Grow Food, Not Lawn: Foodscaping Utah

John and Holly Trimble's home and foodscape, where they grown their own food.

John and Holly Trimble's home and foodscape.

By Lizzi Brosseau

How to Make Your Yard Do More for You

Do you wish your landscape had more interest and variety? Are you looking for ways to turn your “bland”-scape into something that stands out, is rewarding to work on, and even… delicious? Foodscaping might be a great option for you!

Foodscaping is growing in popularity because of its “grow food, not lawn” ethos. Homeowners are turning to foodscapes to grow their own food, add more interest to their landscape, spend more time enjoying their yard, AND lower their water and grocery bills!

In this post we’ll be talking about Foodscaping Utah, a local non-profit in Ogden, Utah. They empower homeowners to makeover their yards by growing their own food instead of lawn.

Denise Little and her sons in front of their partial foodscape.

What Is Foodscaping, Exactly? 

You might have heard the term "foodscaping," but aren't exactly sure what it means. It's actually pretty simple! It means that you choose to plant veggies, herbs and fruits in your yard instead of more traditional things, like grass and ornamental plants. Foodscaping follows a similar ethos to “grow food, not lawn” movement.

Depending on what you use your yard for, a foodscape can replace just part, or all, of your lawn with garden and flower beds. If you have kids who love running through the grass, then a partial foodscape of a side-yard might be best for you. But if you love to save money on the food you buy, maybe a full foodscape will help you cut some trips to the grocery store! 

Why Foodscape?

Foodscaping is really a win-win situation. If you foodscape, that means you can also EAT the plants that are growing in your yard, instead of just looking at them. This makes your yard much more productive, and tasty. When you grow your own food you will be surprised by how much more flavorful and fresh homegrown vegetables and fruit taste.

Another benefit of growing food instead of lawn? You'll likely use less water. For example, Foodscaping Utah founders, John and Holly Trimble, had a 25% water savings after installing their full foodscape. Edibles like veggies and herbs cover less “ground” than lawn does. As we learned in our Localscaping blog post, installing drip irrigation — which saves more water than overhead sprinklers — is optimal for individual plants, but not for lawn. That makes foodscaping a great option for those looking to save on their water bill.

Learn more about Localscaping: https://www.kued.org/modern-gardener/stories/localscapes-landscaping-for-where-you-live

However, foodscaping may not be for everyone. Having a wide open lawn has it’s uses, and maintaining a garden might not be feasible for some homeowners. But if you think you have a portion of your yard that isn’t being used and needs a facelift, foodscaping is a great option!

Denise Little's side yard, which they converted to a foodscape in 2018.

Building Community Through Foodscaping

Another benefit of foodscaping is that it provides more opportunities to get to know your neighbors. If you are outside more often, you'll see your neighbors more! Growing that connection to their neighborhood was one of the first benefits that Foodscaping Utah founders, John and Holly Trimble, mentioned to us in our research for this video. Foodscaping their yard created a conversation piece for the neighborhood. Everyone wanted to know why and how they did it.

In fact, their neighbors were so interested in their foodscape, they asked John and Holly to help them foodscape a portion of their yard in 2018. Watch the video below to see more from John and Holly, and other homeowners who have foodscaped!

Video: Meet Foodscaping Utah

How to Foodscape 

Foodscaping Utah is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization that selects homeowners from the Ogden area to assist with an installation of a foodscape. Homeowners apply, and are then selected for a “scape.” First, they work with a master gardener who helps them design their foodscape. Then, after the scape is drawn up and the materials are purchased by the homeowner, Foodscaping Utah organizes a group of volunteers to help pull up the existing lawn to install the garden beds, structures and plants.

Since Foodscaping Utah currently only serves the Ogden area, they also provide education about foodscaping through their YouTube channel for those who don't live in Ogden (which you should definitely check out for great gardening advice about foodscaping, and growing your own food).

If you’re thinking about installing a foodscape of your own, here are some steps to get you started:

  1. For the best chance of success, start small. Also consider how you could expand your foodscape in the future. A strategically placed 4x8 garden bed is a good place to start!
  2. Make note of which areas in your yard get the most sunlight. Most fruit and vegetables need at minimum 6 hours of direct sunlight. The sunniest parts of your yard is where you'll want to place your foodscape.
  3. Think about water access — where are your hoses located? Where can you access water lines for drip irrigation?
  4. Once you’ve identified where to put your foodscape, start prepping the area to be turned into a garden bed. There are many ways to do this! Do a little research to find the best method for you based on your zone, soil type, and existing landscape. (For example, if you want to replace grass, you may need to pull it up, but you might also be able to “lasagna” compost above the grass eliminating the need to pull it up).

When you begin gardening, it never hurts to get into the practice of composting. Healthy, nutrient rich soil is the most important part of successful gardening, and good compost is a great way to get healthy soil for your foodscape. An easy way to start composting is to put any non-meat, non-dairy food waste into a container and store it in your freezer until you have a compost bin ready for the food scraps. Check out our composting video to learn more!

For More on Composting: https://www.kued.org/modern-gardener/stories/composting-with-wasatch-community-gardens

And if you’d like to get tips about what to plant and when, check out our garden planning blog post!

For More on Garden Planning: https://www.kued.org/modern-gardener/stories/garden-planning-for-beginners-with-fred-montague

A raised garden bed in the Trimble's front yard foodscape.

Tips for Foodscaping

When converting your lawn into a foodscape, Foodscaping Utah recommends starting small. As you saw in our video above, partially foodscaping your yard will help ease you into your new landscape. You’ll learn a lot from your new foodscape!

Whether you go big or small, here are some helpful tips:

  • Get a soil test from the USU soil lab. This will help you understand what nutrients your soil may need for your foodscape. (Checking out the resources on Foodscaping Utah’s YouTube channel is also a great place to return to for information about installing, growing, and maintaining your foodscape).
  • Plant flowers and ornamental plants that will also attract important pollinators to your garden. Native flowers are especially good for attracting pollinators like bees and butterflies. For more tips about pollinator friendly plants, check out our blog post about some of our favorite pollinators: bees!

Learn More About Helping Bees: https://www.kued.org/modern-gardener/stories/helping-the-bees-your-backyard

The Trimble's planted flowers among their vegetables for visual interest, and to attract helpful pollinators like bees and butterflies.

Dive In and Grow Your Own!

We hope you’ve been inspired by this information about Foodscaping Utah to grow your own food, not lawn. If you live in the Ogden area and would like to apply for help installing a foodscape, or would like to volunteer, please check out their website. And if you don’t live in Ogden but would like to grow your own food in a foodscape, we hope that these tips will help get you started.

Don’t forget to follow Modern Gardener on Instagram and Facebook to see more information about gardening, and make sure to chime in with your own tips! We love to learn from other gardeners, and look forward to seeing what you’re learning in the garden too!

Lizzi Brosseau

Lizzi Brosseau, Digital Producer at KUED Channel 7.
Modern Gardener Host and Author

Lizzi works for KUED Channel 7 as a digital producer and host of Modern Gardener. Read more