Is it feasible to grow edible crops for lawns?

Is it possible to grow some type of plant that functions well as a lawn (e.g. is somewhat grass like), but that is humanly edible? Would anything that currently exists fit this role? For example possibly spinach or lettuce might work somewhat, but probably wouldn't be ideal. If not, could we bioengineer something to fit that role? I am thinking if we can, this could solve world hunger!

There are lots of things that you can eat that you could grow as a lawn. That probably are growing in your lawn now. My yard is about half violets and they are edible. Purslane is a delicious succulent lawn weed. Grab some, rinse it off and eat it. It is crunchy! I am telling you from experience you can eat a lot of it and you will not get sick.

Purslane image from here.

This backyard weeds link says lambs quarters are edible and I did not know that. They are also volunteers but I did not know they were good for anything and so I was pulling them up.

We are surrounded by things we could eat and which our ancestors ate all the time but which we do not eat. If you are in school, Johnathan, and this sort of thing interests you it would be a stellar project. You have all summer to grow weeds in pots and then at the science fair you could have people taste them.

Rapeseed and Canola for Biodiesel Production

Rapeseed is related to mustard and to other cabbage-family crops.

According to the Canola Council of Canada, rapeseed has been cultivated since the 20th century B.C. Because the plant can grow with less sunlight and at lower temperatures than other crops, it was cultivated in Europe as early as the 13th century A.D.

Rapeseed oil has been used for cooking, lighting, and industrial uses. However, traditional rapeseed contains high quantities of erucic acid and glucosinolates, which make the seed meal unpalatable and possibly dangerous to livestock if fed in large quantities.

Crops can adapt to grow in the shade

Credit: Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Institute (IBMCP)

After detecting the proximity of vegetation, some plants, including most of the crops we eat, can plan for conditions of shade in their surroundings and modify their structure and growth to prosper with less light. This has been verified by a research group of the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Institute (IBMCP), mixed center of the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV) and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), in collaboration with the Center for Research on Agricultural Genomics (CRAG) of Barcelona. The researchers observed that the fall in the levels of photosynthetic pigments of the plants is a mechanism that allows them to adapt to living with less light, thus planning ahead for a possible future in the shade. The results have been published in journal Plant Physiology.

Plants use sunlight to transform atmospheric carbon dioxide into food via photosynthesis. Thus, often plants compete with others for access to this key source of energy. In forests or crop fields with high planting density, it is common for some plants to cast a shadow over others, restricting the amount of light they receive. As less light entails less energy, evolution has provided plants with mechanisms to detect the proximity of other plants that may compete for the light even before they cast a shadow over them, and thus respond appropriately.

In order to perform the photosynthesis, plants absorb specific regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, blue and red, and let the far-red pass through or reflect it. Thus, when the sunlight filters through the leaves, it loses blue and red (which is absorbed and used for photosynthesis) and has is strong in far-red. These changes in the quality of the light are a sign that other plants recognize as generated by the proximity of neighboring plants (and thus of competitors for resources), and use it to trigger a series of responses known as the shade avoidance syndrome (SAS).

Planning ahead of a future in the shade

The most studied response of this syndrome is the elongation of the plant's stem, which allows it to grow more than neighboring plants and reach the light sooner. SAS also causes a decrease in the levels of chlorophylls and other pigments created by photosynthesis, but the reason for this response was unknown until now. Now, the team from the IBMCP and the CRAG has discovered that the fall in levels of photosynthetic pigments is part of a mechanism that adapts the photosynthetic machinery to work with less light, thus getting ahead of a possible future in the shade.

The teams led by researchers from the CSIC at the IBMCP, Jaume Martínez García and Manuel Rodríguez Concepción, studied the response to changes in the quality and amount of light from different species of Brassicaceae, a family which includes important crops such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, rapeseed, radish or mustard. Thus, they classified the species in two groups: those that avoid the shade and those that tolerate it. The former grew better at high intensity levels of light and elongated significantly upon sensing the signal of vegetable proximity. Those that tolerate the shade, however, barely elongated with this signal and adapted better to living with little light.

