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The Edible Scape

Courtneybst

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5 Sep 2016
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London
Over the past weeks and months I've felt a surge in inspiration, creativity and a desire to put my hands to everything. I have plenty of future projects I'd like to do but after speaking with a friend I suddenly realised there was one on the list that really should be happening now, there's no better time! Naturally, this claimed the priority slot.

My main profession is being a chef and so I wanted to do something that encompassed both my love of FOOD and aquascaping. This is the beginnings of my take on an 'Edible Scape'.

The crux of this build is that I will feature a layout very much designed like an aquascape but every plant will be edible and have a clear culinary use. I may also feature some plant profiles so anyone can learn how best to utilise them.

I've not found anything like this on the internet yet so I have absolutely zero reference points 😅 and this is a steep learning curve as much as it is an experiment. My hopes are that things go well and it can serve as a reference for someone else. Maybe you could install an edible art piece in your home?

Edible plants have a fixed growing pattern and so the build will be relatively short-lived but the challenge comes from the staggered planting. Timing and logistics are KEY as not everything can just be trimmed when it gets 'too big'. Some will need to be started externally and transplanted in (mother nature's rules) and some need complete darkness to sprout. It'll be a fun challenge! I hope you find some interest in the madness that is 'The Edible Scape'. 🌱

I'm falling back in love with DSLR photography too so apologies for the macro spam in advance!
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I added some pebbles about 1/2" thick to provide some drainage. There won't be buckets of water going in or anything so this is just to capture residual pools. The perimeter will have fast-growing plants that grow too fast to care about excess water and actually prefer these kind of environments.
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I used a very fine seedling compost that contains vermiculite and perlite for extra drainage and water retention.
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I used Seiryu stone for the hardscape, which I didn't intend to do initially but upon seeing the tank in person and getting the wood I decided it really needed rock for structure. It also provides something for the wood to be attached to and breaks up potentially competing plants.
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I used Manzanita wood because I just love it and thought it made sense to collect more of this as it's the wood I have the most of at the moment so could be useful in the future. I feel like Manzanita scapes itself to be honest!

The following images were just me playing around with the camera;
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tiger15

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14 Mar 2018
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I think it’s a great idea to incorporate culinary plants into aquascaping so one can enjoy ornamental and culinary value of plants jointly. The investment in setting up and maintaining a green house is already made, so why not recycle the pruned and groomed plants for culinary use.

I posted about the same idea before, but at a loss of finding enough plants that are both ornamental and culinary as well as growable in aquascaping. Vietnamese water herb

I like to point out the difference between edible and culinary. There are many bog plants that are edible, but not culinary. Duck weed is edible and is a great source of nutrition if you get loss in the jungle, but not something culinary that you want to mix in your salad. There are also culinary plants that are not ornamental or too large, such as water spinage, water crest and lotus.

The ideal plants would be water herb, but I can find only a few that work: Limnophila aromatica, lemon bacopa, and water mint.

Do you have a list of plants in mind you want to try?
 

Courtneybst

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I think it’s a great idea to incorporate culinary plants into aquascaping so one can enjoy ornamental and culinary value of plants jointly. The investment in setting up and maintaining a green house is already made, so why not recycle the pruned and groomed plants for culinary use.

I posted about the same idea before, but at a loss of finding enough plants that are both ornamental and culinary as well as growable in aquascaping. Vietnamese water herb

I like to point out the difference between edible and culinary. There are many bog plants that are edible, but not culinary. Duck weed is edible and is a great source of nutrition if you get loss in the jungle, but not something culinary that you want to mix in your salad. There are also culinary plants that are not ornamental or too large, such as water spinage, water crest and lotus.

The ideal plants would be water herb, but I can find only a few that work: Limnophila aromatica, lemon bacopa, and water mint.

Do you have a list of plants in mind you want to try?
Yes it's true! So this isn't going to be flooded so I have chosen plants that are ornamental, edible and have a distinct culinary use. Most of which are common herbs/vegetables.

The planting will be staggered so each species is ready at the 'right time' which may be different to when they are normally harvested for personal or commercial use.

I'll post up the plant list shortly 👍
 

Courtneybst

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Experiment within the experiment...

