Guest Post by Ivette Soler, the Germinatrix
Growing food is obviously a GREAT thing to do. And more of us are doing it – not only doing it, but doing it really well. We are an informed group of food growers. We grow organic. We hate Big Ag, we are vehemently against Monsanto (Hiss! Boo!). We spread the word, hoping that others will grow food, too – even if they do it on a small scale, on a windowsill or porch, it counts! We want others to jump on board, we want converts to the cause! We KNOW we are doing the right thing; for ourselves, our families, our planet. We are hardcore. We Grow Food.
I recently wrote a book, just published by Timber Press – “The Edible Front Yard”. It is part manifesto, part design primer, and a lot of how-to. I make no apologies for the fact that it is largely about DESIGN. Edible Garden Design, which many think is an oxymoron.
The other day I was signing books at an event where incredible tomato varieties were being sold (I came home with a buttload of fantastic starts!), and in addition to the enthusiasm people had for the ideas in the book, there was something else I heard over and over, and it started to rankle: “I don’t grow anything I can’t eat.” This statement was usually accompanied by a grunt and a proud swagger as they strode off to get to the serious stuff – buying their tomatoes. No time for some lady going on about the way things LOOK.
HEY!!! Wait a minute! I grow food. I am hardcore! But I am also a proud GARDENER. I love plants – I am mad about them; somewhat obsessed, as a matter of fact. I love the sensual pleasure of glorious, well thought-out plantings. The intoxicating smells of Cleveland sage, brugmansia, orange blossoms; the amazing sight of my Beschornia blooming – its enormous flower bud rearing its head like a strange monster; the felty softness of lambs ears and peppermint scented geraniums … I live for these pleasures. They feed me like the food I grow feeds me – my heart sings every time I set foot outside and experience the wonder of this garden I made.
I want my food, but I want it pretty. I don’t see what the problem could possibly be with that. I like my edibles integrated with other plants that have the visual interest and strength to support my food during the growing season and beyond – but that’s just how I roll.
Does this make me a sissy? Are my priorities out of whack? Am I not using my land well if I plant ornamentals alongside my edibles to help integrate them into a landscape that is as beautiful as it is productive? And is it wrong to suggest to others who grow food in the visually public space that is the front yard that they think about the aesthetics of their edible garden as well as its cultural health and potential harvest? We are up in arms when HOAs refuse to let their stakeholders plant edible gardens in front yards, but when a solution is offered – to make those gardens neat and visually appealing, to make certain that maintenance is taken care of, and to take care to create a garden that spans the seasons, we STILL manage to have a problem with that. Sigh!
Oh – I forgot. You don’t plant anything you can’t eat. My bad.
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