As humans grow more health-conscious, a movement toward more organic and sustainable food production has taken root, spreading as people also become increasingly aware of the adverse impacts human lifestyles wreak on the environment. The “farm-to-table” trend is still going strong among epicureans and restaurateurs, but it’s also inspired an all-new market to sprout—yard-to-table landscaping.
Clearing up some misconceptions
Essentially the creation of edible home gardens, well-planned “yard-to-table” landscapes should be the epitome of balancing function with form, but due to their perceived ugliness, they’d long been overlooked entirely or hidden somewhere along the property line. But one Denver area landscaper–Lifescape Colorado–has been leading the charge to defeat these misconceptions.
Defining yard-to-table landscaping simply as incorporating herbs, fruits, vegetables and even animals like chickens and ducks that also produce food into a home’s outdoor space, Lifescape specializes in helping clients incorporate plants that are both edible and aesthetically appealing throughout the entire outdoor living space, making the garden an integral component of the landscape instead of a mere afterthought.
“An edible garden does not have to be unattractive, especially with ornamental varieties of most plants,” maintains Lifescape landscape designer Frank Pendrell. “‘Edible’ doesn’t have to mean ‘wild’; it can be formal and beautiful. The idea of what an edible landscape looks like has changed a lot with the rise of outdoor kitchens along with the ethos to create and use food on site.”
Setting the guidelines
There is certainly an art to creating an authentic yard-to-table landscape around someone’s home, so Pendrell identifies four guidelines he adheres to when helping Lifescape’s Denver clients develop their ideal edible gardens.
- Purpose: First things first. When designing a custom yard-to-table landscape, you must establish what your clients enjoy eating, so go ahead and ask. Pendrell also recommends asking why growing their own food is important to them. “Maybe they love making Italian sauces,” he hypothesizes. “Well, then we’ll need lots of tomatoes.”
- Location: There are many considerations that fall under this guideline, including the size and organization of the property, front yard prospects in addition to the backyard space, but perhaps most crucially, the garden must enjoy proximity to the kitchen. After all, Pendrall says, “If you put your veggies in the back corner of the yard, you’re not going to use them as much as having an herb garden where you can just pop a window and grab some basil.”
- Form: Any type of edible landscape you create will be largely influenced by the client’s square footage and lifestyle needs. This can manifest in everything from small greenhouses to classic outdoor beds, specialty border gardens (such as tomatoes) to several planters potted with different herbs or edible flowers, from a chicken coop to an al-fresco dining area complete with a grill and seating, so understanding how your clients ideally want to spend their outdoor time is just as important as knowing their food preferences.
- The little bonus benefits: Gardens with a variety of edible plants also attract various all-important pollinators such as bees, hummingbirds, butterflies and moths. These little critters are not only great at promoting plant growth and regeneration, but they can also help reduce other outdoor pests.
If the past is precedent, then the yard-to-table trend will continue to flourish and several Colorado markets seem particularly ripe for such a sustainable approach. Landscapers and designers with an emphasis on outdoor or sustainable living would be wise to consider adding edible landscaping services to their businesses’ repertoires.