Vegetables and annuals coexist in a Master Gardener "Idea Garden" Lancaster, PA. Photo credit: Mark Krotulski
The Foodscape Revolution by Brie Arthur was not what I expected. A little afraid that it would be a treatise on what I should be (but wasn’t) doing in my garden, I had avoided the author and topic. But I was fortunate to hear Brie Arthur speak at a Pennsylvania Master Gardener conference, and become aware that “foodscaping” is not a set of rules but a bushel of possibilities.
The Foodscape Revolution: Finding a Better Way to Make Space for Food and Beauty in Your Garden (St. Lynns Press, 2017) is a simple, stunningly-illustrated book, asserting that vegetables and ornamental plants can, and should, find harmony together in your garden. Certainly Arthur is not the first gardener to grow zinnias near corn or place herbs in a bed of ornamental plants. But her view is that edible plants deserve a rightful place in the landscaping framework that is part of almost every home property. In addition to providing the homeowner with fresh produce and with opportunities for saving money, foodscaping is a better way to grow edibles without many of the chemicals necessary to grow and preserve grocery store supplies. She also makes a compelling case for how the practice increases biodiversity. Ultimately, the “revolution” can provide more food for those who need it within the community and, as Arthur puts it, “add purpose to professional landscape installations.”
The book is divided into three main parts, starting with the “The Model.” Arthur lays out planning tools based on the fact that edible plants placed close to the house will receive the necessary care and will be in the best position for harvest. This section also includes plant-by-plant advice on specific ornamentals, herbs, grains, vegetables, fruits and nuts to include.
Part two discusses foodscaping projects, including such surprising notions as a fire pit that sprouts vegetative flames with a backdrop of edibles. Another novel idea is to utilize neighborhood common areas, such as the desolate mulch beds located around entryway signage. These can come to life with low maintenance ornamentals interspersed with vegetables that the neighborhood kids can harvest. Container gardens and alternative growing systems, such as hydroponics, are also introduced in this section.
Finally, Arthur addresses harvesting, processing, and preserving, with quirky pictures of potatoes stored in bedroom closets and jars of homemade candied jalapenos. The majority of the recipes draw on tomatoes. Arthur cites an overabundance of this vegetable, which many gardeners can relate to.
An appendix recommends ornamental plants for various regions of the country. This is a beneficial addition, although Arthur writes about her North Carolina location in a way that is easily adaptable to other regions. The appendix also includes specific recommendations of groups that will help you promote and connect with the foodscape revolution in your own community.
Foodscaping Revolution is an inspiring and lighthearted read. It also contains a serious underlying message: we all need food to live—we had better make a place for it in our gardening mindset.