Edible landscaping: A potential in Concordia’s future?

Proposals to create more productive landscaping are underway

This time next year, Concordia students could be celebrating fall with fresh produce from campus bushes. Landscaping on Concordia’s campus could become edible if a Concordia garden intern’s proposals are accepted.

John Stelter, a garden intern from this past summer, believes the landscaping on campus would be more productive if it yielded edible produce. As part of his internship he wrote a paper describing his research and conclusions, which he passed on to President’s Sustainability Council Chair Ken Foster at the end of summer. Stelter hopes the paper will eventually help influence the PSC to add edible landscaping – or permaculture – to the landscaping agenda.

Foster and the PSC will let the campus know when they have formed an opinion of permaculture. It is also likely permaculture will be a topic in Concordia’s sustainability action plan that comes out at the end of the year, according to Foster.

Foster said the PSC hopes to have permaculture incorporated into campus landscaping by next summer. To do this, the native and organic plants that now thrive throughout campus would be replaced with native plants that produce food.

Depending on the plants, such a change may allow students to grab food from the bushes as they walk across campus.

Stelter hopes Concordia will modify examples set by the campuses of Carleton College, Luther College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Landscaping at these campuses include berry bushes, which students are free to take from.

While these campuses mainly reside in rural settings, Stelter believes they could be adapted to a more urban setting like Concordia’s.

Stelter believes landscaping on campus could be designed to use space more productively. He hopes marginalized spaces could be made productive. The 10 feet of grass between the edge of the science buildings and the sidewalk or the dead grass under pine trees could ultimately be transformed into edible landscaping.

Edible landscaping also has the potential to provide food for Dining Services. Luther and Amherst specifically have gardens that provide food for the campus dining centers. According to Stelter, their example could be replicated at Concordia.

The edible landscaping preliminary research was given not only to the PSC but also the landscape coordinator.

“They seemed interested and hesitant,” Stelter said. “As they should.”

Foster believes adding permaculture to campus is a real possibility. He said the PSC is currently working with facilities and other staff to decide where to incorporate edible landscaping.

“John’s paper is helpful in providing some initial information and ideas,” Foster wrote in an email.

He said the PSC hopes to have the landscaping updated in time for the 2014 Symposium, as it will be focused on sustainability.

Edible landscaping would help spread the image of the campus garden, according to another summer garden intern, Maddie Hyde. Hyde also believes it would spread a message of sustainability.

Stelter agrees that the campus garden should be a more integral part of campus. Still, he pointed out that the campus garden and landscaping are different projects and does not want them to be confused, as they have different purposes. The point of having edible landscaping on campus is to have productive space, he said.

Before a recommendation can be sent to decision makers, more research needs to be done to determine which edible plants would work well as part of campus landscaping, Foster said. He hopes either Stelter or other students will continue to show interest in permaculture research on Concordia’s campus. Stelter said some of the research would be to decide which plants to use, as the plants would need to be native and ripe while students are on campus.

“A lot of these plants are ripe in summer and early fall,” Stelter said. He suggests that plants ripening in fall are the best choice. Some options Stelter pointed out include everbearing strawberries, raspberries, pumpkins or apple trees.

Foster agrees with Stelter that native, edible plants are important. He pushed that the presence of native, edible plants reinforces both the need for natural foods and that our area is a place where important plants thrive. Instead of simply planting traditional landscaping,we can better utilize the resources we have on campus, according to Foster and Stelter. One way to do this is to focus on planting productive greenery.

“There’s an opportunity cost for there just being grass,” Stelter said.

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