For the last two summers, I have been working on turning my mud pit of a yard into a functional landscape. The goals: low maintenance, high yield, and curb appeal. While these three things may seem mutually exclusive, I am happy with the progress so far (and our neighbours have nice things to say, so that’s a good sign).
A big part of planning was not to use up any precious space with grass. Not only does a lawn use a ton of resources (such as water, power, fertilizer, and time to mow) it does not produce anything useful in return. Instead I opted to plant perennials that will feed us: asparagus, saskatoons, haskaps, cherries, lingonberries, gooseberries, goji berries, and many other perennials are all hardy to our climate. You can eat your produce right away, dehydrate or freeze it for later, or turn it into jams, smoothies, fruit leathers, muffins, or whatever else floats your boat.
I found a way to squeeze in some fruit trees. The European concept of espalier made it possible on my small inner city lot. Using a framework of ropes or stakes, espalier allows you to train any fruit tree with spur growing fruit (apple, pear, apricot) into a flat pattern against a fence or wall. Mature examples of espaliered trees have elaborate, creative patterns that look amazing. We are not there yet, but my two-year-old trees are taking shape and growing small fruit.
My favourite part of my landscape is the tea garden. I have planted skullcap, betony, lemon balm, chamomile, bergamot, and a few others that are hardy to zone three and whose leaves can be dried and used as tea. Some of these plants are sold as herbal remedies for everything from headaches to insomnia. I can’t speak for the health claims, but the leaves taste great, are organic, and a personally-grown and blended tea makes a great gift.
My current combination of edible perennials with a few standard zone hardy perennials such as hostas and roses (also good in tea!) is filling in, and looking and smelling good. It has also been much less maintenance than having to mow every week or so, though I have enough in the ground to keep me busy when everything matures. For now, I will watch and weed!
Lindsay Brommeland is a McCauley resident of 14 years who will try anything once.