Farmscaping is the ‘on-site’ application of agroecology. Farmscaping aims to design, build, and maintain landscapes in tune with and in support of the natural ecology of a site. A successful farmscape is one that conserves natural resources, preserves biodiversity to protect the natural environment, while also increasing the presence of beneficial organisms. Farmscaping methods such as the use of insectary plants, hedgerows, cover crops, and water reservoirs can attract and support insects, spiders, amphibians, reptiles, bats, and birds that parasitize or prey upon insect pests.

Farmscaping with native, site appropriate, and beneficial host plants provides habitat and is beautiful. Plant choice considers how individual, as well as community structure provides shelter, nesting and over-wintering sites, and sources of nectar and pollen. If you believe in the old adage, ‘if you build it they will come’ then the use of host plants that support native insect pollinators and birds will support healthy populations and work to balance pest populations and support nutrient cycles. As farmscapers we support ecosystem function, which in turn provides ancillary benefits and overall farm production and ecosystem sustainability.

Possibly more important than the specific methodologies that contribute to landscape sustainability is the intent of the landscape steward. This quote from ecologist Aldo Leopold, provides some insight into where one must start before putting pen to paper or shovel to soil.

We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”


Here is an example of clover being used as a cover crop and pollinator strip between kale, fenugreek, and faba beans, which are to be harvested for market.

The interesting consideration with the above planting design is that all four could be considered both harvestable crops and cover crops. All are working to make nutrients available, providing habitat for a wealth of micro and macro fauna. In other words, these plants are breathing life into the soil. As these plants decompose the elements and compounds that are released will be made available to the next cycle of crops. Perhaps most importantly, the mixture provides an existential experience to anyone who takes a moment to smell the flowers.

Some simple things you can do in your backyard to promote a healthier environment

  • Shred leaves in the fall and use them as mulch for your beds and borders or add them to your compost pile for use later as ‘leaf mold’
  • Leave grass clippings on the lawn to add organic matter and keep nutrients on-site, or better yet add white clover to your lawn and reduce lawnmowing to three times per year (spring, when the grass starts to flower, summer, after the white clover blooms, and lastly, prior to winter.
  • Less frequent mowing and more diversity within a lawn will all but eliminate irrigation for most humid regions. In arid regions, xeriscaping is a better option than the blue grass, fescues, and rye grass species found commonly in lawns.
  • Let part of your property overgrow with naturally occurring species that provide habitat for beneficial insects and birds.

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