Residential Design

8 Reasons to Create a Food Garden

Here are some top reasons for creating a sustainable and low maintenance food garden. Residential food gardens—in cities, suburbs or rural areas—continue to be a highly popular landscape element among consumers, according to a survey of residential trends by the American Society of Landscape Architects. 

1. Be environmentally friendly. Food gardens can be easy, rewarding, and sustainable. For starters, don’t spend a dime on mulch when you can reuse your leftover leaves from the fall. Additionally, grass clippings from other parts of your yard make an excellent weed suppressant.

Grass

2. Improve food security. Residential food gardens connects us to our food system and nourishes our community’s wellbeing and security. Just by planting tomatoes and other produce, residents can improve their food security. Growing food in community gardens increases social cohesion and resiliency.

FoodSecurity
2012 ASLA Honor Award, Productive Neighborhoods: A Case Study Based Exploration of Seattle Urban Agriculture Projects, Berger Partnership / image: Berger Partnership

3. Spread low-maintenance plants. Many classic vegetables like tomatoes must be started from seeds. However, perennial plants offer a lower-maintenance alternative and come back every year. Some great examples include asparagus, especially the purple passion variety, as well as blueberry bushes, blackberries, and rhubarb.

Berries

4. Add flavor to your meals. Herbs can make for an especially sustainable food garden, as many prefer hot and dry areas of your yard. Chives, sage, and tarragon will return every year. A great idea is to explore the many varieties of mint, like chocolate, marshmallow, and fruit salad, which carry flavors that match their names.

Potatoes

5. Build new connections to the land. Give people, especially children, a connection to the land that is missing in many urban areas. People of diverse cultural backgrounds in U.S. cities are developing a common bond to land and agriculture. Growing food is an opportunity for younger generations to awaken to food issues.

New Connections
2010 Professional Honor Award, Rooftop Haven for Urban Agriculture, Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects / Scott Shigley

6. Regenerate brownfields. Providing a positive use for neglected or underutilized areas, especially in brownfields, which are abandoned, environmentally contaminated industrial or commercial sites. Remember to test your site for residual soil toxicity before you plant. If the soil is toxic, your options include planting above the soil or bringing in new soil. Mushrooms and other plants are also known to remove pollutants. 

Cully
NE 72 Ave Community Garden, Portland / Rebecca Wahlstrom, ASLA, The Landscape Architect’s Guide to Portland, Oregon

7. Empower your community. Show people that growing food is possible and that new forms of community can come out of this, as you share your produce with neighbors. People growing food find have improved access to healthy food (it’s right at home!); help create new public spaces in neighborhoods, and get exercise and therapeutic benefits from being outside socializing. Growing food is also a potential source of income.

Empower
2012 ASLA Award of Excellence, Drs. Julian and Raye Richardson Apartments, Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture / image: Bruce Damonte

8. Show urban leaders growing food at home makes sense in cities, too. While growing food at home breaks the law in many U.S. cities, innovators like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and smaller cities like Madison, Wisconsin, are now changing regulations to accommodate the growing numbers of urban farmers. In those communities, many types of private and public spaces -- front and backyards, courtyards in multi-family complexes, abandoned lots, and building rooftops -- can now be legally transformed from unproductive spaces into low-cost sources of nutrition.

UrbanLeaders
2014 ASLA Honor Award, City House in a Garden, McKay Landscape Architects / image: Linda Oyama Bryan

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