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Challenges of edible landscaping in an urban environment  RSS feed

 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Hi Michael:

What are some of the challenges those of us growing edible landscapes in an urban environment face and how have you addressed those challenges?

For instance, many times permaculture properties look "messy" and may even be cited by a city agency. How would you get around this issue?
 
D. Logan
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The biggest challenge I think I had was deciding how to avoid having my edibles getting huge doses of pollution from the major street that ran past my property some years ago. As for mess, I have found that if you go with very decorative edible plants on the outer edges and borders, it lends itself to others thinking of it as a very lush flower garden. Adding symmetry in where the taller plants are put also seems to help a lot in implying more order than is possibly the reality.
 
Michael Judd
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I'll split my two cents on this into pure function and aesthetics.

Overall urban environments tend to be drier due to all the concrete and masonry, coated in salt spray where there's ice and snow, and they get trampled and pissed on by human and dog alike. Tough environment needs tough plants. Fortunately there are allstars that take it rough, are tasty, and look good. These bush choices can be the entire 'garden' or a barrier for pollutants:

Goumi - 6-8' tall and wide, gorgeous leaves, exquisite fruit, fair salt tolerance, drought tolerant, recommended varieties Red Gem & Sweet Scarlett (Burnt Ridge nursery)
Rosa rugosa - 6' tall with nice hips! very salt tolerant, also good for stabilizing/covering slopes, make tasty jellies, wine, rose water.., Raintree nursery has an awesome collection
Aronia - 5-6' tall, salt tolerant, heavy producers of berries great for juice and cider making, take drought or flood, makes a ornamental hedge, pretty fall color, One Green World nursery
Sea Buckthorn - 6-10' tall with narrow habit, takes salt, piss, etc. amazing tonic berry, beautiful foliage, show stopper, One Green World has big selection for different climates

Aesthetics. So, I'm guessing a common complaint is exposed cardboard and newspaper or patchy looks. In uber urban and high brow suburban areas I tend toward using newspaper with a heavy covering of soil/compost or woodchips so there is no danger of exposure and I edge my beds so that there is a definitive break between grass and bed. When planting trees in a food forest type patch I shape it like an island, giving it curves with nicely edged borders and throw in sexy polycultures like wild blue indigo(nitrogen fixer), asters and yarrows (insectaries), comfrey (mulch), and English lavender (pollinator). Choosing striking specimens that thrive with neglect is another good practice - contorted jujube, Asian persimmon, Flying Dragon citrus, quince, juneberry, medlar, etc. Adding in a generous amount of stone helps it pull through the winter and adds a formal look 'society' regards - just don't use a little here and there - make a show of it with a herb spiral or dry stack terraces, yeah this might cost you a bit but it'll make a big difference. Tall clump grasses are also a good addition for year round beauty and habitat. In general I would encourage loosing your grip on being hard core permaculture homesteader type in urban/suburban settings and imitate the patterns around you but in functional and productive ways. That there is the essence of my new book- pick it up for inspiration


 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Great answer, Michael!

Michael Judd wrote: In general I would encourage loosing your grip on being hard core permaculture homesteader type in urban/suburban settings and imitate the patterns around you but in functional and productive ways. That there is the essence of my new book- pick it up for inspiration


Yep - when toby hemenway came to my place back in 2008 he said something to the effect of "I can tell it's a permaculture system but anyone else would just think it's a lush urban garden."

Little do passers-by know that I am recycling dark grey water to water that urban orchard or laundry water to grow my shade trees and insectary plants. My water harvesting infiltration basins are lush and green.

 
Su Ba
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While living in the UK I saw some lovely home gardens that mixed flowers with food plants. Striking colored lettuces, frilly kale and parsley, mini cabbages, scarlet runner beans, and highly ornamental pepper plants. There were also lots of flowers so that gardens looked lovely!
 
Jp Learn
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Michael Judd wrote:... Asian persimmon, Flying Dragon citrus, quince, juneberry, medlar, etc....


What are you favorite fruit trees 10-15' trees for urban planting? I have a couple pawpaw but am eager to add in more - considering persimmon, chestnut hybrids, dwarf cherries...am interested in medlar but not too sure on planting one with small space availability and having never tasted one...

shrub-wise also interested to know have you grown nanking cherry? is there a decent fruit yield off of just 1?
 
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