Heartland Housing selected Ayres Associates to provide landscape architecture for a 60-unit, single-individual supportive housing facility on the east side of Madison, Wisconsin, that serves previously homeless individuals, including veterans. The goal was to provide urban agriculture while providing for restorative and recuperative outdoor spaces, all while supporting native ecological health and habitat and minimizing maintenance.
The final design included rooftop annual production gardens, chicken coops, beehives, row crop areas, a food forest forage garden, permeable patios, native species lawn, and native flower beds. Stormwater recycling and control techniques also were implemented.
The design is unique in that native plants and cultivars of natives (also known as “nativars”) were chosen to satisfy both primary goals: beautification and edibility. And the natives come with the added benefit of easy care, as they need less water and are adapted to the local climate, insects, and pests. Some natives were picked for their ability to attract desirable native pollinators.
The project’s food forest concept involved selecting edible species from canopy trees such as low-tannin bur oak cultivars down to ground-layer vegetation like wild onions. Plant selection was determined by how well a particular species could be expected to perform at the site based on its native habitat.