Fresh fruit off tree ready to be picked by gardener

What is food-scaping?

Adriana Camilleri

2020 has seen a lot of people think more about the practical and educational benefits of gardening rather than the aesthetics of a colourful, manicured garden. There has also been a surge in the number of people growing food in their gardens. What was once considered a retired citizens pastime has now become a growing trend and a family affair whereby parents and their children are learning and enjoying the garden for its physical, mental, and dietary benefits. But what if there was a way to grow food and not compromise on the aesthetics of your home garden? This is where the term ‘food-scape’ was born.

Definition of food-scaping

Food-scaping is the practice of growing edible plants and introducing them into the decorative landscape. This way of thinking was born from the idea that edibles can be beautiful not just consumable, and thus gardens can become multi-functional spaces. There is a distinction between traditional vegetable gardening and food-scaping whereby edible plants in food-scaping are being used as a significant element in a pre-existing garden or green space. Vegetables, fruit trees and herbs are planted so they can co-exist among ornamental species of plants that already live in outside areas.

Why should I consider food-scaping?

Sustainability, health and waste management

The design practice of combining edible plants and existing garden landscapes is not a new concept; however, the urbanisation of many living spaces and global biodiversity concerns has made this gardening concept more prevalent now than ever. We rely significantly on the fresh produce at our local supermarket to supply us with the vegetables and fruits needed in our diet, but what if one day you cannot get the broccoli for your stir-fry that night? Food-scaping is one widely popular way of beating the increasing anxieties of food availability, accessibility, and food security as well as the detrimental environmental impacts of over-farming.

Maintaining a food-scape garden is an efficient way of controlling where your produce comes from as well as convenience. There is much to be said about the over-production of the fresh food in our supermarkets. Food-scaping is a way for us as gardeners to get back to growing and eating with the seasons. We have become so accustomed to the fact that we can get the majority of fruits and vegetables we want at any time of year. Food-scaping is an educational process we seem to have lost over time as our lives became less homestead focused and more career-orientated, and provides a way for us to experiment and learn about growing seasons.

By controlling what we eat season to season and using the produce in home gardens, we will see an increase in the nutritional value of our food and in the long-term, a more varied diet. The global distribution of food is a lengthy process, with farmers selling to distributors and supermarkets who then must transport the food to stores, which is later purchased by you and eventually ends up on your plate. This process, depending on where the farm is located, could mean that the fresh food you buy from the supermarket is many days or even weeks old.

According to the most recent study on growing your own produce, in 2014, 71% of Australians were incorporating edibles into their gardens for the primary purpose of having access to fresh, nutritious produce. Reducing the food mileage of food not only means more nutritiously dense meals but also results in a more positive impact on the planet. Fresh produce can be transported long distances and, unfortunately, in some cases, fresh produce has been injected or grown with chemical additives and preservatives to increase the ‘freshness’ of the food; from colour-enhancers to gasses that stop the aging process. This allows produce to be stored for longer than is naturally possible. If we incorporate food-scapes into our gardens, we can reduce the energy and emissions produced as a result of transportation and supermarket storage, as well as control which fertilisers and chemicals to use, if any, and choose the quality of the soil we want to grow in.

How to plant a food-scape

Choosing what to plant in a food-scape garden comes down to two objectives: what will look good, and what will be the most beneficial to my gut?

There are many great varieties of vegetables that can add aesthetic appeal to your garden. Why not consider one of the below?

Swiss chard - This is a very leafy vegetable that comes in a wide array of bright colours. The stalks grow long and meet large leaf blades, which can vary from deep green to aubergine in colour. The stalks too vary in colour from white to yellow and even red. Harvesting Swiss chard is simple; you can remove multiple leaves from the one plant as it is not detrimental to the plant. The reason for this is that the roots of the Swiss chard plant have vast stores of carbohydrates, which is a necessity for continual leaf growth. Swiss chard is known for its highly vitamin-rich leaves, making it a popular ingredient in salads, stir-fries and smoothies.