Optimize growth in a sustainable way

Furthermore, they observed that, when the species that avoid the shade were exposed to the signal that notified the proximity of vegetation and the grew with less light, their photosynthetic efficiency was better than that of the plants that had not been previously exposed to this signal. "We observed that this was due not only to a decrease in the levels of photosynthetic pigments, but also to changes in the expression of genes and chloroplast structures linked to photosynthesis," explains Manuel Rodríguez. Furthermore, the researchers verified that the mutant plants, unable to translate the signal of proximity of other plants, and the species that tolerate the shade did not show this adaptive response.

A majority of the crops that we eat are plant species that like the sun and avoid the shade, which is why knowing how they respond to the signals of proximity offers very valuable information to optimize their growth in a sustainable way. For Jaume Martínez, "being exposed to lights that emulate the signal of proximity could improve the performance of greenhouse crops by growing them with less light, which would save electricity costs."

Benefits of organic matter

By maintaining a high soil organic matter content, food and a favorable habitat can be built for a diverse community of soil organisms. Not only does organic matter provide good habitat, but it also greatly benefits chemical and physical soil characteristics.

Moisture, pH, nutrient supply and the biological community are all more stable, or buffered, as soil organic matter increases. Organic material also helps maintain soil porosity, which is essential because most beneficial soil microbes and processes are aerobic, meaning they requiring oxygen.

Understanding soil biology

Most biological activity takes place in the top 8 to 12 inches in the soil profile. The rhizosphere, or rooting zone, is an area of intense microbial activity and is integral to plant and soil relationships.

Plant roots leak energy-rich carbon compounds, sugars and amino and organic acids called exudates. Every plant species leaks a unique signature of compounds from their roots. Different microbes are attracted to different chemical exudates. The plants grown play a large role in determining the microbial community in the soil below.

Bacteria are the smallest and most numerous of organisms in the soil. Collectively, there are billions of individuals in an ounce of soil. Some experts think less than half of the species of bacteria, and therefore their functions, have been identified.

Most bacterial species are decomposers that live on simple carbon compounds, root exudates and plant litter. They’re the first on the scene when nutrients and residue are added to the soil. They convert these compounds into forms readily available to the rest of the organisms in the food web.

Actinomycetes are an example of microbial decomposers (Figure 1). They grow hyphae like fungi, but are closer to bacteria in their evolutionary history. Actinomycetes arrive later in the decomposition process, and are responsible for the “earthy” smell of freshly tilled soil.


Other bacterial species form partnerships with plants. The most well-known of these are the nitrogen-fixing bacteria, rhizobium, which form symbiotic relationships with legumes, such as alfalfa, soybeans, edible beans and clover.

Rhizobium infect the roots of the host plant (Figure 2) and convert atmospheric nitrogen (N2) into plant-available ammonium (NH4 + ). In return for supplying the plant with all its nitrogen (N) needs, the host plant supplies the rhizobium with simple carbohydrates.

The plant can give up to 20 percent of its carbohydrate supply to the bacteria. However, if there’s a sufficient supply of nitrogen in the soil to meet the plant’s needs, the plant won’t engage in a relationship with the bacteria.

Nitrogen credits

A healthy, well-nodulated legume crop can supply its own N needs. In addition, it can produce extra N which will be available for the next crop. This results in a “nitrogen credit,” which should be factored in when making N fertilizer recommendations.

It may be difficult to account for all of the sources that contribute to this credit. One source is nitrogen mineralized from the legume’s old roots and leaves. Another source is the beneficial microbial community created by the legume. Table 1 shows the nitrogen credits that can be expected from different legumes for first-year corn. Corn nitrogen credits are from the University of Minnesota Extension.

Goji Berries

This “superfood” is grown primarily in China, but the plant is equally well-adapted in North America. Dried organic goji berries regularly sell for $20 or more per pound, with the fresh fruit fetching a significantly higher price at farmer’s markets. With yields up to 7,000 pounds per acre in fresh berries, this is potentially a lucrative cash crop for American farmers.

Goji berries, a close relative of tomatoes, grow on head-high shrubs. They are disease-resistant and adapted to a wide range of soil and climatic conditions. In fact, the plants are so robust that they’re considered an invasive species in some regions of the country. For optimal fruit production, grow one of the named cultivars, like ‘ Crimson Star ‘ and ‘ Phoenix Tears ‘ (named varieties are not typically invasive). Light harvests can begin in the second year after planting, though it takes four to five years of growth before full production is reached. Planting goji shrubs “bare root” (when they are dormant) in late winter gets them off to fast start.

