Our community is putting in a demonstration community garden to encourage people to grow food. Well, the first thing off the top of my head was “make it beautiful.” Yep, make the garden so beautiful people will be inspired to start growing more edibles. The old days of putting a kitchen garden at the back of the lot is not the way to grow food in urban areas.
We lack space and want to hang out in our gardens, so we have to MIX it up and get a bit creative.Make our kitchen gardens part of our landscape! Why can’t they just BE the landscape in our cities?
How does one do that?
Start with Garden Bones!
There is no “one” way, but there is certain Garden Bones that need to be present. I have found over the years, if I had to pick one person to help me design a great edible community garden it would be “Rosalind Creasy” the Queen of Edible landscaping!
“As far back as 1970, Rosalind Creasy was a pioneer in the field of edible landscaping. Her work has since revolutionized the way that many of us think about gardening. Cooking from the garden, eating organic, and eating fresh are all possible and not as hard as you might think.
Rosalind Creasy has been doing this for at least 40 yrs!!
Way before all these urban “coined” terms were up and running, she was ahead of the times with growing food on city lots in the 70’s. Shoot she was doing this before I even finished high school and owned a city lot to attempt edible landscaping!She knows a lot more than I do + I am grateful to her for setting the foundation for some of the stuff that I do on my small city lot. I have found her books very helpful, but I live in zone 5. Our growing area faces harsh winters,which means,I have had to learn how to create my own approach.
On her web site, you can see some of Rosalind’s best tips on making the most of your home garden, along with various recipes and advice.
Rosalind’s new book, Edible Landscaping, was published in November of 2010 and is now in its fourth printing.
Everyone knows; I am not a purist, but this lady hit it “spot on” when it comes to edible landscapes. We don’t have a lot of space in the city, so we have to “integrate” our food growing among our other plants and make it attractive. I use my WHOLE yard to grow food. Her books are a wealth of knowledge, but she does live in paradise-California. They can grow food year round without worrying about snow!
Have you seen the entry way to her home in California?
Her story of how she changed her city lot into an “edible landscape” is inspiring to those of us trying to grow more food on our city lots.Read more about her city garden(here)
If you look at Rosiland Creasy’s Edible Garden it has “GOOD BONES” and that is what makes it so beautiful. What are good Garden bones?
” the key to a successful landscape design isn’t the greenery that catches your eye. It’s the unchanging structural framework that organizes and supports those flowers and shrubs—what are known as the “bones” of a garden. Some of these may be natural—large trees, stone outcroppings, or a pond, for instance. But it’s the constructed, architectural elements—such as walls, fences, patios, pools, pathways, and arbors—that really add definition to an outdoor space and make it useful for everyday activities”
So what about an edible urban garden or designing a demonstration community garden? It needs Good Bones, but they may not be the same as those that you would put in a traditional landscape. An Edible landscape incorporates as many food growing plants as possible on a city lot. The goal is to try and pick those food plants that your family/neighbors /community enjoy eating. Each person will have “likes” and “dislikes” so the idea of a community demonstration garden would be to introduce those that a local homeowner would find useful to grow on their city lot.
If you want to “inspire” people to grow food than you have to make it BEAUTIFUL! Over the years, I have found certain Edible Garden Bones that help make your food growing attractive to your neighbors and family. Here are some that I have found helpful…
GOOD EDIBLE/COMMUNITY GARDEN BONES
1) AN ENTRANCE
The first element a Community Garden site needs is an entrance. I would select a material and stay with it throughout the site. If it were a large site, I would consider more than one entrance. It all depends on the sidewalks or walking areas around the urban location. Let’s say the community garden demonstration site was one big rectangle surrounded by sidewalks, well, I would have three different entrances to show different ways to landscape a front yard or entry to an edible garden.
An arbor may be as simple as 3 pieces of wood or….
Formal with brick paths and edible bushes at the entry (these are not edible in the photo)….Maybe lower bushes if you want to be able to see into the garden but not at ground level….I would replace traditional boxwood with blueberry bushes. Now that would be beautiful in the spring with flowers + in the fall with red leaves.
I could see a community holding a contest to find an artist to create several arbors out of metal! WOW! I sure like this one.
I believe the key would be to have inviting entries to the garden that people would be able to walk through…Possible vines growing on the arbors that are neatly kept each season.
The key is beautiful + inviting
Midwest folks have to start growing edible landscapes of their own! This arbor is simple and inviting. I would use edible bushes on both sides of this arbor.
This photo was taken from “Art of an Entrance” (read more here)
Since this is an urban edible community garden, it needs to have “edibles” in place of these non-natives. The key is to provide an element of mystery at an entrance. You don’t ever want them to see your whole garden when they walk through the door. That is good design. Leave a bit of a mystery, and you will encourage them to return every time. Who said growing food should not have an element of discovery???
You need to mark out your paths and decide where people will walk…..where will your areas be, how will it be divided. It all depends on what you want to grow and showing people how to create paths with recyclable materials is a great way to encourage people not to dump their waste in land fills. The key is to be consistent and use the same materials or ones that work together…
natural garden paths using recycled materials from other sites??
concrete from other sites….. They don’ t have to match and sometimes you can find seconds locally. Who says pavers have to be the same size?
I tend to like the idea of wood chip paths since you would always have an abundance of woodchips from the city + they are good for the soil. Easy to keep the space neat and free of clutter.
3) Raised Beds
A site needs to appear neat since it will be visible to the public, I would utilize raised beds. I am a bit tired of seeing wood boxes as the only alternative for raised beds. Raised beds are anything off the ground. They can be 6 inches or up to your waist on legs! You are growing above ground-seems like a lot of possibilities??????
Raised beds are great for food growing on city lots. Our soil is not often the best so creating raised beds throughout the community garden would be a great way to show how people would be able to grow food on their city lot and amend the soil.
(read more here and watch their video on creating a swale to catch water) Now this is one way to get a site going and harvest water. This would help keep water on the site when it rains!
Old city bricks for raised beds can be used creatively with designs since no one said a raised bed has to be square! I prefer curved lines in gardens since they are more relaxing. I believe it would be interesting to step outside the box and show raised beds “do not” have to be square, 4 x 4 and made of wood.
concrete reused for raised beds
the possibilities with curves is endless + just as long as you can reach across the bed to garden!
Interesting use of metal for raised bed in one city lot…
4) Perennial Plants for Good Bones
Structure when growing season is over or before it begins each season
a) Edible bushes
b) Dwarf Fruit Trees ( I would utilize dwarf since most city lots are unable to have full-grown trees
c) perennial vegetables
Espalier Fruit Trees for Potager Gardens- this is something , I would incorporate and love to learn from someone else in our community!
5) Gathering Place /Socializing Area
There needs to be a gathering place in an urban community garden….or any edible garden. You have to eat!
A place where workshops /lectures could take place possibly by local Master Gardeners or local Gardeners? A place for workers to hang out and rest on work days. Possibly you would have more than one area to gather or socialize during work days….
A Community Garden needs to be a place where people love to gather, learn and grow food. A place that invites you in and a place you want to stay…..Good Garden Bones will make this happen. For more reading on how to create an edible landscape/urban community garden for growing more food (read here)
Laying the path for a great Community Garden was done here in New York back in the 70’s….
“We are now witnessing an amazing convergence between the 1970s-era urban community garden movement pioneered by Liz Christy (read more here about community garden movement) in New York and Alice Waters (read more about Alice here)’pioneering and influential fresh food efforts in the San Francisco Bay Area”
Great ideas never die they just reinvent themselves-don’ t you think?