One thing that is crucial is getting my timing right, and so I started testing based on what will happen last and worked my way backwards. The growth pattern of these terrestrial plants are linear and so not everything can be planted at the same time for the best effect.

Here is the finalised plant list for anyone who's interested;

Lepidium Sativum (Curly Cress)
Sinapis Alba (White Mustard)
Allium Tuberosum (Garlic Chive)
Rumex Sanguineus (Red Veined Sorrel)
Amaranthus Cruentus (Red Amaranth)
Oxalis Deppei (Iron Cross)
Limnophila Aromatica (Rice Paddy Herb)
Brassica raps v. Niposinica (Mizuna)
Zea Mays (Sweetcorn)
Triticum Aestivum (Wheatgrass)
Lactuca Sativa (Lollo Rosso/Oak Leaf)
Tropaeolum (Nasturtium)
 

Courtneybst

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Small update but something interesting I observed; the seeds I'm using typically sprout within 5-10 days (I usually grow them for my garden). However, in this bright, warm and humid environment almost ALL of the seeds germinated within 24 hours.

It will be interesting to see how this bodes for the remainder of the project - maybe they'll grow quicker overall? Or this environment is only beneficial for fast germination?

I've also added some springtails from my culture to stop potential mould and fungus growing on the wood.

I originally had quite a rigid time plan but since the seeds are already skipping days I'm going to take a more holistic approach in regards to knowing when to plant what!
 

Simmo

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Can I suggest some freshwater crayfish to add a bit of protein? 😂 Seriously, great vision and fun, look forward to the results!
 

Courtneybst

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Oops! I seem to have missed updating my journal on the progression of this edible scape. I'll try and piece the last month together!

9th July:
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At this point there is noticeable growth on all of the seeds, most prominently the lettuce and mizuna. The tank is still being tightly covered with cling film, opening once to twice a day to ventilate. I was using rainwater with liquid seaweed to mist it down and keep the humidity up.

15th July;
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The growth is really kicking off! Especially the Oxalis which I'll need to remove and replant closer to the final result because it grew much faster than I anticipated. The Corsican Mint has also developed a lot of new leaves and will hopefully start to spread.

I've noticed a decent amount of blue/green mould growing on the wood but it's not out of control, and the Springtails in there will keep it in check I imagine? I've started opening the cling film about 10% so there's permanent ventilation. I think the more mature leaves appreciate drying out a bit.

18th July:
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Some artistic appreciation of the growth! 😁

21st July:
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The Oxalis is being removed as it's getting way too big, too quickly. I will re plant again closer to the end. Everything is looking relatively healthy!

I've increased the ventilation to 20% and the mould has really receded. In fact, I haven't noticed any! The Springtail population is absolutely thriving!

30th July:
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The plants are really thriving now and I'm loving how the leaves are starting to lean into other areas of the scape and soften the hardscape slightly.

I'm hoping the Red Amaranth and Red Veined Sorrel will become more pronounced as they were my stand-out choices! They are healthy but just small. Possibly too much competition from each seedling?

Ventilation is about 30% now, spraying it down once a day.

6th August:
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Back to the future!

Things are looking to be at the point where can start the final plantings in the foreground and background. I've been patiently waiting for the Red Veined Sorrel to peek into view, in hindsight I should have raised the soil level in that section. I forgot it stays very short for a while before growing taller. It's very healthy though and has a nice sheen on it.

I've removed some of the Red Amaranth seedlings to allow the plants to develop better. Following this I've also started trimming the lettuces and mizuna and I'm no longer using rainwater or liquid seaweed asi think my rainwater is a bit dirty. I'm now using deionised water and slow release granules next to each set of plants for a boost of nutrients.

The mint is really starting to throw down roots and even a few runners! I also added three small strawberry plants in the mid and background. Definitely not expecting them to fruit but it's nice to see a variation in leaf texture and colour. I also have strawberry plantlets coming out of my ass from the garden!!

That's all so far! The next few weeks should see some really major changes as it approaches maturity. Hope you're finding some interest in the Edible Scape. 🤓
 

shangman

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This is so interesting, I can't wait to see if in a few weeks when you add the "carpeting" plants and it all comes together!!
 