Goji growing in a garden. PHOTO: Shutterstock / KVF

The Big Picture

I started this garden to see what impact millions of organically grown 100-square-foot gardens would have if they replaced the equivalent acreage of lawns in this country.

According to the Garden Writers Association, 84 million U.S. households gardened in 2009. If just half of them (42 million) planted a 100-square-foot garden, that would total 96,419 acres (about 150 square miles) no longer in lawns, and no need for the tremendous resources that go into keeping them manicured. If folks got even one-half of the yields I got, the national savings on groceries would be stupendous: about $14.35 billion! So, a 100-square-foot food garden can be a big win-win for anyone who creates one &mdash and for our planet.

Local Laws Ban Front Yard Food Gardens in Cities Across the US

If sustainability starts at home, then so too do rules that determine just how sustainable you can be in your home life. Farmers can rely on their own crops and livestock for food, compost, clothing, and a host of other solutions. Gardens can be a great place for homeowners to help feed a family and use composted waste. Even other less obvious homebased pursuits can feed into sustainability efforts.

photo by Carol Norquist Growing food in home gardens has exploded in popularity in recent years, but gardeners around the US face a dizzying number of bewildering restrictions.

For example, brewing beer &mdash whether from ingredients grown at home or obtained at a farm or store &mdash can help reduce packaging and transport costs, help out local farmers keen to receive spent grains, and give homebrewers the ultimate control over what they&rsquore drinking. The explosion of homebrewing in America in recent decades is a great example of how federal rules can affect your home. Before 1978, it was illegal for Americans to brew beer at home. That year, President Jimmy Carter signed into law a bill that allowed Americans to make beer (and wine) at home, so long as they didn&rsquot sell it. In addition to letting Americans brew beer at home for the first time since Prohibition, the law is credited with helping to set in motion the explosion of craft brewing in this country, as many of yesterday&rsquos homebrewers went on to become today&rsquos commercial craft brewers. Although the ban on homebrewing is one of the best known examples of a prohibition on producing one&rsquos own food at home, many arguably more sustainable food practices &mdash ones far more mundane than brewing beer &mdash are banned at home by a tangled web of local rules.

Growing food in home gardens is among the easiest, most popular, and most personal ways to promote and consume sustainable food. It&rsquos also a practice that&rsquos exploded in popularity in recent years. A 2009 report by the National Gardening Association found that nearly one third of American households raises some combination of fruits and vegetables at home. A 2014 report by the same group found that the number of edible gardens had grown since the earlier report by 17 percent. A 2012 report by the New York Times noted that home food gardens are a byproduct of the &ldquogrowing interest in sustainability.&rdquo

Despite the mushrooming popularity of raising food at home, gardeners around the country have faced a dizzying number of bewildering restrictions in recent years. &ldquoJason Helvenston was at work on his second crop, spreading compost to fertilize the carrots, bok choy, kale and dozens of other vegetables he grows organically on his property in Orlando, Fla., when the trouble began,&rdquo reads the lede of that same New York Times article, which focuses on municipal battles over home gardens. A neighbor&rsquos landlord had complained that Helvenston&rsquos neat little garden made his house look &ldquolike a farm.&rdquo Helvenston, a sustainability consultant, squared off against city officials intent on forcing him to rip up the garden in his front yard. The city backed down in 2013, and Helvenston was able to keep his garden. But others haven&rsquot been so lucky.

In some cases, local governments have gone so far as to rip food bearing plants from the yards of residents. Denise Morrison of Tulsa, Oklahoma is one such victim. In 2012, Tulsa code enforcement officers walked into Morrison&rsquos front yard without her permission and uprooted her edible garden. Morrison, who was unemployed at the time, was using the foods she grew to sustain herself during a difficult period. Code officers, on the other hand, were enforcing a city ordinance that said plants cannot be higher than twelve inches &ldquounless they&rsquore used for human consumption.&rdquo Morrison&rsquos garden contained &ldquolemon, stevia, garlic chives, grapes, strawberries, apple mint, spearmint, peppermint,&rdquo fruit trees, and other foods that would have been used for her consumption had the code enforcers not cut some down and ripped others right out of the ground. The city claimed Morrison&rsquos &ldquoyard did not contain any organic garden, but had large amounts of untended, dead and decaying vegetation unhealthy trees dead tree limbs and rotting tires.&rdquo Morrison &mdash who had taken photos of her edible garden and shared them with the city &mdash fought back, filing a civil rights lawsuit against the city. Amazingly, two successive federal courts dismissed her lawsuit. They determined Tulsa officials had provided Morrison with adequate notice before taking action.

