By Suzanne Vanderhoef
Along a quiet street of well-manicured homes in Webster Groves, one house stands out. At first glimpse, it looks like it’s just an overgrown yard…but look closer and you’ll see that it’s actually part of a growing trend called “Foodscaping”.
Foodscaping is similar to landscaping. However, the focus is on growing native plants that are edible or have medicinal uses. For example, instead of planting things like boxwoods and hydrangeas, foodscaping would replace those plants with vegetation like pie cherry trees or blueberry bushes.
And people who have converted to foodscaped yards say home-grown foods not only taste better, if you plan it right, you can enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables all year long.
“Yeah, sure, you can go buy a tomato in January in St. Louis, but it’s not going to taste like my tomatoes, fresh off the vine in July,” says Dr. Rebecca Chibnall, Physician and Foodscaping Home Owner. “I garden in all four seasons. This behind you here is something called a cold frame, so right now I have cherry tomatoes and Roma tomatoes planted here, but this weekend I also put some leaf lettuce in and what I’ll do is put a cover over this this winter and, because it’s got this nice south facing sun, I’ll be able to grow lettuce all throughout the winter and we’ll have fresh salad all throughout the winter.”
As a physician, Dr. Chibnall says that in addition to the taste, there are also definite health benefits of eating food you grow yourself, both physically and mentally.
“The mental health benefits that I get from this garden are, I think, the biggest benefits that I get from it so, I always say that my favorite way to come in from work is to park my car, come into the garden, harvest a few things, get my hands a little dirty, and then go inside,” explains Chibnall. Even just having that walk through the garden and that sense of peace and saying, oh, that’s almost ready for harvesting, or wow, that bloomed or oh my gosh, look at all the pollinators here, that is such a rewarding feeling, knowing that I planted this and I helped it grow.”
Part of foodscaping is also trying to change the culture around grass and its effect on the environment.
And, as the Chibnall family found out, not having a grass-covered front lawn has one more benefit.
“I think people would be surprised how nice it is to not mow a lawn. My husband, at this point is the one who mows the grass. I do all the gardening, he mows the grass and he’s really excited for us to have absolutely no grass in the front yard very soon. We always say, you can’t eat the grass, so we want to have everything in the front yard be edible.”