Often, we think of landscaping and food gardening as two different activities. However, to the creative gardener, there is plenty of room for overlap. There are a great many lovely plants that also happen to be edible.
As you plan your yard this spring, and consider what to plant, consider edible landscaping. Here are some ideas:
Many of us know that dandelion leaves can make a great addition to a salad. Unfortunately, no matter how pretty your kids think dandelions are, they aren’t considered a viable part of a good-looking landscape. But there are plenty of other edible flowering plants you can use. Some of my favorites include basil, thyme, chives, coriander and rosemary, which are herbs (and I like to dry for use during the winter).
Other options include carnation, borage, fennel, rose hips, violas, nasturtiums, and some varieties of geranium (not all). I also like growing Russian sage. It smells good and looks distinctive. However, it’s important to note that the leaves aren’t edible, while the flowers are.
Edging and Ground Cover
The smaller herbs also make great ground covers and edging plants. Thyme is especially useful as a ground cover, as is oregano and chamomile. I also like using strawberries. They make great ground cover, and the flowers are pretty and the berries delicious. Plus, the color change in the leaves makes strawberries a fun ground cover during the fall. Lingonberries also make for good ground cover. Sweet potatoes can also provide attractive ground cover (lovely flowers and ivy-like leaves), and the leaves are also edible.
Rhubarb (if you like that sort of thing) can also make a great edging plant. Lettuce is also a good edging plant. There are many different varieties of lettuce; choose those that are red, purple, or deep green. These varieties of lettuce look pretty, and have more nutrients than the iceberg lettuce.
Other edging choices can include cauliflower, garlic, turnips, and beans. It you want, you can even plant red or purple cabbage to add a dramatic look to your landscaping.
Adding a trellis to your yard can be a pretty touch. Rather than planting mainly decorative plants, though, think about how you can use vining plants. Many varieties of peas and beans have beautiful leaves and vines, and will grow on a trellis. Interestingly, you can also get cucumbers, some melons, and some varieties of squash to grow vertically, and these can add a great deal to your lanscape.
Our neighbors across the street are growing raspberries as a privacy hedge, rather than building a fence. You can use such fruiting bushes as a privacy planting. As long as you keep them trimmed properly, raspberries and blackberries (watch out; raspberries and blackberries can poison each other) can make great — and tasty — fences. Your neighbors probably won’t mind as long as they can harvest the fruit on their side.
When planning your landscape, think about edible plants. There are plenty of edible plants, as well as fruits and vegetables that are attractive. Plan your landscape as a garden, and you’ll save money and eat well.
Although visitors are drawn to Australia for its natural beauty and stunning array of wildlife, the majority of its residents live in urban areas. Nearly 90% of its residents live in cities, mainly along the coastlines of this massive country. To combat population growth in urban areas and improve quality of life, many of Australia’s cities have excellent sustainability programs in place. The following are a few of the most green-friendly cities.
The city of Darwin was named Australia’s most sustainable city in 2010 by the Australian Conservation Foundation. It is ranked particularly high in the areas of biodiversity and air quality, with its abundance of parkland and protected national parks in the region. The city has a Climate Change Action Plan in place, which has made renewable energy a high priority for residents. The Shoal Bay Waste Disposal Site is a project that uses waste to produce methane gas. Currently this site is responsible for providing power via the Darwin Renewable Energy Facility to 1,000 local homes.
There are numerous projects in place in Brisbane to improve the city’s sustainability ratings. The CitySmart agency was created to develop and implement these various projects for the benefit of city residents. An electric car charging station has been added to the King George Square car park as a pilot project to gather more information about electric vehicle usage. One of the most effective programs in place is the EzyGreen Energy Reduction Program, which makes it easier for residents to make their homes more efficient. Currently 52,000 residents are enrolled in this program, which provides competitively priced solar power systems and vouchers for energy-efficient appliances. Those looking at Brisbane properties using listings sites such as homesales.com.au can therefore upgrade their homes at low cost to keep in line with the city’s push for greater sustainability.
Tasmania’s capital city also encourages homeowners to make their residence more energy efficient. They offer a solar and heat pump hot water rebate, giving homeowners incentive to install solar power hot water systems. An insulation rebate and energy efficient development rebate offer further financial incentive to construct and maintain homes that meet the latest energy efficiency standards. The possibility of a local, government-owned wind farm is also being debated and the city has a comprehensive recycling program. Hobart residents can also purchase compost bins and worm farms from the city, at a low cost to encourage the reduction of food waste.
One of the recent contenders that have come up to become a centre of sustainability in Australia is Adelaide. The city is just beginning a major 30-year overhaul to improve the quality of life, including the use of free space in the centre to be used for new green construction and parks. The city has also launched the world’s first solar-powered electric bus, called the Tindo. This public transportation project relies on 100% solar power, and is free of charge within the city centre. Another project of interest is Christie Walk, an architectural project that is meant to showcase the possibility of creating a fully sustainable neighbourhood. All of the houses in Christie Walk are created from green building materials and have shared outdoor spaces.
