Sustainable, edible landscaping is a hot topic today from at least four perspectives:
- Are we providing food in a way that builds soil for future generations?
- What will that food availability look like?
- What are the consequences of pesticide contamination in our food supply,
- Finally, what are the consequences of over-developed land-use practices?
We are rethinking land use. While turning a lawn into meadow is a favorite topic of mine there are a plethora of ideas flooding our internet channels on how to do just that: create sustainable landscapes that serve vital purposes for the planet and ourselves and other species.
Sustain, in its simplest form, means “to give support to or relief to.” Sustainability, in landscaping, contains in its core, principles, efforts, and practices that enhance water and soil conservation, rebuilding wildlife habitat and prevention of further land degradation and provide food.
Fact: land degradation jeopardizes biodiversity. Doug Tallamy, in Bringing Nature Home, reminds us that 4000+ species are in danger today.
Fact: World forest cover continues to decline at an alarming rate.
Fact: Communities in the western part of the US face severe water restrictions due to intense development. Overdevelopment and the use of showy botanicals, often not native to the region, decrease food, water, and shelter for many species and I include humans in that mix.
The desertification of the planet (over 1/3 of our planet has been turned into the desert) creates food shortage problems.
The good news is “more than two billion hectares of land worldwide offer opportunities for restoration through forest and landscape restoration.” Calamity, hardship, trials often create the soil for innovation and that is happening today in the use of land. For example: while city rooftops have been known to contain gardens, designers, architects, and engineers are looking at ways to convert flat building box store rooftops into gardens that produce the food they can sell. Front lawns are being turned into diverse landscapes that can produce food.
We are only limited by our imaginations. It seems to me there is a renaissance occurring planet-wide. Renaissance implies a renewal of life, vigor, interest, a rebirth, a revival. My podcast guest this week, Bettylou Sandy reminds us that our front lawns can be transformed into pleasant gardens with food. Start with one idea and section at a time. Get to know your land through the seasons and weather conditions specific to your area. This knowledge base will lead to your success.
Pinterest abounds in ideas, great visuals that take us to great articles.
What are your ideas? Have you changed your backyard into a more diverse landscape? Share your ideas, share your pictures. I would love to hear from you. Happy Gardening.
Description: What grows in your yard, naturally? Where does the sunshine, and where does the wind blow in? My podcast guest this week, Bettylou Sandy, reminds us to get to know our land spaces in as much detail as we can. Plants that are naturally present tell us about the condition of the soil. What food sources can you place in the landscape? She says: “Observation is the key for the best results.” Bettylou gives us many practical tips for adding edibles to our landscape. Have fun, explore, and experiment. Spring is here. We’re raking, cleaning garden beds and planting cold crops before things heat up. Tune in for many practical how to’s and tips.
About My Guest: Bettylou Sandy is an organic garden educator and consultant. She oversees the Spruce Street Community Garden and plays a major role at the Cheney House in Manchester Ct. And she has private clients.
Transcript: Bettylou Sandy
The tiny Hummingbird is having a huge impact on my life today. I revisited an African tale highlighted in my recent blog post, watched a youtube story about Wangari Maathai’s vision for replanting her neck of the woods in Kenya, Africa. Her story and daily actions inspire me to do more, one step at a time.
What does the hummingbird mean to you? This little bird delights us with her flying ability and how she stores food in early fall. These birds seem to migrate south based on shortening daylight. The hummingbird finds its primary nutrition in insects. They especially love baby spiders. Nectar gives them instant energy for their high metabolic needs but the fat, oils, minerals for their overall needs come from insects they find while flying or in the flowers they seek for their nectar. And contrary to local lore, they do not suck nectar through a “straw” but grab the sweet droplet of energy with a tongue.
In my dream work with animal totems, I found that the hummingbird is associated with air (intelligence, higher thought, the ability to see the bigger picture.) They seem to be constantly in motion, rapid wing beats that represent persistence and a feeling on endlessness or infinity. Many cultures in the Americas believed the hummingbird represents rebirth. They also represent joy which can be a fragile thing as we are witnessing today. Spring is here and Hummingbirds will be back in the NE soon.
For a more comprehensive look at Hummingbirds, I suggest this site: World Birds by Garth C. Clifford. I enjoyed his many tips and photos for attracting and supporting these little creatures in our yards.
“Hummingbirds in the U.S. and around the world have the benefit of being garden and backyard favorites. Many people put out hummingbird feeders or grow flowers that attract hummingbirds in the warmer months that allow these birds to refuel during their long migratory journeys. What’s insight is often in mind, and many fans of hummingbirds are doing what they can to keep every backyard, park, and garden a friendly place for these beautiful birds.”(quote from Defenders of Wildlife )
And, here’s a trivia fact: “Percentage-wise, the hummingbird has the largest brain of all birds (4.2% of its total body weight).”
The hummingbird like many species is suffering the loss of habitat. We can provide a suitable habitat by placing flowers and trees, shrubs and vines that will attract them. This link from Bird Watching showcases 28 plants to attract Hummingbirds: flowers, trees, shrubs and vines listed as possible additions to your garden this year. The site includes zone hardiness for each plant and the best growing conditions. The flowers tend to range from orange to reds with trumpet type shapes.
