 2015

Over the years doing this, I've run across (and been the recipient of a lot of complaining about) several obstacles to the practice and enjoyment of edible landscaping.

Of course, for every obstacle there's usually a way around it for those who are determined to find it.

Let me share my views on the matter, and for those interested, we can brainstorm others that perhaps I haven't considered.

Here are the obstacles that I see to edible landscaping and the ways to overcome each:

Obstacle 1: Cultural

When you tell many people you're going to put in edible landscaping, they look at you with a blank stare. Sometimes these people are your friends and family.

Growing food plants to them means rows, tractors, dust and weeds.

To them, it means "backbreaking" work and is something that low-class, dirty (insert your prejudice here), or strange old ladies do.

When you try to explain what you want to do, their response is either incomprehension or "you can pay someone to do that". Why would you possibly want to grow your own food when you can go to the store?

And if you feel you have to grow food, they demand, keep it out of my sight! Ewww!

In many areas, "ornamental" = inedible, as if somehow being pretty immediately made that kale or those peppers poisonous.

In others, there is no recent cultural history of edible landscaping.

Even in the US which had the WWII Victory Gardens, the norm was rows and tilling -- mimicking farms -- and once the war was over people immediately stopped (which actually led to food shortages in 1946 because the farms hadn't ramped back up yet).

This leads to ...

Obstacle 2: Legal

Because of the cultural resistance to growing food, and probably because of the view that growing food isn't nice, pretty, or something that decent clean folk do, laws have come up in many cities and communities which regulate or restrict food growing.

Often, people have to choose between obeying the rules or growing what they want to on their own property!

In this way, those determined to make their yards tasteful end up being forced to become lawbreakers, stashing those illegal chives next to the daisies. :)

There are several more obstacles which I hear about, but I'm going to lump them into two groups: fear and reality.

Obstacle 3: Fear

  • You're afraid of getting caught with those contraband chives.

  • You're afraid of someone stealing them, or complaining about them, or vandalizing your garden.

  • You're afraid people won't like it, or that you're not "artistic" enough.

Obstacle 4: Reality
  • You're in poor physical condition.

  • You're doing this by yourself and have no support from anyone.

  • You have no money to put in the hardscape you want.

  • You're in an area with terrible soil.

This last one is pretty widespread here in the US because of the insistence in using pesticides and herbicides on home landscaping.

By the time you buy a house, your soil has no beneficial bacteria and/or insects and is basically dead. Predators avoid your home like the plague, and any plants you do manage to grow those first few years are weak, pest-ridden, and prone to disease.

If you're not an experienced organic gardener, and you're not aware that it takes between 3-5 years to get an ecosystem to recover from the chemical fertilizer/pesticide/herbicide nightmare, you could succumb to the temptation to reach for the (poison) bottle and end up perpetuating the negative cycle still further.

So what do you do? How do you overcome these obstacles?

Well, the reason I began this website was to help with Obstacle 1. But in your own life? You can:
  • Share stories of high-quality home edible gardens.

  • Share stories about and photos of beautiful edible plants.

  • Grow your own edible garden. Make it the absolute best you can.

But I can hear them now: the Obstacle 3 people are already saying what if...?

If you are actually having actual trouble, right now, I wrote an article about that.

But I'm taking a course right now which has showed me how much really baseless fear I had going on. Or you could go see someone about why you're so scared to grow food in your yard. I don't know.

Obstacles 2 and 4 are a bit more tricky, and I go into those in great detail in my Tasteful Yard Design course. But here are your basic options:

a) you can stop edible gardening

b) you can do your best with what you've got -- hide the chives by the daisies, put in your plots as you can, and so on.

c) you can change the rules.

I don't have space here to go into all the details on (c), but you might find, that if you begin asking around, you might find that there are others in the same boat who might want to help. Who knows, you might end up changing your whole community!

What do you think?

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