We can say that edible landscaping results in an attractive, aesthetically pleasing, and functional space, in addition to safe and nutritious harvest. 

By Juan Paolo Aquino

English Dramatist and writer Douglas William Jerrold wrote, “Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest.” That’s just what the late Dr. Leonido R. Naranja did: tickle the earth with his out-of-the-box landscaping style so that kind Earth would soon laugh with a harvest.

He may not have lived long enough to see his landscaping approach catch on, but at the rate it’s being adopted, it may soon create a change in communities which incorporate vegetable and food plants in spaces normally assigned to ornamentals.

It all started when Dr. Naranja spruced up an exhibit booth with vegetables instead of
ornamentals. Perhaps he was motivated by the exhibit being a side event in a conference of the Society for the Advancement of the Vegetable Industry (SAVI) at the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) Seniors’ Social Garden in 1999.

It was also around this time when Loreta Lina, wife of then-Laguna governor Joey Lina, was on the hunt for an expert who could help design a demonstration or demo garden for the project, “Food Always in the Home” or FAITH. Fortunately, Mrs. Lina was able to visit the exhibit and lost no time hiring Dr. Naranja as a consultant for FAITH. Thus did edible landscaping as a creative food production approach come into being.

Under the FAITH project, Dr. Naranja conducted a series of lectures for teachers of Practical Arts in the elementary and high schools of Laguna.

In 2009, the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) and the High Value Commercial Crops Program (HVCCP) funded a project proposed by Dr. Naranja entitled, “Technology Promotion and Commercialization of Edible Landscaping.” A demo garden was initially established under the project at the CA (College of Agriculture) AgriPark in UPLB and a 6 x 10 meter edible garden showcase area at the DA-BAR grounds in
Quezon City.

When Dr. Naranja passed away in 2010, Dr. Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr. took over the project with the help of Bryan V. Apacionado, Maria Charito E. Balladares, Ryan Rodrigo P. Tayobong, and Norma G. Medina. They continued to implement the project after it was approved for another phase of implementation in 2011.

To intensify promotional strategies for increasing awareness of the benefits that could be derived from edible landscaping, the project team conducted seminars and training courses, and provided assistance to those who wanted to establish
edible landscape gardens. So that its location would be more convenient and accessible, the demo landscape garden was transferred from the CA AgriPark to the Ornamental Crops
Nursery. It also improved the DA-BAR’s edible landscape garden with a more urban and modern theme.

The participation of the edible landscaping team in different events such as the 7th and 8th Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum and Product Exhibitions, the 11th Philippine Food Expo 2012, and other local and international conferences and other created more awareness of, and interest in, edible landscaping.

“Edible landscaping produces organically grown vegetables. It also deals with some fruits, herbs, and medicinal plants that substitute for ornamental plants that are commonly used in conventional landscaping,” Dr. Sanchez explained. He
added that edible landscaping also results in an attractive, aesthetically pleasing, and
functional space, in addition to producing a safe and nutritious harvest.

“The success of edible landscaping lies in the proper planning and management of
the site before, during, and after each production period. The process is governed by both the principles of landscaping and crop production to meet aesthetic and optimum conditions for good quality crop production,” Dr. Sanchez shared.

Edible landscaping targets schools, reaching out to the younger generation to create awareness of the benefits of gardening and eating vegetables.
The project became part of one of the required subjects at the UP Rural High School. “We thank
BAR for funding project; it gave us an idea on how to repackage the Agricultural Science and
Technology curriculum into something earth-friendly,” said Rowena Posa, a former UPRHS teacher. “The Edible Landscaping Project is very useful and practical in terms of the utilization of inputs such as space and water supply. It also (creates) a potent solution for the disposal of kitchen and farm waste, efficiently minimizing the need for synthetically
prepared commercial fertilizers,” she added.

Posa thinks the project should be widely adopted. “Communities in different settings (will find it easy to adopt the project owing) to its simplicity and practicality, may it be in rural areas or urban settings. It could easily entice everyone to go green, especially now that different earth saving programs (are) going viral all over the world. This
project has so much potential, it should be spread all over the Philippines.”

More schools, parks, leisure farms, and prime land developers have become interested in gardening, supporting the slogan of edible landscaping: “No Filipino should be hungry,” according to Dr. Sanchez.

No Filipino should indeed go hungry if more landscaped spaces are “tickled with a hoe” in this
fun way to beautify them that can guarantee the Earth will surely laugh with a harvest.

This story appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s June 2015 issue.