Although Morrison&rsquos case may seem extreme, others have even faced jail time for nothing more than growing food in their own yard. In 2011, an Oak Park, Michigan, woman was threatened with more than three months in jail for keeping a beautiful, well-manicured, edible garden in her front yard. City officials charged Julie Bass with a misdemeanor, arguing that Bass&rsquos basil, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, and other edible produce were not &ldquosuitable live plant material.&rdquo The city has its own definition of what &ldquosuitable&rdquo means. &ldquoIf you look at the dictionary, suitable means common,&rdquo city planner Kevin Rulkowski told local station WXYZ. Rulkowski is wrong not just about Bass&rsquos garden but about the meaning of the word &ldquosuitable.&rdquo It means &mdash among other terms that do not include the word &ldquocommon&rdquo &mdash &ldquosimilar,&rdquo &ldquomatching,&rdquo &ldquoadapted to a use or purpose,&rdquo or &ldquoproper,&rdquo according to Webster&rsquos Dictionary. In fact, &ldquocommon&rdquo isn&rsquot even a synonym for &ldquosuitable.&rdquo For these reasons, perhaps, the city eventually dropped the charges against Bass.

Other examples of cities and towns cracking down on residents&rsquo vegetable gardens are less extreme, if no less ridiculous and maddening in nature. In 2012, for example, Newton, Massachusetts officials ordered a town resident to remove his hanging tomato garden from his front yard. Officials said the hanging garden violated a city ordinance prohibiting the construction of &ldquoswing sets, swimming pools, or sheds&rdquo in a front yard. Newton resident Eli Katzoff was forced to move his plants to the grounds of Andover Newton Theological School, a nearby seminary. The seminary was happy to take in the tomatoes, but its leader was perplexed by the town&rsquos behavior. &ldquoWho can be against tomatoes?&rdquo wondered then-seminary president Nick Carter.

Tomatoes &mdash a fruit &mdash are probably fine in Miami Shores, Florida. But vegetables are not. The city code was amended to prohibit growing vegetables in a front yard in 2013. Hermine Ricketts and her husband Tom Carroll had been raising vegetables in their front yard in the city for more than fifteen years. The couple had a host of vegetables growing there &mdash including arugula, cabbage, kale, and onions &mdash when the city changed the code. Days later, a city code enforcement officer showed up at their home and ordered them to rip up their garden or face fines of $50 per day. &ldquoI politely asked the Village to leave me in peace and let me do my gardening,&rdquo Rickets told her local CBS affiliate, &ldquobut they refused to do that.&rdquo The couple, devastated, was forced to uproot the garden. &ldquoWhen our garden was in full production, we had no need to shop for produce,&rdquo Rickets told the station. &ldquoAt least 80 percent of our meals were harvested fresh from our garden. This law crushes our freedom to grow our own healthy food. No one should have to expend time and energy dealing with such nonsense.&rdquo The couple fought back, suing the city in 2013.

Prohibitions on gardens such as those in Orlando, Tulsa, Newton, Miami Shores, and elsewhere arise largely out of zoning regulations. Zoning, supporters contend, is intended to prevent conflicts and nuisances from arising. There&rsquos probably some truth to that argument. But sometimes, as in the case of the prohibitions on edible gardens detailed in this chapter, zoning itself becomes the nuisance and the source of conflict. In Orlando, for example, where Jason Helvenston raised his garden, the city admitted its zoning rules were too vague to charge Helvenston with violating the city code. But the specifics the city proposed as a fix to that code &mdash including a rule that would confine annual crops to no more than 25 percent of a front yard &mdash simply replaced untenable vagueness with indefensible arbitrariness. &ldquoWe think 25 percent is more than sufficient to provide for kitchen gardening in the front-yard area,&rdquo chief city planner Jason Burton said at a contentious hearing attended by what the Orlando Sentinel characterized as &ldquodozens of garden lovers.&rdquo