Overall, Australia’s cities have made it a priority to combat climate change and encourage greater levels of sustainability. Further strides can be expected in the future, as new technologies are embraced.
One day, a couple of years ago, as my son and I headed home from whatever appointment we had, we saw someone toss a can out the window.
“That’s not good for the environment, mom,” he said. “We should go pick that up.”
What could I do? I want to teach my son to live a little more sustainably, and to try to take good care of the environment, so I pulled the car over and we picked up the trash. I was proud of my son, and, I have to admit, I did give myself a pat on the back for teaching him to be aware of the environment — and to take action. (As a parent, you rarely feel like you can say, “Hey! I’m a good mom!” You take it when you can get it.)
As you try to get your child to use public transit and turn off the water while brushing his or her teeth, here are 4 tips you can use as you attempt to instill more sustainable behaviors:
1. Set a Good Example
The number one tip for teaching your child anything is to do it yourself. Let your child see that you turn off the water when you brush your teeth. When possible, do you bike to work? Do you sort your recyclables rather than getting lazy and just tossing it all into the trash? When your child sees you doing the things you are trying to teach, he or she is more likely to follow suit.
2. Make it Fun
My son is a 10 year old boy. For him, there are few things cooler than riding the bus or the train. Especially the train. My son thinks mass transit is awesome, and I try to make it part of what we do. But there are other ways to help your children decide that sustainable living is fun. Make it a game to sort the recyclables. You can even make it a family game to see how much water you can conserve, or whether you can lower the electricity bill each month.
3. Do Things Together
Yes, it’s much easier just to weed the garden yourself. It’s probably faster, too. However, your child will have more fun with your attempts to live a more sustainable lifestyle if you do things together. When I take our glass to the recycling center, I bring my son. It would be faster to do it myself, while he’s at school, but he likes to feel involved.
Plus, actually letting your child participate helps build good habits. Get your child in the habit of gardening, recycling, and engaging in other sustainable habits with you, and he or she will be more likely to want to do them as adults.
4. Explain Your Actions
Give age appropriate explanations for your actions. Many children want to know why they are doing something. If you can provide a reason, many of them are very interested in falling in line. As best you can, explain why it helps the environment when you walk or take the bus instead of drive your car. There are educational resources that can show children how recycling works.
And, of course, you can explain your purchasing behaviors (or lack of consumer behaviors) to your child, emphasizing the importance of doing your best to be sustainable. When your child sees that you take an interest in sustainable living, and knows why it is important, he or she will be likely to join in — and learn those practices as well.
Many of us like to think that we are “being green” and living in a sustainable manner. However, just because something is considered “green,” doesn’t mean that it is sustainable. There is a bit of a difference between green and sustainability.
Understanding that difference can help you recognize that some of your choices may not be completely sustainable, and help you work toward living in a way that is a little more sustainable.
What is Green?
A “green” product is often one that is labeled that for marketing purposes. These are products that may help you reduce your impact on the environment, but they may not actually be sustainable. A good example is the use of paper products from recycled materials. These are green, in that they come from already-used sources, and they might reduce your impact on the environment, but they aren’t actually very sustainable since most paper products are still meant to be disposable.
There are a number of green options out there that help you reduce your daily impact on the environment, from the type of car you drive to the products you use in your home.
How Do You Live Sustainably?
Even though you might make a green choice, you might not be living sustainably. Sustainability is about ensuring that your lifestyle is capable of supporting itself without depleting resources. Sustainable products come from completely renewable sources, or from resources that are harvested in a way that doesn’t permanently damage the surrounding ecosystem.
Living sustainably means looking at the total impact that something has on the environment. Where do the materials come from? How is the product transported to the store where you buy it? Can the resources be replenished later? What sort of resources are you using up in order to keep the product functioning?
One of the interesting paradoxes in green vs. sustainable is the plug-in electric car or hybrid car. Such a car is green from the standpoint that it doesn’t directly pollute the air as much. The electric motor means emissions are cut. However, you have to reconsider the actual sustainability. The car might be partially made from eco-friendly materials, with eco-friendly processes, but how was it shipped to the dealership? And, when you plug in the car, is the electricity used to power it coming from a coal-fired electric plant?
In many cases, a green option may not be completely sustainable. Instead, you might find that there are still resources being depleted, and not replaced, even though the impact might be less than what would be seen with a “non-green” option. Many people use freecycling or shop at thrift stores in order to help increase their sustainability, and avoid using up more resources.
The Reality of Sustainable Living
Most of us find it difficult to live completely sustainable lives. Even though I try to reduce my overall impact on the environment, I am aware that my lifestyle isn’t totally sustainable. I use products that make uses of non-renewable resources, and sometimes my choices have an impact, even though I try to offset them, and I do take some steps to live in a more sustainable manner.
What do you think? Is it possible to live a sustainable lifestyle?