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www.greenbuildermag.com 03.2012


Photo: edibleplantproject.org


swamp soils, to red clay. Depending on your soil analysis, organic amendments such as mushroom compost can be added to help soil structure, increase fertility and aid with either percolation or water retention. Growing edible landscapes may re-


quire more nutrients to get a good harvest, but with best management practices, or- ganic amendments and slow-release fertiliz- ers, homeowners with more fruits and veg- etables and reduced turf areas will decrease their contribution to stormwater runoff .


There is no such landscape as a no-


maintenance landscape, including xeriscape themes. That being said, edible landscaping will require average to above average main- tenance and water use, depending on the percentage of edibles used, normal rainfall and seasonal changes. The health and envi- ronmental benefi ts, however, are many. They include eating freshly grown organic fruits, vegetables and herbs, and reduced use of lawn mowers, hedge clippers and petroleum- based fertilizers. If you design using perma-


THE THREE PS When planning edible landscapes, remember these key concepts:


Plants such as this African Blue Basil (right) act as critical pollinators, attracting bees and butterflies.


> Provenance. This horticultural term identifies the geographical source of the seed or plant. When purchasing container grown plants, make sure that they have been grown in your gardening zone, or as close to your region as possible. Buying apple trees from an Ohio nurs- ery to grow in the Southeast will not be fruitful, because the northern variety will not be able to tolerate the South’s humid and hot climate. Purchase fruits and nut trees specifically grown for the region where the landscaping will be installed, especially fruits needing a set amount of chilling hours. Most vegetables are treated as annuals and can usually be grown throughout the year with warm and cold season varieties, although the season to plant them and the length of time to grow them will vary across the country.


> Pollinators. This term covers two differ- ent types of pollination: plant pollinators and insect pollinators. When selecting fruit and nut trees, check to see how pollination occurs. Does the species need a different cultivar, a different sex—male or female—or multiple plants to ensure pollination takes place? If the plant needs insects for pollination, attract bees and butterflies with a perennial garden in your landscape design. Good choices for local pollinators are endemic native flowers, shrubs and trees. My favorite flowering plant species for bees and butterflies are African Blue Basil, Ocimum ‘African Blue,’ Mexican Heather, Cuphea hyssopifolia, Milkweed, Asclepsis spp., Salvia ‘Indigo Spires,’ Russian Sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia and Clover.


> Persistence. When growing all plants, persistence is important to remember. Sometimes plants die. It just happens that sometimes diagnoses aren’t easy and—just like people—some plants are healthier than others. I subscribe to Tony Avent’s philosophy. Mr. Avent, renowned plant hunter and nurseryman, whose Plant Delight’s catalogs are gardening enthusiasts’ collectors’ items, is funny, but also reality-based: “I consider every plant hardy until I have killed it myself—at least three times,” he writes. His words remind me that even master gardeners and nurserymen’s plants sometimes die. Don’t give up. If you’ve assessed your site properly; selected the proper plants for the location, and done your best to maintain your landscape (with university-recom- mended practices), when a plant dies, try a new approach. Chances are you’ll get it right the next time.


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