When Sacramento’s State Fair opens on Friday, July 12, 2013 for the 160th time (but under new management), there will be an excellent urban farming exhibit in the Farm area at the State Fair that showcases container gardens and also edible landscape plants. Turn your lawn into an edible landscape.
When it comes to free, organic nutrition, edible landscape plants can come in handy in Sacramento where water is going to get more expensive once the water meters are installed. For those who can’t afford organic vegetables, checking out what edible landscape plants can both provide food and also landscape the gardens with less water expenses than the usual turf landscapes, it makes sense.
Excess vegetables can be donated to hunger banks or shared. See, “Edible Landscaping Made Easy.” For example kale or lettuce can be grown in containers that decorate your landscape, including kale with vivid purple colors.
Many edible plants can be used for the low-water type of landscape gardening, since in Sacramento water meters will be installed in a few years
See the Better Homes and Gardens article, “Make an Edible Landscape.” Also see, “Weeds You Can Eat.” One example are dandelion greens, which are currently in some Sacramento supermarkets. Check out the photos of edible landscape plants, “18 Beautiful Edible Landscaping Plants” from the TreeHugger site.
Examples of edible weeds include Stinging Nettle, Purslane, Dandelion greens, Japanese knotweed, and Wild violets. The bad news is you can’t safely eat edible landscape plants that already have been treated with herbicides or have had pet waste put on them.
You can’t eat landscape plants such as edible weeds that have had road salt put on them either. But inedible plants can be turned into biofuel. See, “Biofuel from inedible plant material easier to produce following enzyme discovery.” But be aware of E. coli in the roots of edible plants because they often thrive near the roots no matter how clean you keep your garden. The problem is you can’t wash off the E.coli bacteria inside the roots.
E. coli thrives near plant roots, can contaminate young produce crops
E. coli can live for weeks around the roots of produce plants and transfer to the edible portions, but the threat can be minimized if growers don’t harvest too soon, a Purdue University study shows. You can check out the abstract of the original study, “E. coli thrives near plant roots, can contaminate young produce crops.”
Purdue scientists added E. coli to soil through manure application and water treated with manure and showed that the bacteria can survive and are active in the rhizosphere, or the area around the plant roots, of lettuce and radishes. E. coli eventually gets onto the aboveground surfaces of the plants, where it can live for several weeks. Activity in the rhizosphere was observed using a bioluminescent E. coli created by Bruce Applegate that glows when active. Applegate, a co-author on the project, is an associate professor in the food science and biological sciences departments at Purdue.
E.coli can be active at the roots of edible plants
“E. coli is actually quite active in the rhizosphere. They’re eating something there – probably plant exudates,” explains Ron Turco, in a November 3, 2010 news release by Brian Wallheimer, “E. coli thrives near plant roots, can contaminate young produce crops.” Turco is a professor of agronomy and co-author of the study published in the November issue 2010 issue of the Journal of Food Protection.
Turco says in the news release that the E. coli didn’t survive on the plants’ surfaces more than 40 days after seeds were planted. Harvesting produce at least 40 days after planting should reduce the possibility of contamination, but he warned that E. coli could still come from other sources.
Animals loose in crop fields also can contaminate plants with E. coli
“In actual field application, you pick up other things that are all around,” Turco explains in the news release. “You don’t just get the plants that are 40 days old. An animal getting loose in a field could also contaminate plants.”
Mussie Habteselassie, Turco’s former postdoctoral researcher and now an assistant professor of soil microbiology at the University of Georgia’s Griffin campus, said harvesting practices in manure-treated fields can be critical for produce crops.
Mixing young and old plants together risks contaminating the older plants
“If you harvest young and old plants together or mix them after harvesting, there is risk of contamination of the older plants,” Habteselassie says in the news release, E. coli thrives near plant roots, can contaminate young produce crops. “If plants are uprooted during harvest, there is also a possibility of contamination from E. coli living in the rhizosphere.”
Producers should apply manure to fields well in advance of planting and harvesting. Turco says in the news release that a wait of 90-120 days between manure application and harvesting, with a minimum of 40 days between planting and harvesting, should minimize the chance of E. coli contamination.
Turco explains in the news release that he would continue studying E. coli‘s ability to survive in different situations, including in water and processed produce. The U.S. Department of Agriculture funded the research. Also check out, “E. coli adapts to colonize plants” and “Publication helps homeowners identify, repair tree damage.”