Edible garden theory  

I just came across a new term “urban agriculture”. Here I was thinking I was going all edibles. No. I am into a fusion of the urban environment and full scale crop production! Cool.

According to landscape architects there has been a new alignment between the professions but edible are still struggling to become a regular fixture.

Some reasons:

  • There is also the issue of fruit drop and other ‘messy’ habits of edible plants that landscape architects are trained to steer away from
  • There is a common perception that edible gardens lack aesthetic beauty.
  • Many landscape architects may fear a backlash from their clients when the edible garden goes to seed (literally)
  • There are fewer options for choosing just the right colours, textures and forms in edible plants
  • It is true that many edibles, especially annual vegetables, can have a rangy and unkempt appearance, particularly toward the end of the growing season.

Brian Barth has a wonderful blog here about the design requirements of an edible garden.


Namely he recommends:

Use hardscape features to create aesthetic definition.
The clean lines of paths, patios, fences, raised beds, retaining walls, arbors, trellises and pergolas can all be used to create order out what can sometimes be a chaotic and cluttered plantscape. Fruit trees espaliered along a rigid structure (i.e. wood or wires) or a turning a hillside into a terraced vineyard are examples.

 Maximize ornamental characteristics of edibles.
The aesthetics of edibles have much to do with how they are trained, pruned and cared for. A well-pruned fruit tree or grapevine can be truly stunning. However, some edibles have much higher aesthetic qualities than others, making them good candidates for high profile locations in the landscape. These include shrubs like blueberries and pomegranates; vines such as grapes and kiwis; trees like Asian persimmons and apricots; and vegetables such as rainbow chard, colored lettuces and eggplant.

Choose an appropriate aesthetic motif.
Food producing landscapes lend themselves to informal styles. They are intended to be entered and worked in, more than viewed. Thus, sleek modernist or minimalist approaches are generally not the way to go; a ‘workshop’ garden environment highlighted with natural stone and post and beam structures of rough-sawn timbers or weathered iron is a better fit.

Integrate outdoor dining/gathering spaces.
Urban agriculture is about the cycle from food to plate, making it important to design for events and celebrations. Pizza ovens, outdoor kitchens, picnic tables and room for crowds are design elements to consider.

Plan for the unique functional requirements of food-producing landscapes.
Storage for tools and equipment, compost facilities, specialized irrigation systems, greenhouses, livestock quarters, processing areas and farmstands are typical components of ‘working’ landscapes that are slightly different than what typically falls under the purview of landscape architecture. They are all relatively simple to design in and of themselves, but putting them together into a cohesive, functional plan can require a lot of homework on the part of the designer.