In the end, the real purpose of zoning is to protect property values. Because many owners and buyers prefer the look of a manicured lawn to that of an edible garden &mdash just like USDA rules prefer the look of a perfectly symmetrical tomato to that of an &ldquougly&rdquo one &mdash zoning rules tend to reflect those wishes. As the examples in this chapter suggest, change to those rules has been slow to come. But change is coming. In 2007, Sacramento, California, revised its zoning code to eliminate a ban on front-yard gardens. In nearby Berkeley, the Ecology Center reported in 2010, city government laid plans to encourage residents to raise edible gardens. That same year, Seattle lawmakers eased restrictions on a host of home-based agricultural practices. But in cities such as Miami Shores, where Hermine Ricketts and her husband Tom Carroll have to deal with the &ldquononsense&rdquo underlying the city&rsquos ban, a court will decide the matter.

The alternative typically proffered by opponents of front-yard edible gardens &mdash limiting your garden to your backyard only &mdash ignores two very real issues. First, backyards can be imperfect &mdash or even nonexistent. Those that do exist may be tiny, rocky, wooded, or otherwise unsuitable for gardening. Some people don&rsquot get enough sun in their backyards to grow fruits and vegetables, which require ample light to flourish. That was the problem faced by Helvenston and by Ricketts and Carroll. Second, lawns &mdash the conventional choice for yard vegetation &mdash typically use more water than do edible gardens. Estimates of water savings vary, but most sources agree that fruit and vegetable gardens use less water than would a lawn in a comparable space. Those who want to live more sustainably often choose to grow some of their own food and find ways both to reduce their reliance on commercially bought food and lower their water use. Swapping out a lawn for an edible garden can help achieve both goals.

Nematodes: Good or Bad in the Garden?

Nematodes in the garden can be beneficial, helping gardeners to aerate soil and produce a bumper crop, or they can be parasitic to plants. This article will help gardeners learn the difference between helpful and harmful nematodes as well as what to do to rid the garden of the nematodes that can spell disaster.

What Are Nematodes?

You may have heard that nematodes are worms, but that’s not the whole story. Specifically, nematodes are unsegmented roundworms. They are not the same creatures as earthworms, segmented worms called annelids, or flat and slimy worms called flatworms.

How Can Nematodes Benefit Gardeners?

Most of the nematodes in the garden are beneficial to soil and plants. They feed on the organisms that can harm crops, such as bacteria, fungi, and other microscopic organisms. Some gardeners may even use nematodes to help control the population of insects that are parasitic to plants.

Entomopathogenic nematodes, also known as beneficial nematodes, include colorless roundworms from the families Steinernematidae and Heterorhabditidae. These worms are usually microscopic, with non-segmented bodies that have an elongated shape. They live in soil, so they can be put to work defending the garden against insects that come from the soil, but they are unfortunately useless against pests that live in the leaf canopy on on the plants themselves.

Nematodes can help gardeners defend against beetles, caterpillars, cutworms, crown borers, corn rootworms, crane flies, fungus gnats, grubs, and thrips. They will not have an effect on beneficial organisms such as earthworms, plants, animals, or humans, so they are a natural way to defend against pests that’s good for the environment.

There are more than 30 species of beneficial nematodes out there, and each species targets a specific host organism. That means the type of nematode a gardener should deploy depends on which pest they’re fighting against. Nematodes come into contact with pests during the fourth part of their five-part life cycle, which consists of egg, four larval stages, then an adult stage. During the third larval stage, beneficial nematodes seek out their pest counterpart, usually a larval insect, and enter its body, transferring Xenorhabdus sp. bacteria that will lead to the insect’s death in just a day or two. The nematodes will then consume the host’s body, eventually leaving it behind in their third juvenile phase.

There is no immunity to the bacteria nematodes use on their insect hosts. However, beneficial insects are often more active than parasitic species, and therefore evade the nematodes and are unaffected. Beneficial nematodes tolerate the tools gardeners use, such as insecticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, well. They can even survive for a while without nutrition as they search for an appropriate host.