Courtneybst

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8th August:
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The day before yesterday I started soaking seeds for some of the background plants, and yesterday they were sown externally before being transplanted in.

On the right, we have sweetcorn. It requires a blackout environment in order to keep the shoots tall, bright yellow and sweet rather than short, green and bitter. The latter would be preferable if I was growing corn but I'm after the shoots!

On the left, we have wheatgrass. It doesn't need a blackout but requires a period of high moisture (higher than the current moisture levels in the scape), and so will be started in a pot. A day or so post-germination, and it can be dropped into place.

These plants will take around 9 days or so to get to the desired growth level, and so several days before this point I will sow the seeds for the foreground as they grow extremely quickly.

The scape is definitely becoming more moisture hungry and so I find myself watering more heavily as opposed to misting. I've also added a yellow sticky fly pad to keep the fungus gnats away, and it's doing a good job! If you let them get out of control, you'll get an infestation and their larvae will damage the roots of the plants as they feed on them.
 

Courtneybst

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11th August:
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Today I added the wheatgrass to the background after successfully germinating it. I can't believe how fast it sprung up! Yesterday it was barely poking out if the soil, and this morning it was suspending the circle kitchen roll in the air.

I've noticed some of the Oak Leaf lettuce is succumbing to some kind of disease? Not all the leaves are affected so I've been trimming them off. I suspect it's too warm for it and it's trying to bolt. I just need it to hold on a little longer! The Lollo Rosso is starting to turn red on the edges of the leaves too.

The strawberries seem to be just getting by, but I find that the case with strawberry runners when they've been transplanted. They sulk for ages and then recover at some point. I suspect the added heat doesn't help...

Thinking about it, if I was to do this again I would definitely use a mini usb fan to keep the scape cool. It would probably help with mold and making the seedlings sturdier too.
 

Courtneybst

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13th August:
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On Friday I sowed the final seeds for the foreground!

The foreground is predominantly a mix of curly cress and mustard as they grow very quickly and dense. I'm hoping I've put down enough seeds to keep it compact. Whilst they're growing in, the lights are directly over the foreground. Only a few days left to go!

I'd definitely do a full foreground of Corsican Mint next time as it's the perfect shape and size, I would just need to start it much earlier. It would also allow me to maintain the finished look for much longer as it's slower growing than cress.

Shortly before I planted the Wheatgrass, I stopped using liquid seaweed as I felt the plants needed something stronger. I switched to an organic slow-release granule which meant that I could just water with rain or RO water. I think this helped massively in making the plants healthier and bringing out their colours. It was noticeable across the board.

It's really weird to see this project almost complete after weeks of planning, development and waiting. Here's hoping the final shot is killer!

Some detail shots for fun:
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tiger15

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It is progressing really well and looks like a nature aquarium without water and fish. You make it look easy. You must have prior experience growing edible so you know what you are doing right from the start. I grow fruiting vegetable only in my outdoor garden as I found difficult to grow leafy green due to pests, fungus, diseases and finding optimal growing conditions.
 

Courtneybst

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It's weird how it looks oddly familiar because it's plants we know but completely different from what we are used to. It seems a little bonkers but is a very good, fun, idea.
Thank you! I definitely know what you mean. I think without any context at first glance your brain doesn't compute that these are herbs, fruit and vegetables. I've had a few people ask me what I fish I'm keeping in there. 😅

Shared this with my family. They reckon you missed a trick not making the hardscape out of chocolate.
Now that would be something! Entirely edible, including the glass. I'm a bit crazy but not quite Heston-crazy yet haha.

It is progressing really well and looks like a nature aquarium without water and fish. You make it look easy. You must have prior experience growing edible so you know what you are doing right from the start. I grow fruiting vegetable only in my outdoor garden as I found difficult to grow leafy green due to pests, fungus, diseases and finding optimal growing conditions.
Thanks mate! Yeah I've been growing edible crops for a long time now, every year without fail. It definitely gave me a leg up in terms of understanding certain things but honestly anyone could do it with enough patience. At times, this project required more focus and maintenance than my actual bloody aquariums. 🙃
 

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