Building a “Foodscape”

Pandemic Garden, Phase 2

Over the last few years I’ve started appreciating my little suburban plot of clay and rock as something other than a problem that I have to pay someone to mow every summer.

Besides the garden that I’ve written about ad nauseum, I’ve started looking at this 1/3-acre slopey hunk of former cow pasture as an opportunity to not only expand my efforts at self-sufficiency, but also as a blank canvas upon which I could (finally) plan some much needed landscaping.

But – I also have to live within the confines of appearances for the neighbors’ sake and the HOA’s limitations on things like livestock. I therefore can’t just slap up a chicken coop and an orchard and say I’m self-sufficient. I have to make it all look nice and purposely landscaped (or at least make an effort). They aren’t super strict here, but they do want to keep out things like cars up on blocks and appliances on the porch, so there are a few rules.

I decided to combine all those needs into a single goal. What I want to create is a “foodscape”. I want less useless grass (although the dandelions are useful and tasty) and more “food that is also eye-pleasing”. Or is that “shrubbery that also feeds me”? Either way, that’s what I’ve decided I want to work toward. When the next economic crisis comes I want to be able to “shop” for groceries in my own yard. That’s the goal at least.

I’ve already got the vegetable plot organized and in fact I doubled the size from last year. (Pandemic Garden, Phase 2) But I want more options for fruits and I want to grow more outside herbs. The goal for landscaping is thus to plant ONLY things that are edible. It’s not turning out to be as difficult as I originally suspected.

I already have my indoor kitchen herb pots, but I’m looking into expanding  to the outside as well. Hopefully I’ll be able to just take cuttings from what I already have and not have to buy anything.

I’m also looking into trying to grow a small patch of grain – just for giggles. I bought a seed packet of buckwheat which has pink flowers and am going to try it in a raised bed. If it truly does produce pretty flowers the neighbors will never know that I’m really growing an edible seed/grain for survival purposes – shhhh.

An edible seed/grain and pretty too?

Fruit-wise I already have my accidental apple tree that I planted 20-odd years ago, but I wanted additional fruit options that could be grown in the less-than-desirable location that I have.

My flowering crabapple that started bearing actual apples.

Most fruit trees take years to bear well. While they say that the two best times to plant a tree are “twenty years ago and today”, I was looking for something that I could hopefully enjoy before I retire.

Barring planting another apple tree – or other traditional fruits such as pear or cherry – I started looking at my options. Armed with my seed company catalogs and the internet I dived into a search.

My house is situated such that all locations except the very front get sufficient sun, so for my search purposes the three main considerations were time frame, hills/slopes, and clay/rocky soil. 

Raspberries/Blackberries did fit into my parameters but honestly I hate them. I do not enjoy all those little seeds and the texture bothers me – not to mention all the thorns – so that was a no.

Elderberries were a possibility – especially from a “medicinal” perspective – but there has been recent guidance that they aren’t acidic enough to can safely, so that was another no for my purposes. Unless I learn to make wine, that is. Hmmm… Elderberry wine for barter??

After much study and searching I finally settled on Blueberries, Strawberries, and Saskatoon Serviceberries.

In explaining my choices I should mention that my heirloom lilac bushes were planted in the ground 20 years ago after literally hours of hacking at the hillside with a pickaxe and digging bar. Although I can still be a helluva woman sometimes, I’m frankly getting too old for that crap.          

Recalling all of that past labor, dwarf and semi-dwarf bush varieties that I could grow in large half-barrels were ultimately my choice and saving grace. Hello, containers and modern plant breeding! My joints thank you!

The blueberries went into three half barrels on one side of the new deck, and the Saskatoons went into two half barrels on the opposite side. The strawberries are currently divided into four large pots on the deck, but I hope to gradually get those moved to their own garden raised bed in time for next year. We shall see. For now they are decorative and accessible for breakfast.

Blueberries coming out of dormancy from bare root stock.
Deck strawberries accessible for breakfast.
Saskatoon/Serviceberries adding to the foodscape effort.

I still have a few choices under consideration for later – things that are a little more off the beaten path – like lingonberries and pawpaws, but I think I’ve bitten off more than enough to chew for this year already. Foodscaping will be an ongoing process for the next several years, so I’ve got time to keep looking and planning. But I think I’m off to a good start!

Obviously your choices may be different, depending on your environment and area of the country you live in. What might grow well in Appalachia would likely wither in the desert southwest.  Plants that prefer well-drained soils would struggle in heavy clay. That’s why doing your research is an important first step in planning your own foodscape.

There are lots of creative options depending on the space and climate you have available. Don’t be afraid to read-up and try – even on a postage stamp patio or apartment balcony. You’d be surprised at the edible landscape you can produce if you put some effort and research into it. I‘ll keep you posted on mine!

Dr LateBloomer
Dr LateBloomer is a female general pediatrician who bought her first firearm at the age of 46. She now enjoys many different shooting disciplines including self-defense, IDPA, Steel/Rimfire Challenge, Sporting clays, and even tried 3-Gun for several years. She has gotten started in hunting and has expanded into crossbow. She is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and works to enlighten her medical colleagues whenever possible.