The more I’ve read about home food growing, the more I’ve wanted to see how other people organize their gardens. What planting styles do they choose—grids, free-flowing patterns, berms? How do you keep track of which crops to rotate? What kinds of crops do other people interplant? How do you attract beneficial insects? How do you integrate structures like a compost pile or a chicken coop? What if you're gardening in shade, or in your front yard? Most gardening books have a yard plan or two to show an example of what to grow, but I wanted more— I wanted variety.
That’s why I was ecstatic when I pulled this brightly-colored book off the shelf at the library. Groundbreaking Food Gardens: 73 Plans That Will Change the Way You Garden, compiled by four-season gardener Niki Jabbour, was everything I wanted, and more. Illustrations showing the aesthetic of each garden? Check. Detailed maps showing the layout and the specific crop varieties? Check. A wide variety of gardens, ranging in size from hanging gutters and potted patio plants to a traditional Victory Garden and a half-acre spread, and in region from Alaska to Florida? Check and check! This book not only gives practical advice for making each kind of garden work, but also is designed to inspire the readers to reconsider what an edible garden looks like.
As I’m planning to tear up more front lawn next year, I’ve been perusing these pages, making notes and thinking of which design elements and crop varieties I want to include. Do I want to rig up a “comfrey tower” to make compost tea from this fast-growing weed? Should I line the front of the yard with highbush blueberries, due to their aesthetically pleasing foliage? How about potting a fig tree and hibernating it in the garage over the winter? Or growing hops on a trellis? Or building a potato garden out of cinderblocks? The book has sparked my imagination, helping me picture the possibilities.
If you’re interested in any kind of edible gardening, I highly recommend checking out this book— it’s a fun and beautiful collection of ideas to help gardeners think outside the vegetable patch.