Edible landscapesNovember 23, 2008
Value for landscape
|Edible landscaping can transform a non-functional water guzzling landscape into a functional, bountiful one|
Need of the hour: Every city must have such spaces
Conventionally, landscapes have meant large grass lawns with a few plants thrown in to cater to an aesthetic sensibility which assumes that the front of the office or an industry or around apartments should look a certain way. Huge amounts of water are then thrown to keep this grass green and especially in summer time the amount of water use increases dramatically. It may take 10 litres of water per square metre or more to cope with bad sprinkler systems and evapo-transpir ation. A gardener is then appointed to take care of this landscape and usually he takes care of one acre of land.
Choosing the right palate of plants, typically native species, usually results in a more water-efficient landscape. The use of water-spreading devices such as sprinklers, micro-sprinklers and drip irrigation systems is also one method of water conservation and water efficiency. The more environmentally aware people and institutions put in place waste water treatment systems to reuse water for landscape purpose. This reduces or eliminates the use of scarce fresh water resources for essentially a non-potable secondary use.
Xeriscaping is one other method where plants such as xerophytes attuned to arid climatic conditions are used to make do with low amounts of water. Plants such as bougainvillea have also been used in water-efficient landscapes to add water efficiency, low maintenance and colour to the landscapes.
Speciality of growing ragi
One form of landscaping which can add value in an era of water, food and fertilizer scarcity is edible landscaping. Imagine a landscape of an acre with Bermuda or Mexican grass. Suppose this was to be converted to a ‘ragi’ (finger millet) field, the same area could generate 8,000 to 10,000 kg. of ragi or millet every year. This is an edible landscape. If one has surplus treated wastewater and a zero discharge policy, then it would be possible to grow rice.
Water is fast becoming a scarce resource. Food too is becoming costly. Many people are paying attention to the ‘virtual water’ embedded in food. If a kilogramme of rice has to be grown, it needs 3000 litres of water or more. Most institutions have canteens and need vegetables and grains. Apartments too have families and kitchens. The virtual water flow through these spaces is very high. An edible landscape would provide fresh food, vegetables and grains with the same water demand as for a normal landscape or perhaps less and with the same number of person hours.
Edible landscapes also bring inhabitants with the cycle of nature and the seasons. The month in which ragi or rice has to be planted, the months required for the plants to mature, the system of harvesting and threshing all these are on constant display and are an education to an urban populace not necessarily familiar with how their food is grown.
Gardeners employed from a rural background are usually familiar with edible landscapes and more so with the growing of grains and fruit trees and vegetables than with grass. Imagine your own freshly grown vegetables and fruits, organic to boot, taking care of your wastewater and compost on site and converting vacant spaces and gardens into fields and fruit bowls. Medicinal, aromatic and herbal plants can also be grown.
Edible landscaping can transform a non-functional water guzzling landscape into a functional, bountiful one. What is required is lateral thinking and a bit of water wisdom.