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Garden Works: Learn how to create an edible landscape with ‘Foodscaping’

More than a quarter century ago, Rosalind Creasy published “The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping,” which popularized the concept of landscaping with edible plants: “a yard that is both productive and beautiful.”

Her seminal book erased the lines that separate edibles from ornamentals and ultimately changed how Americans look at fruit trees, squash vines and flowering herbs.

Many Southern gardeners embraced this concept, including the first lady of the University of South Carolina, Patricia Moore-Pastides. On a fall visit to the Columbia campus last year, I marveled at a flower bed of cool season annuals growing cheek-by-jowl with an attractive assortment of red cabbage, Swiss chard and kale.

Following Creasy’s footsteps is Charlie Nardozzi with “Foodscaping: Practical and innovative ways to create an edible landscape.” He sums up the premise of his book in the introduction: “Foodscaping is integrating edibles into your gardens without sacrificing beauty. It’s a great way to produce food for yourself and your community and still have the beauty and functionality you want in the landscape.” Nardozzi writes with a reassuring tone and gains your trust immediately. The author makes you believe that it’s possible to grow food without sacrificing beauty.

In Chapter 1, Nardozzi encourages us to re-imagine our front yards and backyards by blurring the boundaries between ornamentals and edibles. I have to admit that using edibles in foundation plantings or hedgerows seems ludicrous, but the luscious images that complement the text makes it work.

The second chapter is a crash course in designing with edibles, evaluating and retrofitting your landscape with edibles, and learning how to substitute ornamental plants with “foodscaping plants.” Nardozzi reminds the reader that edibles can taste as good as they look. His lists of “foodscape varieties with interesting leaf colors” and “foodscape plants with seasonal color interest” makes me want to venture away from the traditional backyard vegetable garden and to the front yard. If it’s a violation of subdivision covenants to integrate vegetables and herbs in my foundation plantings of coneflowers, four o’clocks, loropetalum, and milkweed, so be it.

In Chapter 3, Nardozzi discusses 43 of his favorite vegetables, herbs and flowers, edible annual flowers, groundcovers, berry shrubs, vines, and fruit trees that “taste great.” Despite the national scope of this book, Nardozzi reaches out to Southern gardeners. He writes about Southern highbush and rabbiteye blueberry varieties and muscadines. Thankfully, there’s plenty of room in the margins of each page for jotting down additional varieties and ideas for your foodscape.

Finally, when I got to the last chapter, I knew I was hooked. The author knows that as well in the first words of the first line of Chapter 4, “Now that you’ve gotten inspired.” Nardozzi covers the nuts and bolts of site selection, preplanting, planting, pruning, watering, fertilizing, harvesting and composting. I enjoyed his discussion of integrated pest management and foodscaping, rotating vegetable families, and attracting beneficial insects with vegetables and herbs.

Nardozzi admits his book is not the ultimate resource for foodscapers, so he provides a section on supplies and resources for gardeners to delve further into specific variety recommendations or cultural practices. Nardozzi’s book will help you create an edible landscape that tastes as good as it looks.

Bob Polomski is an award-winning horticulturist and author with extension and teaching responsibilities at Clemson University.

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