Getting started: 3 keys to success

A foodscape design can be elaborate and encompassing, replacing large sections of lawn and traditional landscaping, or it can be as simple as a well placed raised bed for vegetables and a fruit tree or two. We usually recommend that people interested in foodscaping start small, but in a well-thought-out way that lends itself to early success and has potential for expansion. Our own foodscape started several years ago with a 4×8 vegetable garden and three fruit trees: a nectarine, and two pears for cross pollination. We have expanded it each spring and fall and it has evolved into an ornamental, food producing machine with 30+ fruit trees kept small with espalier and summer pruning, 12 fruiting bushes, 4 grape vines and 300 square feet of vegetable beds. Our design is inspired by practices that minimize maintenance and toxic byproducts by working with nature (think: no-dig vegetable beds, using heavy mulch to eliminate weeds, feed the soil and conserve water, companion planting with beneficial flowers to deter pests and attract pollinators, etc.). These practices make a huge difference in both large and small foodscapes.

The key to starting a successful foodscape is creating an environment where the plants can thrive. The three keys to healthy plants are sunlight, water, and healthy soil. Fruit and vegetable plants do best in full sun, which is usually considered a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight everyday with 8 or more hours being ideal. Most of our food producing plants receive around 10 hours a day. Picking a spot with lots of sun and easy access to water is crucial. We use drip irrigation. While all three keys are vital, I’d guess that most unsuccessful food gardens are due to soil issues. The good news is poor soils can be immensely improved in a relatively short amount of time through the magic of compost.

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7 thoughts on “Getting started: 3 keys to success

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  1. What is the best distance to keep each plant such as tomatoes spinach broccoli and so forth I have a 8 by 4 Garden 6 inches high

    1. Hi Ravenna! Figuring out the best spacing for your situation takes some time. There are quite a few things to consider and references to get started. If you are sowing from seed or started from seeds indoors, the seed packet will have some recommendations. USU Extension also has recommendations. You can search online for ‘USU grow spinach’ for example and be able to find a lot of info including spacing if you are planting in rows. Another resource that would suggest much closer spacing is called ‘square foot gardening’. You can search online. A book that I like that has spacings is Charles Dowding’s ‘No Dig Organic Home & Garden’
      Needless to say, spacing can vary widely. We don’t usually space as close as the ‘square foot gardening’ guidelines but we are much closer to that than we are to the wide row spacings. If you have tons of direct sun (like 0 shade throughout the day) and excellent soil in a raised bed you can definitely go with close spacings. For tomatoes we space them at 2-3 feet apart depending on the variety (determinate tomatoes need less space than indeterminate tomatoes) but then grow spinach or lettuce in the gaps in between. Then when the lettuce starts to flower in summer we pull it out to allow more space for the tomatoes as they get big. If you were not planning on intercropping like that then I would still give tomatoes 2 feet. They can be grown at 12″ or 18″ spacing but I think they get too crowded.
      We usually give broccoli 12″ to 18″ and spinach 4″ or 5″.

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