Emily Tepe, University of Minnesota Research Fellow, Department of Horticultural Science
After many weeks of harvesting mountains of chard, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, cucumbers, raspberries and a multitude of other vegetables, fruits and herbs, the University of Minnesota Edible Landscape has been put to bed. Well...almost. The few lone stands of silvery blue kale seem to mock the cold, their leathery leaves sweetening with each frosty night. And many of the herbs are even holding onto their green. Other than those, the Edible Landscape is now resting after a long and productive season.
If you haven't had a chance to see the gardens on the St. Paul campus this year, and if you haven't been following the Edible Landscape blog, here's a rundown of some of the details of the project. The Edible Landscape filled four beds outside the Plant Growth Facilities on Gortner Ave. The 1500 square foot garden was comprised of 75 varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers. The garden was designed to emphasize the ornamental qualities of edible plants, and demonstrate how these plants might be incorporated into the home landscape in creative, attractive ways. Most of the ornamentals, herbs and warm season crops were started from seed in the greenhouse during the winter months. Others, such as chard, kale, summer and winter squash, melon, lettuces and radishes were direct seeded throughout the season. By mid-October, almost 500 pounds of produce had been harvested from the Edible Landscape and shared with students, faculty and staff in the Department of Horticultural Science.
After cleaning all the annuals out of the garden (which were then composted), winter rye seed was raked into the beds for a winter cover crop. It may sound strange to think of cover crops in a home gardening demonstration. After all, we normally think of cover crops being used on acres of land, not in the backyard. But cover crops in the home garden can offer great benefits such as weed suppression, erosion control, increased microbial activity and moisture retention, just to name a few. You can read about Green Manure Cover Crops for Minnesota on the U of MN Extension Website.
If the idea of edible landscaping sounds intriguing, or if you would simply like to learn more about this project, visit the Edible Landscape blog. The entire season was documented on the blog, which is filled with photos, design ideas, plant lists, growing information and more. Now that the harvests have finished, and the season is being evaluated, there will be more discussions on the blog about plant combinations that worked well, successful varieties, and lessons learned. Read, learn, share and join the discussion.