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Building an Edible Landscape  RSS feed

 
Jaimee Gleisner
Posts: 60
Location: Urbana, IL Zone 5b
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I'm new to this, but it's always been a dream. I would love to walk around my property and pick things to eat. I would like my kids to run around outside and get snacks. And I would like to grow enough produce for my family to eat from early spring to late fall. We just purchased a new house in a development, but it has a fairly large yard. I finally convinced my husband to sacrifice most of the grass to the project- yay! I've mapped it out and put in my ideas so far. I would LOVE feedback about design, placement, types of plants, anything! Really I'm open to all ideas. The trellis over the deck would be for grapes.


http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaimeeandbrian/7569858514/in/photostream/lightbox/

 
Nancy Sinclaire
Posts: 30
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I am glad there are wood chips around the bulk of the garden beds. The thought of trying to mow all the angles and then edge them with a trimmer each week was difficult. Very nice map. I do not know if you have snow but it is good you have no sidewalk to shovel and nearly zero land wasted on the roadside. There may be more trees impacting than shown on the map. Or if a new development they may grow. The grapes should provide some valuable afternoon shade to the deck. It looks very lovely. You are very lucky. My only advice, and it is more a personal prejudice than expert opinion is the mower path. I feel the lawnmower should push out of the shed, go once around, never crossing it's own path, and back into the shed. An oval of green would work best for this. Thus every angle I have to mow around adds work to the design. It is maybe not much to mow around something once a week but multiply it times number of times mowed a year times number of years and planting around an oval of grass starts to look good. Plus the large expanse of uninterrupted grass is a good place for children to play without ouchies in the way. Might as well add a pool to the plan in case in future years you want one you will not have to disturb the garden. I would start small. Maybe a couple of blueberry bushes and strawberry plants to test varieties before planting the whole thing. I did not see the mini chicken coop or water feature. Decide now in case you want them in the future. You have a lovely yard, both as it is now and as you imagine it.
 
Nancy Sinclaire
Posts: 30
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Some more thoughts. There is no garden shed. Maybe plan for one. Nor a bee hive. You may want one to insure pollination. Fences? A few different types might be needed for different situations. I wonder if the property backs up against woods or other houses. I wonder about the pointy corner areas. Maybe those areas are where the other homeowners will put their compost heaps. Or what other use the corners might be especially suited for. In other times the only question would be where to put the clothes line. The corners of the property might be good to encourage a bit of nature such as habitat for mason bees with a bit o mud and other native pollinators. Maybe allow one of the corners to go a bit wild as a butterfly garden or bee garden or humming bird garden or herb garden. ~ Less to mow. Other fun things to walk about the garden to see and enjoy.
 
Jaimee Gleisner
Posts: 60
Location: Urbana, IL Zone 5b
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Wow, Nancy! Thank you so much for your thoughtful replies and compliments! To answer some of your questions...

Our house is in a development, so we we are surrounded by fence and neighbors and it's governed by an HOA... not a stringent one, but I don't think the neighbors would not take kindly to chickens and I don't think we're up to the task right now anyway. Bees... not sure. I had thought about that. For now, I think I'll plant some bee attractors and see how it goes, but maybe eventually I'll build some bee houses. Clothesline, we do have one that I didn't put on the map, but it's strung over the grass area right next to the large garden area. It tickles me that you thought of it b/c most of my friends think I'm a bit crazy for hanging my laundry! I planned to put mostly herbs in the front yard vegetable garden, though I imagine with companion planting, herbs will end up all over the property eventually.

A garden shed... yes, that would be nice. We can't afford that right now, but since we are leaving quite a bit of grass still open for the kids to play in the sprinkler, have picnics, etc. (they are little right now: 5.5, 2.5, and 7 months), I imagine that once they get older we can start to build up more of the yard as finances allow, including a shed, nicer fences/gates, water feature if desired, etc. I had been tinkering with the idea of a wildflower area with native prairie flowers (we're in central Illinois)... I'll put some more thought into that.

Compost... yes, that is another thing we'll have to do in stages. I would just make a heap, but that attracts animal pests around here and with houses so close together that's not good. So we need to get an enclosed composter and that's not in the finances right now, either. Eventually!! I thought maybe it could go in on of the corners, like you were thinking, too.

The mowing situation... yes, my husband usually mows and he already commented on not wanting too many things to mow around. The mower is currently in the garage, which exits out the driveway or the side door on the south of the house where I have the blueberry beds. So it would mow that grass area and then come around to the front to mow and then go around the house to the back where there is a gate. Yes, still lots of corners and angles that would require weed wacking occasionally. I think we'll have to work with it and slowly adjust things for ease of maintenance. Honestly, I would get rid of almost all the grass, but the husband still wants front lawn and a good chunk of back lawn for appearances and for the kids. But like I said, I think I can convince him to get rid of more and more as the kids grow b/c we have a neighborhood park just down the road that older kids could play at unsupervised (that's one advantage to the midwest!). We do get snow and we do have the driveway and that little path up to the front door to shovel, but it's not much, so that's good.

Anyway, thank you again for your comments!!! I so appreciate you taking the time!
 
Nicole Castle
Posts: 151
Location: Madison, AL
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Phooey, I wrote this huge long reply and lost it! >

Ah well, the gist of what I really said was to do elevations of the front of the house (I took pictures) and draw in the shapes and sizes of what you want to create a landscape design -- a small tree here, a short round shrub there, etc. Add some curves and mounds and maybe some garden sculpture or at least a birdbath. Think about what it looks like from different angles outside, and what it looks like from inside. What spots do you want to be evergreen, what lends good winter bones to the design, where do you need a splash of color? Then pick plants that fit the shapes and needs you created, maybe from a wish list of plants that you want and do well in your area. While you are picking plants, remember to provide bee forage for the whole year, not just one season.

If you've just moved in, I wouldn't start any big plans yet if you can bear to wait. Maybe put in the formal vegetable garden, but spend the year watching (and taking notes) on the amount of sun various parts of the yard get at different times of the year, and places that collect water, etc. Keep going back to your plan and asking if this here will really work there in this month. Visit your local botanical gardens and such. Peer at the landscaping of homes you like for ideas. Your plan will change a bit, probably. Feel free to plan way out for stuff you aren't going to do now, because it will help keep you focused on long term goals -- and help when you find free materials! -- but stay focused on your priorities.

I recently "finished" my edible landscaping -- as much as it will ever be finished -- and my neighbors don't even realize it's mostly edible but they love it. Granted, the row of sickly shrubs I replaced with the huge beds were not a high bar to leap over! I was not able to do 100% edible, and I don't suggest you try. Leave room for beneficial and medicinal and just plain pretty stuff that feeds your soul, too. And you may want to set aside an area just for the kids and let them decide what goes in their garden.

Hey look, I wrote another long reply.

P.S. Strawberries will grow great under the blueberries. And curved edge to beds is way easier to mow than rectangles. Add mowing strips to all the edges and you can virtually eliminate weed whacking and edging.
 
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