What is Foodscaping, Waterscaping, and Solarscaping?


First off, I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season.

It’s been great fun here at the Robb household.  A great chance to recharge the mental batteries before tackling the challenges of the new year.   And what a great year 2013 will be.

To get you started on the right track, here’s a bit of thinking that you should find useful.  It’s a rethink of a commonly used term.

When we think about caring for a home’s yard or community’s public land, we typically think in terms of landscaping.

That won’t do.

Technically, landscaping is actively modifying the visual aesthetics of an area of land.  It doesn’t concern itself with the productivity of the land.  As a result, when we imagine a professionally maintained landscape, we think in terms of its decorative or ornamental value and not its productive value.

To fix this we need new slang to describe the processes we use to improve the productivity of the land.  Terms like:

  • Foodscaping.
  • Waterscaping.
  • Solarscaping.

We’d define these terms as any activity that modifies an area of land’s ability to produce food, retain/manage/use water, and retain/reflect/utilize solar energy respectively.

We’re going to be using these terms a lot.

Here’s why.

Every square inch of inhabited space, starting with your yard and your community’s public spaces, is going to made more productive.   It’s a massive project.   It’s a project so large, it’s going to transform the underlying fabric of the global economy.

So, jump in.  Get started.

To demonstrate how simple and beneficial this could be, here’s an example of foodscaping a public commons of St. James — a village located in Suffolk, UK.

They planted 100 fruit trees — apple, pear, quince, plum, cherry, damson, medlar – in a section of the public commons a couple of years ago.   Here’s the map (click through to enlarge):

Orchard SJ

So, how does the town benefit from the trees?

Lots of ways.   The good fruit can be harvested and given away to residents that would benefit from it.  The bruised fruit can be made into chutney and sauces for resale, to support the maintenance of the orchard.  Here’s an example of an “abundance” project in Norwich that’s doing exactly that:



The new year looks amazing.  Let’s make the most of it.






PS:  The classic objection to community foodscaping is:  “people will just go in and pick the fruit/vegetables/nuts/etc.”  The answer is: “that’s the idea.”   Of course, there has to be reasonable limits on this.


Self-Reliance is Hard
We Make It Easier

Solutions for Smarter Self-Reliance:

You'll find them in The Self-Reliance Catalog; a carefully curated collection of the best plants, tools, shelters and systems for self-reliance and resilience.

Free Registration

  • Janine Rees Packett

    John – Another great idea! I love the potential of these simple memes to alter the way individuals and neighborhoods look at the places we inhabit and the resources available to us there. With this in mind, it seems that “solarscaping” might be better termed “energyscaping” to expand our thinking beyond solar, and include the whole spectrum of energy relationships. Along with solar, let’s encourage people to think about all power options for their location, including; localized wind turbines, biomass/gasification, microhydropower, and other solutions that may not yet be on our radar screen.

    • John Robb

      Thanks Janine. A great suggestion. However, the interesting thing about “solar” is that all of the local energy (including geoexchange) is a derivative of solar energy. JR

  • Drew

    In regards to the free rider issue alluded to in the last paragraph, the late economist Elinor Ostrom had much to say on the subject of common-pool resources. Skeptics should look her up.

  • http://www.yugeshima.com Marvin

    this is a very important topic for the new paradigm. I am focusing on this by an aerial wire supplied electricity to garden plot invention and an electric rototiller that is 36 inches wide, very light and powerful. Although I am commercializing (patent rights etc) I am making available unrestricted to group members who want to DIY. (my overall system is solar electric fed garden equipment and am working on electric powered seed planter and weeder, but those two are not done yet) If interested please send me contact info. Marvin

    • different clue

      Does this electric tiller itself now exist? Or is this electric tiller something that you are still in process of inventing and perfecting and making ready to try marketing-selling?

  • Dawls

    Hey John

    Does this blog cooperate with RSS readers? I’m sorry to pollute what has been a rich comment thread with this sort of question. This is the curse, I guess,, of your responsiveness!

    I love what I’ve seen of the site and I’ve seen a few things that my friends and I can do.

    • John Robb

      Yes. /RSS BTW: One of my earlier companies published the RSS standard and the first aggregator.