Beneficial nematodes can be purchased for the garden in the form of a spray or soil drench. It is imperative that gardeners apply the nematodes when conditions are in line with their survival—when it is warm and moist. Be sure to irrigate the application site before and after introducing nematodes, and only use nematodes when the soil temperature is between 55 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit in filtered sun. Remember that sprays and soil drenches with nematodes contain living creatures, so they must be used within the year and must not be stored in locations with high temperatures.

How Do Other Nematodes Hurt Gardens?

Nematodes that are parasitic to the plants in a garden tend to be very small and can often only be seen with a microscope. The shape of a plant-parasitic nematode’s mouth, or stylet, is like a hypodermic needle that they use to puncture a plant’s cells, injecting their own digestive juices and draining the plant fluids into their mouths.

Many of these plant-parasitic nematodes target the roots of plants. Those called ectoparasites live their entire lives in the soil, using their stylets to drain nutrition from the roots of plants. Ones called endoparasites insert their bodies, in whole or in part, into plants, such as the migratory endoparasites that do this in the root area. Some, called sedentary endoparasites, set up shop in one location, keeping a feeding spot at the root of plants that they return to over and over. Sedentary endoparasites change in shape as they grow older, with females becoming swollen over time.

In addition to plants displaying damage where parasitic nematodes have fed on them, they can sustain other problems as a result of nematode activity as well. The place where a nematode inserts its needle-like mouth can be a handy access point for bacteria or fungi to plague plants. Nematodes can also be carriers of bacterial or fungal diseases, which they can pass along to plants while feeding.

What Does Nematode Damage Look Like?

As nematodes damage the root systems of plants in a garden, the plant’s natural ability to derive water and nutrients from the soil is compromised. Eventually, symptoms of the problem may become visible above ground as the nematode population grows or the problem continues for a long while.

A garden that’s been impacted by plant-parasitic nematodes looks a lot like one afflicted by drought or nutrient deficiencies. The damage will become evident in patches. Gardeners struggling with plant-parasitic nematodes may see yellowing, wilting, or stunting of plants.

If plants are transferred into beds where nematodes already proliferate, stunting is likely to occur. There may be no growth at all after transplanting into an area with plant-parasitic nematodes. Plants with edible parts that grow below ground, such as radishes or potatoes, may be damaged in the areas humans intend to eat. The areas with nematode damage usually spread slowly as time goes on.

Other plant-parasitic nematodes can cause root knots or galls, leaf galls, injured root tips or root branching, or tissue problems such as lesions, patches of dying tissue, and twisted or distorted leaves. Plants that may see root damage from plant-parasitic nematodes include carrots, cherry tomatoes, corn, lettuce, potatoes, and peppers. Crops that may show damage on their leaves or stems include alfalfa, chrysanthemums, onions, and rye. If nematode damage is suspected below ground, gardeners can check by gently uprooting a plant from the soil, washing clinging dirt from its roots, and looking for galls, lesions, branching, injured root tips, or rot.

How to Control Plant-Parasitic Nematodes

Plant-parasitic nematodes don’t have to be a plague on the garden. First of all, soil should be kept well draining. Moisture in soil helps these parasitic nematodes to move around, so by keeping it drained well, you’re impeding their progress. Crop rotation is another tried-and-true way to reduce nematode damage by moving susceptible crops from plot to plot. Moving a crop just a few feet from its previous year’s location can prevent nematode damage, especially if the new spot has been growing grass for a few years.

There are also resistant varieties on the market of many vegetables that are common victims of plant-parasitic nematodes. Resistant varieties can produce good crops even when nematodes are present in the soil and doing their worst to the plants. If resistant varieties are used and crop rotation is in effect, the nematode population of a garden can actually be shrunk as years go on, and the vegetables the garden produces won’t be as affected by nematodes as they would be otherwise.

Cultural methods for fighting plant-parasitic nematodes can involve more work for the gardener, but they are overall effective. These methods include removing the roots of a crop after harvest, then tilling soil two or three times in succession. In the fall, gardeners can till up the entire garden two or three times, then plant a winter cover crop like annual rye grass, rye, or wheat.

Simply caring for soil in the best possible way, keeping its pH level, fertility, and moisture at optimum levels for your crops, will go a long way toward fending off plant-parasitic nematodes. Plants in these conditions can tolerate nematodes at low to moderate levels, and they’ll have the healthiest output they can at any rate, as they’ll be less likely to fall victim to other garden problems.

