I started writing this before the current “shelter in place” recommendations/restrictions, it seems that my practicality might come in handy for other reasons.
If you have space, consider planting something you can eat.
Last weekend I planted an avocado tree.
I felt strange on a Saturday afternoon in my neighborhood, no one is outside, even though the weather is a perfect 70 degrees F. I’m removing some of our lawn and digging a hole.
I guess this is what our busy lives have come too. We don’t have time or don’t want to get our hands dirty.
In my suburban subdivision, almost everyone has a gardener, even we do. They take care of the grass, and a few rose bushes, which is all that remains of my “regular” front yard.
Most of the neighbors keep a well-manicured lawn, a tree and some shrubs to give their front yard some texture. Given that I live in the drought-ridden West, a few have let their lawns go dry or opted for a rock-filled xeriscape.
But I have decided to plant fruits and vegetables in my yard.
Today it’s an avocado tree that I have grown from the pit of the fruit that I ate over four years ago. It started as a demonstration for my son on the life cycle of plants and my curiosity about how living things refuse to die.
I gave it soil after about six months and then let it outside, where it shot up. I have nurtured this baby, making sure it had enough sunlight, water, and protection from the cold. I have transplanted it twice more, but now standing 6 feet tall, it has let me know it would be happier in the ground with real space to spread its roots.
The project has made me think about myself in ways that I never have before.
Last week, avocados were on sale for a dollar each, which made me question my motivations for this project with each scoop of dirt.
I’m not growing my food to save money, that’s for sure.
I have started slow, with a few tomato, cucumber, or pepper plants in the backyard each summer. I moved up to trees, planting a mandarin, a lemon, and a lime.
When my regular garden space was full, I pulled out the shrubs in the front yard and planted blueberries in their place. A year ago, we had a tree fall, and I replaced it with an apricot. Last winter, I did my first extraction of lawn and put in a strawberry patch, then this year, I planted a pomegranate tree.
Recognize where your to-do list overlaps
Edible landscaping seems to be the logical choice.
I want to eat fruits and vegetables.
I buy them at the store or the farmers market.
I want to grow things in my yard to make the house look beautiful.
I’m going to water something in my yard.
Therefore, growing fruit and vegetables seems to be the next step.
The extra benefits of growing your food.
In addition to landscaping my home and having fruit and vegetables to eat, I get several added benefits:
Exercise (replaces the gym)
Time spent outside (gives you forest bathing)
Being in touch with the seasons (added science education)
Getting to learn to deal with the unpredictability of nature (stoicism)
And don’t forget everyone’s favorite…
Time to dig in the dirt (mediation).
I’m not abandoning grass, we have dogs and a kid, and it’s nice to sit on, and it holds down the dirt from erosion. But when I see landscaping, I keep asking myself, why don’t people plant something you can eat.
There are even many plants that look like shrubs, except that they make edible treats, like blueberries, or lemongrass, or oregano.
Take care of your personal growth.
Growing edible plants will teach you about your life. If a plant dies or doesn’t produce fruit, you learn that it isn’t the end of the world. It doesn’t mean that you are bad at growing plants. You will discover that there are other factors out of your control.
I have no experience planting fruit trees and taking care of them. But the internet is here to help.
And, one of the best parts about nature is its desire to keep on going even against our efforts.
And hopefully, if it takes us time to learn, we can pick up what we need at the grocery store. (Or we might become quick learners.)
Why isn’t everyone doing this?
Julie Moreno is a chef and writer, now trying to get more people to cook their own food and understand where it comes from. She lives in the middle of California, where she’s learning to landscape with fruits and vegetables. Find her blog at The Wooden Cutting Board on Twitter @juliehouse and Facebook @thewoodencuttingboard