Lettuce - A widely used leafy green vegetable, lettuce is a hardy annual that will grow in abundance during the summer months. Lettuce comes in a variety of leaf shapes and sizes as well as colours ranging from bright greens to deep purples and reds. Lettuce thrives in shady positions, so why not consider planting your lettuce at the base of a fruit tree to shelter it from the harsh summer sun? Lettuce requires nutrient-dense soil, so be sure to maintain the health of your lettuce crop by fertilising regularly. Why not try Hoselink’s Super-Grow Garden Fertiliser to ensure the plant is receiving all the right nutrients to guarantee a healthy crop?

Strawberries - This plant is cultivated across the globe for their plump red, externally seeded fruits. The strawberry plant makes a brilliant feature to add to any garden because of its vibrant colour and sweet aroma. Most commonly used in jams, smoothies, fruit salads and eaten raw, the strawberry plant is suitable to grow during any season as long as it’s regularly watered and positioned in partial shade. Strawberries are the perfect candidate for drip-irrigation systems, meaning you never have to worry about damaging the delicate fruit and foliage while watering or worry about over-watering. Check out Hoselink’s Mini Sprinkler Kit, a fully customisable kit designed to distribute water directly where it is needed. The common strawberry looks fantastic in gardens as ground cover or as an accompaniment to flowers in pots.

Chilli - Widely used in many cuisines as a spice, chillies are great plants to establish in a food-scape garden for their medicinal properties as well as their taste. Chillies have traditionally been used as an analgesic in topical balms and ointments to relieve pain. Chillies are never-ending in their uses. They can be boiled, dried and then crushed into chilli powder, preserved in oil or simply enjoyed fresh as a topping on a dish. Chillies offer a great addition to cooking as they contain essential vitamins to encourage a healthy immune system. Chillies vary in colour and heat intensity, from yellow and green and to vibrant red and orange. The pops of colours create a standout focal point in any backyard and look spectacular when in flower, and you will soon find horn-shaped fruits hanging from vibrant green stalks. Chilli plants love the heat so will thrive in sunny positions. During the summer months, make sure to water the plant 2-3 times per week, but do not over-saturate it as chillies do not like to stand in wet soil for too long.

Beetroot – Sliced, pickled, fresh, juiced, stewed… beetroot is a must-have in any food-scape garden. You should plant beetroot in warm regions of Australia from July to March and in colder areas from September to February. You can grow beetroot practically anywhere there is dappled light in your garden; perfect for growing under a deep-rooted tree already established in your food-scape. Beetroots are root vegetables that have large reddish-purple bulbous fruits that grow below the soil with red stalks and green leaves above ground. Beetroots love to be fed, so it is best to periodically feed them with a seaweed-based fertiliser like Hoselink’s Plant Health Seaweed Tonic. Want to know when your beetroot is ready to harvest? As with all root vegetables, beetroots will push to the surface when they are ready to be harvested. When you see the crown of the bulb popping up through the soil, it is time to pull it up. As a rough guide, your beetroot should be ready to harvest around 10 weeks after planting.

Chamomile - Not only do they stand tall and dainty amongst your other plants, but chamomile flower heads can be harvested for edible garnishes to use in desserts as well as steeped in tea. Chamomile is a beneficial herb known for its relaxing properties as a natural anti-inflammatory and is often the main ingredient in natural ointments and creams for sensitive skin. It is best to cultivate chamomile plants from seed. Sprinkle the seeds over your soil and water in well then add some new soil on top. With one successful crop, you will find the flowers popping up year after year as they are self-sown plants and are easy to maintain. Water your plant with a soft mist when the soil gets dry. We suggest using the mist setting on your Hoselink Comfort 8-Pattern Flow Control Sprayer. Chamomile is the perfect plant to grow for edging, borders and even wild patches of the lawn as they surprisingly do not mind being stepped on.

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