Open Space notes – Urban Food Forests and Edible Landscaping Around Town

Below are notes from individuals at Transition Goshen’s Open Space event “Expanding the Garden – How can we produce more food in our urban spaces?”

A variety of groups were formed around different topics.  The notes below were submitted  from Laura Bruno who formed the topic.


Group topic: Urban Food Forests and Edible Landscaping Around Town:

  • What areas might be reclaimed for an Urban Food Forest?
  •  How can we overcome resistance from people who don’t view edible landscaping as potentially as (or more) beautiful than “regular” landscaping, corner garden boxes, and lawns?
  •  How can we talk about the concept of an Edible Landscape town or Urban Food Forest to people who may find it foreign, confusing or threatening? There are passionate, real, and sometimes quite legitimate concerns that people may have; how can we bridge the ideology gap to show that creating sustainable towns helps EVERYONE in the town, as well as providing economic and physical security? How can we remove/mitigate the stigma of “sustainable development” and involve more people so that it remains local?

Brownfields in Goshen

Importance of knowing City Ordinances and contacting people like Becky Hershberger the “brownfield coordinator” in Goshen.

Research ways of cleaning up brownfield land faster. Jay apparently knows something about a particular type of fir tree to clean up brown fields, but that discussion occurred in another group. If anyone has more details on that fir species, it would be good info for this project, as well.

Industrial hemp can clean up brown fields, but is currently illegal in the US. (Some states, i.e. Kentucky, are making headway on legalizing industrial hemp, so keep an eye on that as a possibility as well.) Other ways to speed the process of cleaning up brown fields? Clay capping? Would comfrey possibly work, with its deep taproot, or would that be too difficult to replant once the field was clean?

Finding locations for an Urban Food Forest: the old rubber factory field is a brown field, but could it become a park and then turn an existing park on cleaner land into an Urban Food Forest?

The park on 13th, near College, has lots of unused land, some of which could be reclaimed for edible landscaping, fruit trees, fruit bushes, etc.

Another possibility is where the water tower used to be (on 9th between Plymouth and Jackson?)

Help get Master Gardeners involved in designing attractive sidewalk and public/commercial building landscaping that features edible landscaping instead of the usual.

Who would be in charge of maintaining these edible spaces?


Food forests and edibles

Example of an Urban Food Forest in Seattle:

Example of an Edible Landscaping Town:
  Pam Warhurst of Todmorden, TED talk, “How We Can Eat Our Landscapes”

I love their motto, “If you eat, you’re in!” (This may be one way to bridge differing ideologies, in that everyone eats, regardless of world view.)

Some edible plants that are also beautiful and work well in and around other types of landscaping or can be planted as a fully edible landscape:

  • ruby red chard
  • Russian kale
  • some types of cabbage
  • artichokes
  • edible flowers (i.e. nasturtiums, lavender, begonia, calendula)
  • herb gardens can look gorgeous and require little care
  • fruit trees, especially dwarf ones that can be easily picked

Front and backyard gardening

We also had quite a bit of discussion about individuals transforming their own yards and patios into edible landscapes so that we have an example to show people who can’t imagine how this could look beautiful.

When one house on a block starts this sort of project, neighbors begin to pay attention.

Soil improvement and productivity in small space issues:

  • The “A Bit of Earth” column on called “In a Tomato Pinch, a Turn to Double Digging” describes how to “double dig”.
  • Square Foot Gardening in raised beds using 1/3 each of peat moss, vermiculite and compost. There are books, websites and instructors available.
  • Cubic Foot Gardening using tiered, round raised beds called InstaBed. This is the step beyond SFG. The beds are recycled black plant holder plastic, in order to heat the soil more, thereby extending the growing season on either end of the traditional garden season. (These are new. I will be beta-testing three this year. I like the idea of the black extending the season, and round, tiered structures improve possible yields, but these are not as aesthetic looking as lovely wooden raised beds. On the other hand, they will last decades rather than only a few years. I’m exploring ways to incorporate maximum productivity into something beautiful, also using permaculture principles from “Gaia’s Garden.” Ideas include having lots of flowers in the ground near the beds, eventually planting fruit trees, mulching paths, etc.)
  •  “Four Season Harvest” is a book that details how to succession plant crops, including cold hardy heirloom varieties for constant harvesting even in winter. (Would need a cold frame hoop or unheated greenhouse.)
  • We discussed wood mulch deliveries from tree cutters. If you plant medicinal herbs, wildflowers and edible landscapes and use mulch to set off those plants, it looks more purposeful than just a “weedy” yard.
  •  Various people in our group decided to get together in the future to show each other our gardens, yards, plans, etc. We also spoke of joint projects–neighbors helping each other with the bigger pushes in exchange for return help at another time. We determined that creating our spaces as examples to show the city might make for less resistance in getting more public spaces switched over to edible landscaping.


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