The Treasure Valley is undoubtedly growing, and home landscapes are booming. Homeowners are eager to make their yards and gardens unique to their styles and tastes. Lawns are ubiquitous to the United States and take up more space than any other landscape plant. A surge of people are doing away with lawns and turning their yards into edible landscape havens.
Meet Bee Wise Gardens, a local Boise company and mom and daughter team: Gabrielle Krake and Isabelle Genovese.
These women are passionate about stewarding the earth and educating the public. Their goal is to design and integrate bee friendly gardens that work with you and for you. They even started their own landscape transformation in their yard about three years ago, integrating as many edible plants as possible. Krake became a master gardener in 2005 through the University of Idaho and Genovese graduated with a degree in horticulture from the College of Western Idaho.
Traditionally, vegetable gardens have been tucked away somewhere in the backyard, but edible landscapes are not confined to square garden plots. Edible landscaping is the holistic incorporation of food-producing plants as design features. This gardening practice offers an alternative to conventional residential landscapes.
Edible gardeners are breaking the “rules” beyond the vegetable garden by incorporating food producing plants wherever possible, arguing they are just as aesthetically pleasing and even more beneficial for the garden. Many edible plants can substitute traditional landscape plants. The addition of edibles not only increases aesthetic value, but they maximize growing spaces and give the ease of knowing where your food comes from. There is nothing like a tomato fresh off the vine or a harvest of juicy strawberries directly from your soil.
Edible ornamental plants conserve local environmental elements such as soil, water, and wildlife. Edibles increase biodiversity by inviting various species of pollinators and beneficial insects. Where food grows, wildlife is found. Worms and other microbial insects and beneficial bacteria boost soil health. Woody edible ornamentals offer a better option for nesting birds which prey on insect pests, reducing the use of pesticides in the landscape. When Krake and her family first moved into their home, she noticed an infestation of yellow jackets in a virtually blank landscape.
“Our landscape had no resources or food for these yellow jackets,” Krake said. “Our environment was out of balance, which reinvigorated my feelings for nature.” To Krake, edible is not just for humans, but for pollinators and other wildlife. The intention behind transforming their landscape was to bring back a balance of food resources in the middle of the city.
Genovese got on board when she realized that horticulture gave her the opportunity to be outside in an artistic way, “I was motivated by reducing waste and stewarding sustainability. I wanted to be mindful of my impact.”
This mother, daughter duo wanted to remove their monoculture of grass and provide other flowering plants and food for diverse pollinators and themselves. Since transforming their landscape, the yellow jackets have stayed away because they have other places to forage for food. Genovese’s goal when incorporating edibles is to find flowers with long lasting interest. Krake loves incorporating berries—blueberries specifically. Blueberries can present some challenges growing in the Treasure Valley’s soil, but if a client is willing to put in the work or if someone is curious enough to try it, Krake is all for it. She loves the blueberries she has growing in her edible landscape.
“I want people to taste what homegrown is like. Blueberries and herbs are two things I think everyone should try and incorporate. Herbs are so expensive to buy from the store but so easy to grow,” Krake said.
Genovese agreed and added, “Tomatoes are an annual favorite of mine! I definitely try to include them where I can. I will never buy another store-bought tomato.”
Along with designing, educating, and garden maintaining, Krake is now beekeeping. A thriving beehive positively impacts the landscape and environment in an intricate way. Since integrating edible ornamentals and honey bees, their landscape has completely transformed.
“Bees are enchanting and bring other life and diversity,” Krake said. “It’s not only plants that completely transform the landscape, but the bees bring action.”
Since this landscape transformation and because these two busy gardeners got their hands in the dirt, it is not just their environment that’s changed. Edible landscaping becomes personal and interactive. Continuous exposure to nature and hands-on work in the garden increases mental and physical health.
“There’s been something so empowering since starting this gardening journey. My confidence has grown. There’s a reward to growing your own food and getting outside, and the quality of life is fun and enriching,” said Genovese. “I’m learning the balance of capacity and what I can handle; what takes priority and what does not.”
Bee Wise Gardens also has a plant society where members of the community—whether expert or beginner gardeners—can access resources, ask questions, and learn DIY garden tricks. The Bee Wise Plant Society is all about gardening for the wellbeing and strives to bring people together and teach them how to steward the land well. There should be no guilt in gardening–that is their philosophy. Both Krake and Genovese have years of trial and error under their belts (as most successful gardeners do), and they want to share that knowledge and experience.
There are many benefits to incorporating edibles into the home garden. Invite biodiversity, increase mental health, reap the benefits of your hard work, eat homegrown, challenge yourself, or try something new. You might discover something about yourself just by transforming your home landscape and getting your hands in the soil.
Krake said it best, “Gardening saved my life. Go outside and plant a garden. Even though mine started out as grass I tried flowers and different plants. Persevere. Gardening transformed me as a person–as a gardener and as a parent–and that’s what I want to give other people.”
If you want to transform your landscape into an edible haven, Franz Witte Garden Center has a selection of food-producing plants just for you. Swing by the nursery today to shop our inventory. If you would like a design and build personal to your taste, Franz Witte Landscape Construction is the department for you! Visit us online to get started on your estimate.
By Riley Rehberg