The Garden Muse — What is a Foodscape?

Published 10:15 am Saturday, January 22, 2022

If you were to google the definition of “Foodscape” you would inevitably receive a smorgasbord of meanings and descriptions of what many different people believe a foodscape is. Personally, I believe this has come about due to the many varied demographic, cultural and personal needs of people around the world and their reasonings on creating and executing a successful one.

For the sake of simplicity, my modest definition of a foodscape is simply any space that has been revised from its original state to be transformed into an area for growing edible and or medicinal plants to sustain and encourage the wellbeing of its community.

There are many reasons one may want to create a foodscape. I have researched and visited many different ones; they have all been logic based and some are far more reaching than others in terms of serving people and entire communities. In all the foodscapes I have experienced the pros have always been abundant and the cons were minimal at best.

This morning while watching the snow fall outside my window, I found myself longing for spring and reflecting on my own current foodscaping journey. While enjoying some time in one of the herb gardens that I had planted in the front yard of my home the perceived enormous task of tending to all the grass growing around the many garden beds, plants and such was delicately brought to my attention. Evidently my love of gardening coupled with my adoration of everything herb related had blossomed into a ‘plant lover’s’ front yard amalgamated collection of pretty, sometimes edible, continually amended Grounds Keeper’s nightmare. That is when I realized that I needed to make time to sit and re-evaluate what exactly it was that I was doing with the space.

While thinking of what I really wanted to focus on, I knew the herb gardens were staying and going to be expanded. I also did not want to lose the beauty of the perennial flower beds planted for the pollinators. When I took the time to be still and observe all that was there It felt like something was missing to me. After pondering the situation for a few days, I had a eureka moment. What I really wanted to achieve was a landscape comprised of sprawling herb and flower gardens, some edible berry bushes, fruit trees, and a few grassy areas to sit and relax in amongst the beauty of it all. What I really wanted was a front yard Foodscape! Ah Yes, I could hardly contain my enthusiasm while declaring to my ‘grounds keeper’ aka loving husband, that I had found the solution to his front yard nightmare.

And that is where his adventure and my journey into the world of foodscaping began…

Since that day four years ago I have eliminated a few plantings and added one perennial flower garden, two additional herb gardens, a tea garden, three urban apple, two persimmon and three paw paw trees, six hazelnut bushes and two fig trees to my little less than a quarter acre fenced in front yard. I interplant select companion vegetables in some of the garden beds and I now have a diverse and pleasing to the eye front yard Foodscape evolving. Now that everything has a purpose and is thoughtfully planted my groundskeeper’s task of keeping the grass manicured is much easier than in previous years and although he cannot envision my goal, I believe he secretly anticipates my next project with childlike wonder when eliminating lawn grass is involved. My goal is to only have grass paths throughout the space, then the upkeep of grass for him will be minimal.

Foodscapes can be as big or small as you like, designed to produce year-round or specific times of the year. They can be planted in the ground or in containers. It is up to the gardener to decide what will suit them best.

My advice to anyone who may also like to install a foodscape is to first decide what your goals are for the space. I suggest writing them all down on a piece of paper and then editing the list after really thinking about the space and how you will execute your plan. Also do not try and do everything at once, trust me you will be overwhelmed and set yourself up for failure. Take your time and enjoy the process. You may want to design your plan with stages of execution and planting involved, that is what I did. I highly recommend reading The Foodscape Revolution: Finding a Better Way to Make Space for Food and Beauty in Your Garden by; Brie Arthur.

If you decide to foodscape enjoy, the process and all its stages. The dreaming, planning, execution and finally reaping the reward of fresh food grown in your own space. Foodscaping should be fun!

Dawn Conrad is a Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener, Herbal enthusiast, Writer and Fiber Artist. She can be contacted at dawn@mygardenmuse.com.