It’s no secret that I dig (sometimes literally) edible landscaping.
I’ve written about its value before, particularly in a crash situation in which obviously edible plants are liable to be stolen.
I gave a talk a few weeks ago in The Villages. For those of you not familiar with that particular slice of Orwellian central planning, The Villages is a huge community with picture-perfect landscaping and incredibly restrictive rules on what you can and can’t add to your yard.
Don’t get me wrong – the place is stunning. The buildings are immaculate and everything looks really, really nice.
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can eat growing there.
I’ve heard (albeit unofficially) that if you add a fruit tree or edible plant that’s an unapproved species, that dark-caped HOA Enforcers will beat you to death with heavy rolled-up copies of the rules, then bury your rebellious remains in a tasteful coffin of approved specifications and color.
Fortunately, there are still some things you can hide even in deed-restricted communities.
Plants like blueberries, chaya, arrowroot, canna lilies, prickly pear and perhaps even a persimmon might sneak by. Just don’t try corn. Or mulberries (dang it!).
For those of you that have greater freedom (and I hope many of you do), the sky is the limit with edible landscaping. That limitless sky is exactly what Michael Judd embraces in his new book Edible Landscaping With a Permaculture Twist.
Chet and I are both big fans of the permaculture idea. Permaculture a way of combining homesteading, raising livestock, gardening, orchards and annual crops into long-term systems that mimic nature rather than fight it. It’s where we get the food forest concept as well as our love of perennial vegetables and chickens in tractors or rotating runs.
One drawback to imitating nature, at least among those of us with picky neighbors, is… nature is messy! She drops leaves and sticks everywhere, seeds great banks of weeds, covers trees with vines and really doesn’t like leaving bare soil around.
A heathy ecosystem doesn’t look like this:
Instead, a healthy ecosystem looks more like this:
That won’t fly with your average homeowner’s association so those of us in the know have to choose our plants carefully and plan landscapes that will both nurture a healthy ecosystem and please
the controlling fascists the rest of the neighborhood.
Edible Landscaping With a Permaculture Twist points the reader in that direction and it covers ground that most books on edible landscaping wouldn’t touch.
When a gardener thinks of traditional edible landscaping (if you can call edible landscaping “traditional”), he probably envisions tucking in a few grape vines over a patio or perhaps growing some rainbow chard alongside the impatiens in a front planter.
When Michael Judd envisions edible landscaping, he thinks about rainwater harvesting, herb spirals, hugelkultur and rare fruit crops.
I like this focus and I particularly appreciated him including mushroom cultivation in his garden ideas. I’d never thought about including fungi in an edible landscaping; however, it is more than possible as illustrated in this book.
On the downside, this isn’t a particularly hefty release. There are a good number of pretty photos, along with some solid projects; however, the hardcore landscaper or gardener may be left wanting more. Edible Landscaping With a Permaculture Twist is fun, but it’s not in the same league as, say John Jeavon’s highly researched “Grow More Vegetables” or Toby Hemenway’s thought-provoking book Gaia’s Garden.
If you’re new to edible landscaping, permaculture or both, this is a worthwhile read. It’s also just a fun way to while away an afternoon, since Judd’s enthusiasm for his projects is rather catching. It might also make a good gift for someone you’re hoping to convert to a more prepared mindset. Getting people to jump into gardening as if it will save their life – which it possible will one day – isn’t easy. This may be a good gateway gardening book to get them thinking differently.
(NOTE: Our audiobook Survival Gardening Secrets is a really good start-to-finish guide to surviving a crash – or an epidemic – by growing your own food in the absence of chemical fertilizers or even gasoline. We highly recommend you pick up a copy.)
Maybe this book will even let them appreciate your “healthy ecosystem” a little more.