Amending soil with plenty of organic matter (400 to 500 pounds of material per 100 square feet) will not only benefit the soil, it will also help curb the parasitic nematode population. Be aware that adding this much organic material may mean you also need to add nitrogen.

Although a nematode problem can be frustrating to deal with, it’s a problem that can be overcome by following the practices outlined above. Each of the approaches that can help fight nematodes is also good gardening advice for other reasons, so by putting these strategies into practice, you know you’re making your garden the best it can be.

Sally Scalera: Use extra time at home to design an edible landscape for your Brevard yard

Fig trees are among the edible plants that can be grown in Brevard County. (Photo: Submitted photo)

The last couple of articles have been about growing edible plants, and since everyone is still spending more time at home, I thought I would continue with that theme.

Some gardeners feel that if a plant doesn’t produce something edible, there’s no reason to grow it. It is possible to design an entire landscape with edible plants, since there are trees, shrubs, vines and ground covers that produce edible fruits, foliage and seeds. With some careful planning, edible plants can provide a year-round supply of delicious food.

I have mentioned that vegetable gardening in Florida is different compared to the other states. It is much more complicated, because we have two seasons, a warm season and a cool season, each with crops that have specific months when they should be planted.

The best way to grow vegetables successfully here is to refer to the Florida Vegetable Garden Guide, which can be found by searching

Some examples of warm season vegetables, which are typically planted in the fall and spring, are tomato, peppers, cucumbers, cantaloupe and okra. Examples of cool season vegetables, which can be planted fall through winter, are broccoli, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, mustard and cabbage.

There are also many tropical vegetables that can be grown through the hot, summer months, if you feel like gardening then. Examples are Malabar spinach, New Zealand spinach, Jerusalem artichoke, jicama and chayote. Some additional miscellaneous food crops that we can grow are sugar cane (Saccharum officinarium), Mexican breadfruit (Monstera deliciosa) and the vanilla orchid plant (Vanilla planifolia), which produces vanilla beans.

When it comes to edible plants, plenty of herbs can be grown here, also.

We have herbs that grow fine in our sandy, poor soil, like rosemary, sage, thyme and oregano. Then, there are the herbs that do best with richer soil, such as parsley, chives, dill, fennel, pineapple sage, mint (I like this growing in the ground, because it smells wonderful when mowed), lemon grass (I do recommend planting this in a container, because to try and move a mature plant would require a back hoe), edible ginger and turmeric.

Finally, we don’t want to forget about the fruit crops. The University of Florida’s FruitScapes website,, has lists of deciduous, subtropical and tropical fruit crops.

Each list has separate bulletins on the individual crops so there is a lot of information available. The deciduous fruit trees and shrubs that can be grown are apple, blackberry and Raspberry, Blueberry, Chinese Date, Fig, Bunch Grape, Muscadine Grape, peaches and nectarines, pecans, common persimmon, Texas persimmon, plums and pomegranate.

The list of subtropical fruit crops includes atemoya, avocado, banana, caimito (star apple), canistel, carambola, coconut palm, coffee, guava, jaboticaba, jackfruit, lemon, longan, loquat, lychee, macadamia, canistel, cocoa, coconut palm, mamoncillo (Genip), mango, pineapple, pitaya (dragon fruit), sapodilla, white sapote and tea.

There are also tropical fruit crops that could survive on the beaches and south Merritt Island, if we don’t receive an atypical winter.

The amount of food we can grow in Central Florida is huge. If you have been toying with the idea of growing your own fruit, vegetables and/or herbs, now is a great time to decide what you would like to grow and draw up a design for your yard.

When creating a design, use the mature height and spread of the plants you’ve chosen so you don’t plant them too closely or purchase too many plants. This information is in the bulletins for the fruit crops and in the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide.

For herb plants, do a quick internet search of the herb followed by ifas. For example, you could type in Oregano ifas to find information from the University of Florida on oregano.

If you enjoy eating, use some of your extra time to find out if the fruit, vegetables and herbs that you like to eat can be grown here. Those who can be grown here can be placed in your landscape plan.

Because of COVID-19, the annual Brevard Tropical Fruit Club’s Fruit Sale has been postponed until Aug. 1. So, you have plenty of time to plan and design your deliciously edible dream landscape.

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