Nov 09 – Edible Landscapes
How the month goes by, it seems I was just finishing October’s editorial a couple weeks ago, and now it’s time to focus on November’s. Before we launch into November’s, I have a few comments. I’m sure you can agree that the buzz words of our day are green, sustainability, self sufficiency and reducing carbon footprints; in fact our future jobs (according to economists) will be jobs that have to do with water, organic food and energy. With that in mind, where is landscaping, what role does it play? Well nothing is greener, or aids in reducing man’s carbon footprint more than plants and trees. They filter the air returning oxygen back to it via photosynthesis; and what is more sustainable than the plant life that grows all around us. We enjoy the native oak hopefully the landscapes that we have in our own yards. They require some care and time, but are great givers in return with their gorgeous flowers, fall color, and shade in the summer. They refresh us spiritually, mentally and emotionally, many times subconsciously. They can also have the opposite effect. Often I hear the comments, “We do not go out in our backyard, or stay out front visiting because our front is embarrassing, or the back yard is not inviting” or I notice that the blinds are drawn because the yard is depressing or frustrating (these are my current clients exact words). This makes me sad. Though I understand, it makes me all the more determined to create a landscape of beauty. Last comment/concern, because our editorials are spread over months, there may be a sense that the information is “disjointed;” please, please, please visit our website to see the order of the publications, and benefit from them. There is a sequence, and reason for the order of the topics. My goal is to give us the knowledge and skill to work in the yard, so that we enjoy it, and benefit from it. So with that, let’s talk about edible landscapes.
Edible landscapes, sound trendy, practical, definitely environmentally conscious, but do we understand the term? With me being in the field, I understand what the term means, and it is a growing movement. It is having a portion of your available landscape space dedicated to a vegetable garden, fruit and/or citrus trees, or having them interspersed among your landscape, whether in the ground or in pots, always being mindful of their full light requirements (preferably 7 hrs. or more). It is the overall concept that your yard produces food crops that you benefit from and enjoy; that we are not completely reliant on the grocery store for our needs. This is not new, our grandparents had orange trees, peach trees, etc. and a garden. It is something that we are returning to. Some articles even mention that certain cities are allowing people to raise chickens (for eggs). I actually did that in High School (not for eggs), raised a 100 fryers, brought 75 to maturity and…I will not finish the rest of the story for those of you with sensitive stomachs. Needless to say after that project, I was ready to raise plants; I didn’t care if my buddies thought it was a “girlie” thing to do. So here I am, a landscaper, all because of a 100 chickens.
So with respect to our topic, what is special about these months? Winter is when fruit trees and certain shrubs go deciduous (go to sleep). Typically they can be purchased either in cardboard pots or “ball and burlap,” usually for less than the same planting in the summer, and you get more plant for the money. A note on plant in cardboard pots, leave the pot on, but slice around the pot BEFORE planting it so the roots can easily make their way through (the pot will decompose). With plants wrapped in burlap, dig the hole and put the plant in, THEN loosen the twine from around the base of the plant. If you loosen the twine first, you run the risk of the root ball coming apart, damaging the plant. So these coming months are a great time to consider converting specific areas of your yard (typically south or west exposures) for some edible landscaping. This might mean you may have to remove some existing landscape, or as mentioned, consider buying dwarf fruit/citrus trees and planting them in pots (protect citrus from frost or wait till Spring). A word of caution on pots, they are trendy, attractive etc., but the drainage from the pots is not. The drain water can stain the cement and can be a slip hazard, especially if your patio is level, the water just sits there till it evaporates. I have tried all kinds of saucers to deal with drainage run-off with no success. The only thing that has worked for me is to actually drill into the cement (you will need to rent an impact drill and cement bit) and drill a grouping of several holes (3 to 5, about 1/3 inch) in line with the drain hole of the pot. Once the pot is in position, take a sealant (adhesive silicone for cement, and preferably clear) and go around the base so the water is forced to go into the drain holes (if anyone has had success using a different method, please let me know). Sounds like a hassle, and it is a little, but in the long run if garden space is limited, it is truly worth it. Also, remember that the pots will need some drip irrigation, or you will need to hose water them daily in the summer months. The plants do very well in a pot mix of 40% topsoil, with 60% garden mix. I do not recommend 100% garden mix because of its limited ability to hold moisture and nutrients. Especially in the summer months, you need the topsoil in the mix to retain moisture and act as a heat buffer (ceramic pots, especially dark glazed ones can get hot radiating the heat into the soil). Last instructions, drainage though a problem for cement finishes is critical for the plant. If a pot does not drain or does not drain adequately enough, the trapped water will sour the soil, and the plant will die. It is crucial to put 1 1/2″ to 2″ thick of 1/2″ (approx.) drain rock in the base of the pot (for 15/g and above use 2″), cover it over with a DOUBLE layer of weedblock (landscape fabric) and then add your soil mixture. The weedblock will keep the soil from mixing with the rock, and allow the pot to drain freely, the tree will love you. Now I wish I could recommend the best peach tree for an area that has less than 7 hours of light, or the best squash that is the most aphid resistant, (if there is such a plant) or the best organic spray that has the longest residual, but believe it or not, I can’t. My personal knowledge in agriculture is limited, or to be politically correct, “challenged.” I plan to take classes this winter so I can help you with the challenges of gardening; I want gardening to be enjoyable. I know I was thoroughly enjoying it until the aphids came, and then it was WAR! (and out went the fun). None of the organic sprays available really did the job; the aphids were back the following week. So I want to learn, to become as knowledgeable in agriculture as I am in ornamental horticulture/landscaping. If any of you have knowledge in this area, let me buy lunch and come pre- pared, because I have LOTS of questions.
Last note, thank you all so much for the steady work we have enjoyed throughout the year. At certain times in the year I know I have dropped the ball in getting back to some of you, and I am truly sorry (feel free to send me an email saying, “Did you get lost?” I’ll probably say yes and thank you for the reminder). If you have not read October’s article, “Planting Seasons” please do, it will surprise you.
The editorial in December is going to be of a different nature; actually it will be the most important one that I write, so please get the publication, or as mentioned, you can always go to my website. Winter is deciduous tree and rose pruning months, as well as dormant spray on fruit trees. For the garden you should be planting your cold hardy vegetables, such as lettuce, Swiss chard, arugula, cabbage and don’t forget carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and green onion; and for early Spring color bulbs in key color areas of the yard, or in pots. Make sure you follow the directions on depth of planting, and bottom down. So now as always, thank you for your time, and good gardening!
If you need help, please call Executive Care Landscape Management, Inc. at (916) 765-9040.
Executive Care Landscape Management, Inc. is a local full service landscape design/install and maintenance company.
As a Fine Artist creates beauty on a canvas, we bring design, beauty and functionality to the canvas of the earth.
Call us today for a Consultation
Arthur Navarrette, President