General sustainability topics have exploded in popularity in recent years, as consumers search for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and protect natural resources. The push towards widespread sustainability has breached nearly every industry, and landscape design is no exception. As such, architects and designers alike must be willing to look outside traditional design elements to fuel future trends.

If your goal is to promote sustainability, a potential natural step would be to combine landscaping and agriculture. Today’s farmers now have to operate in a way that conserves water and soil for future generations, promotes ecological biodiversity, and streamlines food production. We are changing the concept of farming and not confining it to rural fields. Various elements of agriculture have made their way into the realm of landscape design.

Edible landscapes and similar forms of agriculture, along with design elements associated with agritecture, are thus at the forefront of sustainable gardening in the 21st century and beyond. By incorporating edible plants into an existing landscape, you’re giving yourself the power of choice in regards to where your food comes from. What’s more, mindful gardening and landscaping practices help protect the surrounding environment, reducing ground, air, and water pollution.

Whether you’re concerned about the environmental impact of your landscape or are passionate about social justice, improving your outdoor spaces is an attractive option since it’s not only better for the planet, but improves the value of your home as well. Here’s what you need to know about staying on top of modern trends and working to fuel the impending agricultural revolution.

Landscaping, Agriculture, and Sustainability

No matter your level of experience, as you search for sustainable landscaping alternatives, you may find inspiration in the past. Historically speaking, landscape design has a colorful past rooted in socioeconomics. Sprawling lawns were indicative of the upper class, who did not need to grow their own food. Food was typically grown in expansive fields surrounding urban centers. 

The rise of landscape design led to increased consumer demand for ornamental plants, from petunias and bonsais to various grasses. And those ornamental plants were consciously separated from their edible counterparts. As the world became more technologically advanced, urban gardening was subsequently confined to small community spaces or the occasional raised bed. 

Yet in modern times, the lines between ornamental gardening and agriculture have become blurred. 

The need for more diversity in landscaping has become undeniably apparent, especially in urban areas. The COVID-19 pandemic has served to further drive the push towards widespread sustainability in agriculture. For starters, food grown locally drastically reduces the environmental impact of the supply chain, while providing a localized economic boost. Buying local is thus an important consideration for nearly half of U.S. consumers, especially in regards to food. 

Further, social distancing mandates mean that outdoor spaces are becoming more versatile than ever before. For many people, their gardens and yards now effectively serve as an extension of the home. Landscaping, post-COVID, must account for the increased need for the extra office, study, and recreation space in the safety of one’s home, in addition to environmental considerations. 

How Landscapes Can Help Protect Natural Resources

Of course, sustainability in landscape design isn’t just about food. Conserving the Earth’s natural spaces is vital to the future of humanity. It’s hard to deny the negative impact that human behavior and habits have had on the natural world, and the global freshwater supply has been particularly affected. 

For this reason, sustainable landscape design must incorporate water conservation methods, tailored to a garden’s specific climate. It’s important to note, however, that the nuances of water conservation are more complex than you might expect. You may need to separate myth from reality. For example, you may overlook the importance of saving water in wetter climates, where rainfall is abundant, but increased global water demand has put a strain on the global freshwater supply.

In regards to landscaping, water conservation best practices hinge on several factors. Check that all irrigation equipment is properly installed and free of leaks, and make sure to inspect components regularly. Encourage drought-tolerant greenery and ornamental plants, and install edible gardens in areas where runoff naturally collects. If you’re especially concerned about your impact on the local water supply, steer towards sustainable practices. For example, rainwater collection and/or the use of greywater. 

Mindful, Edible Landscaping Around the World

Whatever water conservation methods you employ, the good news is that mindful, sustainable design and aesthetics can easily co-exist. And when it comes to sustainability, you don’t have to sacrifice the design aspects of landscaping. Consider some of the world’s most utilitarian landscape designs, many of which feature edible plants. 

You may be able to achieve long-term sustainability. Various forward-thinking businesses are leading the charge in regards to mindful, edible landscaping. The practice, known as “unlawning,” is becoming increasingly ubiquitous across the U.S., and it could very well be the next big thing in landscaping.

Author: Noah Rue