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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