The Sustainable—and Delicious—Practice of Edible Landscaping
Each day, Matthew Lebon works to create custom landscaping that can also be eaten, mirroring the naturally fruitful ecosystems of other countries. An entrepreneur, designer and gardener, the St. Louis native combined his passions, expertise and goals into his own business: Custom Foodscaping.
Lebon studied entrepreneurship at Indiana University, but he was intrigued by the idea of using his business knowledge for social change and eventually volunteered for the Peace Corps in Paraguay. He was given a rural economic development assignment and spent his time working with agricultural co-ops and living among farmers.
He took note of the abundance of fruit trees, vegetables, herbs and other plants that were a part of the natural biome in South America. Locals were used to picking food from a tree and incorporating that fresh produce into their daily meals—a result of gardening plants that would yield food. He realized that this natural conjunction of gardening and farming is far removed from the cycle of mass production in the U.S., and he decided to bring the concept to St. Louis.
The company’s projects are thoroughly planned and conceptualized, so they take about six months to complete, beginning with a consultation and continuing through the design process and personal installation. Lebon and his team also teach individual classes and multi-day courses.
Lebon specializes in perennial plants that will grow and give back year after year, and he suggests that St. Louis gardeners who are interested in perennials start planning now and prep their plots this summer in advance of fall planting for landscapes that will yield produce each season.
Before founding Custom Foodscaping, Lebon studied permaculture and work on several farms in Israel and in New York City, acquiring skills in edible landscaping, organic agriculture, orcharding and permaculture design. He also worked at the EarthDance Organic Farm School in Ferguson for five seasons. His team has collaborated with schools, universities, hospitals, community centers and restaurants such as Vicia, the vegetable-forward concept from James Beard Award Best Chef: Midwest finalist Michael Gallina. (A sketch of the garden is shown below—and the end result can be seen in the featured image.)
Images courtesy of Matthew Lebon.