Persistence, knowing I am enough, and knowing I am doing enough at this moment are great personal, daily reminders. I would like to suggest that we spend a few moments today contemplating this marvelous, tiny creature. Spring is here in New England and soon these delightful birds will be back showing off their shimmering iridescent wings. One more question: do you dream of hummingbirds? What do they mean to you?
I hope Wangari Maathai’s folk tale and her work in creating the Green Belt in Kenya are inspirational and motivational. The isolation we are under gives us time to reflect and be in our yards and with our realtime. I welcome your stories and your sharing. Sending Blessings to all. Judith
Description: My podcast guest, Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a senior research scientist at MIT, has devoted twelve years to trying to understand the role of toxic chemicals in the deterioration of human health. She has devoted efforts to understanding what has been skyrocketing autism rates in the US and around the world. When COVID-19 pandemic began she considered whether glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) might play a role.
Join us for an engaging look at her research and how pesticide use is playing a role in our health.
About My Guest: Stephanie Seneff is a Senior Research Scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. She received a B.S. degree in Biophysics in 1968, the M.S. and E.E. degrees in Electrical Engineering in 1980, and the Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 1985, all from MIT. For over three decades, her research interests have always been at the intersection of biology and computation: developing a computational model for the human auditory system, understanding human language so as to develop algorithms and systems for human-computer interactions, as well as applying natural language processing (NLP) techniques to gene predictions. She has published over 170 refereed articles on these subjects and has been invited to give keynote speeches at several international conferences. She has also supervised numerous Masters and Ph.D. thesis at MIT. In 2012, Dr. Seneff was elected Fellow of the International Speech and Communication Association (ISCA).
In recent years, Dr. Seneff has focused her research interests back towards biology. She is concentrating mainly on the relationship between nutrition and health. Since 2011, she has published over two dozen papers in various medical and health-related journals on topics such as modern-day diseases (e.g., Alzheimer, autism, cardiovascular diseases), analysis and search of databases of drug side effects using NLP techniques, and the impact of nutritional deficiencies and environmental toxins on human health.
Transcript: Dr. Stephanie Seneff
Dr. Seneff’s published article: Connecting the Dots: Glyphosate and COVID-19
How would you like to have a food forest patch in your yard? Maybe dedicate an 8×8′ square bit of land, ideally removing some lawn? Imagine adding small fruits, food, medicinal plants right in your own back yard? One of the basic tenets of permaculture is to create a ‘food forest patch’ in our yards. What is that and how can I plan a ‘forest patch’ with food in my own yard?
When I hear the word forest I think of trees, lots of them, maybe pine needles and old leaves on paths. Understory trees and shrubs fill in that landscape sometimes making the area appear dense with foliage. Other times these lower story plants line a pathway. How can I mimic this system on a smaller scale in my front or back yard and include food?
My podcast guest this week, Micheal Judd, talked about creating a ‘food forest patch’ in our yards. Before I describe what he suggested I would like to remind all of us about the importance of our forests from a permaculture perspective. Let’s look at some facts:
“Forests are life ( from permaculture news)
- Forests are home to approximately 50-90% of all the world’s terrestrial (land-living) biodiversity — including the pollinators and wild relatives of many agricultural crops (Source: WWF Living Planet Report 2010)
- Tropical forests alone are estimated to contain between 10-50 million species – over 50% of species on the planet.
- Rainforests cover 2% of the Earth’s surface and 6% of its landmass, yet they are home to over half of the world’s plant and animal species.
From these basic facts, it should be evident that forests themselves are synonymous with life, biodiversity, and fertility. Where life gathers, complex and mutually beneficial relationships are created between organisms; natural harmonious communities form, and life forms multiply and proliferate.”
Forests are the best of life and offer ways for us to live in harmony. They provide food and are great examples of how species work together. Yet, we continue to tear down our forests for the sake of development, our thirst for lumber and other byproducts made from trees, and the need for fields for mass monotype agriculture and farming.
Michael suggested that we take (where possible) a small patch maybe 8′ by 8′ and plant a fruit tree. He includes nitrogen-fixing plants such as lupines, blue indigo in the same area. Add other perennials to the mix all planted within this 8×8″ space. Spreading mints can be added too. I had the chance to visit and be on one of his yard tours in MD. Mints were all over the place but didn’t give me the feeling of taking over. He chops and lets the plant material drop. Very easy and very cool.
As you cut back these companion plants, you leave the plant material right there which continues to build mulch. All of this adds beauty and diversity to your landscape. Check out pawpaw, juneberry, black currants, Aronia’s. Aronia or chokecherries are native to our continent. There is much to choose from.
Dedicate an 8 x8′ patch for new plants.
Add 8″ compost, layering the materials and leave over winter.
In the spring: Select a fruit-bearing tree appropriate to your region.
Add leguminous plants when you plant the tree; lupines, peas. Around the outer edges add more plants.
Michaels’ book shown above has great detailed ‘how to’s’ and photographs to illustrate his ‘food forest patch’. I highly recommend his book. I personally refer to his ideas over and over. Think about the gardeners in your life. This book is a great addition to any gardener’s library.
So, what would you do? Can you take away some lawn and create a’ food forest patch’? Let me know if you do. All comments are appreciated. Enjoy. Judith