Using Nature’s Beauty To Build A Garden For Food, Water And Pollinators

In addition to the ever-popular gardens for growing food and attracting pollinators, the next newest gardening trend is the rain garden.
1carmen Kappos

Photo©Carmen Kappos

For centuries, a formal garden of plants in a manicured, symmetrical design was the ideal many strived to achieve. In 2023, gardening has evolved from just cultivating a patch of pretty color or prized specimens, to a passion for creating an entire backyard ecosystem. No longer just a place to exhibit beauty, the idea of a garden as an organic environment to supply food for many species, including our own, has finally caught on.

One of the fastest trending garden types is the creation of spaces for pollinators, and specifically ones that attracts butterflies. In addition to the ever-popular garden for growing food, the next newest gardening trend is building a rain garden. Combining these different types of gardens in your backyard adds to the richness of color and plant variety you will enjoy, as well as the insects and animals that will come to visit.

Each type of garden can be big and elaborate, or small and simple. They can be combined or stand alone. You can dedicate a particular area or let nature take its course. Best of all these gardens allow small throwaway spaces in the landscape to be utilized. When designing your garden, it’s best to use native, organic, non-GMO seeds or plants to further help restore the ecosystem.

Robert Hood owner of Fruit of Labor Landscaping in Geneva, FL, suggests, “If you want a successful foodscape, then you really should be striving to build an ecosystem in your yard. Having a foodscape, pollinator garden, and rain garden allows you to bring as much diversity from a natural setting into a much smaller scale in the landscape.”

Hood describes his own yard as a combo garden: “My front yard is a foodscape with pollinator plants mixed in. If you were a visitor with no knowledge of plants you would never know that my front porch has a hedge of perennial edible greens. Or that the area filled with pretty purple flowers is actually all eggplants.”

Pollinator Gardens

Butterflies have always captured the imagination. With news of crashing butterfly populations, many have turned their landscapes and gardens into sites filled with plants that would attract and feed butterflies, along with other pollinators like bees, wasps, moths and hummingbirds. Once the butterflies arrive, many homeowners become avid photographers documenting each visitor, spreading the word about what a magical experience pollinator gardens can provide.

“Pollinator gardens should always be incorporated into foodscapes because pollination is an essential process in plants yielding food. By attracting pollinators, yields will increase and so will taste,” Hood explains.  The beauty of pollinator wildflowers compliment any home style.

Edible Gardens

Before we had big commercial agriculture we had small local farms. In many cultures most people had a small plot of land where they grew a few fruits and vegetables. Trading among neighbors helped balance out the food supply. There are many varieties of vegetables and herbs that add as much color as flowers, creating a garden where plants have their own symbiotic relationships to each other and insects.

“I think edible landscapes — foodscapes — will continue to grow in popularity,” says Hood. “There’s a growing movement of people wanting to become more self-sufficient, as the current economy has grocery prices on the rise.”

Looking at a global map of wildfires and droughts it’s easy to see how the food supply could be affected. Add the invasion of Russia into Ukraine and anyone thinking about growing their own food might see all this as a sign to start now.

For those new to gardening it pays to get advice from an expert before taking the challenge on yourself. Hood points out, “In Florida, you are wasting your time growing things like lettuce and squash in the summer. It is too hot and too wet. Gardeners need to focus on local plants that they can grow successfully.”


Photo©AKodisinghe. Walking by, no one would know these beautiful plants are human food.

Rain Gardens

Rain gardens can help with drainage and flooding, yet water flow isn’t their only purpose. Being near water has a calming effect, and given a choice, many people would prefer to live on or near water. Wellness spas have known this for centuries, and usually try to incorporate water into their design, as do many modern office buildings as well. A rain garden provides the perfect combination of function and beauty, and once set up, requires little maintenance.

“Rain gardens are a little known landscaping tool that help make poorly draining areas of the garden purposeful,” says Hood. “Rain gardens can also be used to help control roof rainwater runoff. Basically, the overall concept is to have an area designed to safely collect rainwater and allow it to drain properly back into the ground (eventually replenishing wells and the aquifer), instead of collecting in sewer systems that commonly dump rainwater into lakes and rivers.”

“By incorporating rain gardens, we can help repurpose rain runoff to benefit our plants,” Hood continues. “Cucumbers don’t require hand pollination because bees are buzzing everywhere. Tomatoes don’t get demolished by hornworms because beneficial predators step in and take care of the problem. Thirsty plants survive droughts because rain gardens bring in the necessary moisture. Soil improves through root diversity, green mulching, and natural composting.”

Rain gardens are low maintenance if done correctly. Occasionally any drainage piping may need a washout of debris. Plant maintenance can be non-existent with the proper choices. Even a small area can benefit from a rain garden. A parking lot, shopping mall, apartment building or driveway can be turned into a tiny oasis for pollinators and insects. What most would think of as useless space can be turned into a mini ecosystem using a hose to capture rainwater runoff. This is a great way to prevent pooling of water in a driveway, parking lot or sidewalk during heavy storms.


Photo©FruitofLaborLandscaping. Even a small area can benefit from a rain garden.


Learn more about pollinator gardens here.
Learn more about edible gardens here.
Learn more about rain gardens here and here.
Learn about the benefits of pesticide free lawns and gardens here.

Visit the Fruit of Labor Landscaping website for excellent resources for both experienced and beginner gardeners, including a gallery to help identify flowers, insects and butterflies.

Staci-lee Sherwood is a lifelong preservationist, environmentalist and animal advocate. She is a published writer, blogger and poet, who writes poetry for fun and investigative articles to educate and motivate people into action. Staci-lee is an avid photographer and hiker who calls the East Coast home with her rescue kitties. 

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