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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Adventures in FRONT yard farming

By Jennifer
Roma tomatoes are set to ripen last summer, in front of my red front door.

Who says backyards are the only place we can grow our own food?

Not me!

Here are two different views of our front yard, where we mixed flowers with crops. The pictures were taken last August.

A: Three tomato plants in a built-in concrete planter box attached to my front steps.
B: Cedar garden box containing six tomato plants, parsley and basil. Visible behind this is a black metal railing on which I grew mini pumpkins and scarlet runner beans.
C: One pumpkin plant. (A concrete sidewalk cuts through yard from driveway to backyard entrance at about this point.)
D: Plum tree.
E: Pumpkin plant trained around edge of lawn. (Yes, we do have a small front lawn!)
F: Strawberry patch covered with black netting (to protect from birds). The strawberries are on a slope, so it is easy to tend to them from the sidewalk without even bending over. Lemon thyme is in flower below strawberries and at the edge of small retaining wall, which also marks city sidewalk location. Other herbs are in parking strip.
G: More strawberries.
H: Peach tree.

In a land that loves its manicured lawns, I realize devoting front yard space to fruit and veggie gardens is not for everyone. It was a tough sell for even my husband. I envisioned the entire front yard as a vegetable garden. He thought I was a bit crazy, to tell you the truth. How would vegetables look, he wondered? He didn't want our yard to stand out as the "weird" one, which given its history as a steep slope filled with nothing but bushes and big lava rocks, is rather funny. Any change we made would be an improvement, right?

Well, in the end we compromised. My husband built a retaining wall to create a relatively flat spot for a lawn. I gave up my hopes for all veggies in the parking strip in exchange for lovely perennials. We are both thrilled with the results. Our eyes and our tastebuds rejoice.  (But my husband shouldn't be surprised if I sneak pepper plants between the flowers this year.)

As more and more people start to garden, it makes sense that more and more people turn to space in their front yards. One name for this movement is "Edible Landscapes" -- look up those words on the Internet for all sorts of inspiration. 

Our adventure in front yard farming was unique because we had to redo our yard anyway. If you wish to make your own edible landscape, it may be best to start small before dismantling your entire yard. 

Here are some ideas from other yards I have seen:

At first glance, this in an attractive set of flower beds around a home's front entrance. A closer look shows the vines are actually peas.

I love this garden right in the parking strip. 

One of my husband's reasons for not wanting our parking strip used as a garden is because he wouldn't want passersby to harvest. But I say, so what? Someday I will have a garden like this, complete with a sign that says, "Please help yourself. One tomato for every weed you pick. Thank you!"

Have you had your own adventures in front yard farming? We'd love to hear about them.

Our front yard pumpkins, last September.


Unknown said...

Jennifer, it completely changed the look of your home! What an amazing transformation.

Wendy said...

Eventually, I hope to make my whole yard an edible landscape. Two years ago, I put raised beds on the front lawn. I don't know that it was an improvement, but it certainly made the yard more interesting ;). Right now, we have a grapevine, the beginnings of a strawberry bed, several 4'x4' raised beds, the beginnings of a forest garden, and an herb bed on the, roughly 12'x 40' space that could be considered the "front" lawn.

Unknown said...

your yard looks amazing, I too have started bringing fruits and veggies to the front yard, started small with strawberries and cherry tomatos

Unknown said...

Jennifer, what a great compromise with your husband. I have a hard time with the huge green lawns here in Utah seeing how we live in the desert and use precious water to keep them alive. I like the idea of planting veggies and herbs. At least then the water is being used towards something that gives you fresh food.

Unknown said...

Jennifer, I can't say that I've planted veggies in the front yard, but this is FABULOUS! You've made your yard both practical AND lovely! Great job!

Marmee's Pantry said...

What a great post! We 'front yard garden', too. We had a HUGE pine tree that blocked our front porch & window. We cut it down 2 yrs ago & have since used the round area as an herb/kitchen garden. I have cucumbers, zuchini, summer squash, dill, rosemary, lavender, echinacea, garlic, cilantro, flax, sage, black-eyed susans, mint...

I love it!

Blessings from Ohio...Kim<><

Karen said...

Wow! Your front yard looks amazing! I just looked at mine and decided maybe I could do something other than lawn with it too. I want your front yard!

Anonymous said...

We live on a corner and have panted three fruit trees on the side of our home in an empty space that used to be merely empty desert rock. Then we planted desert flowers underneath them.

Love to see the before pictures of your yard and the death of so many junipers!! Next to a huge boring yard of only lawn, I cringe and a yard with junipers in it.

P~ said...

And to think I almost bought your bit about how you weren't that experience of a gardener... bah, That yard looks awesome!

We've done a little bit of front yard gardening, mostly herbs and a few peppers. Last year we did turn our side yard into our potato patch though. Worked out well too. This year we're doing a lot of herbs and probably some squash or melons too.
Really though, that yard is beautiful.

Rachel said...

I cam across the same stumbling block with my husband in regards to a veggie garden in the front yard. That and it's not legal to have in my city - as with many of the cities around here. I actually got a $500 citation for having a front yard veggie garden at a house I used to live in.

Your yard is gorgeous. I be pulling out all those junipers was no easy task.

Unknown said...

Rachel, Where do you live? I hadn't heard of it being illegal. That is so crazy!!! And $500 is ridiculous!

Amber said...

We once accidentally grew pumpkins in our front yard! A strange plant popped up in the flower beds, and since it didn't look like a weed, we let it keep growing out of curiosity! Come fall we had a huge plant with 3 large pumpkins. We think the cause was our Halloween pumpkins from the previous year- my husband had carved a pumpkin "throwing up" it's own guts, and we think some seeds got swept into the flower bed when we cleaned up! My best gardening is usually accidental. . .

Kalena Michele said...

This is cool! I'm trying to get my mom to turn our front yard into a mini orchard and she's insisting no. She doesn't trust any of our neighbors and doesn't want stray dogs using our fruit bushes and trees and toilets. lol I'm trying to get her to see the light. Beautiful pics!

Anonymous said...

Yes we grew tomatoes in our front bed instead of bushes. These were yellow tomatoes. We had a big garden in the back yard too. We gave them to the neighbors as none of them had ever seen or tasted them before! Hoped to pass on the fun of growing to them! I have planned to do more inter planting of veggies and herbs. Thanks for the pictures and ideas! Sarah

Sunshyne said...


Anonymous said...

I have a large tomato plant in my front yard courtesy of the birds. It popped up and I let it grow and now have wonderful pear tomatoes. I also have oranges, pomegranate and an avocado tree mixed in with my dessert landscaping. It sounds odd but it works.

amiekay said...

I have a front yard vegetable, herb and flower garden. I love it, and although I'm not sure my neighbors do, they do ask me about how things are growing, so at least they aren't complaining. I have no sun in my VERY narrow back yard so that's not an option. I have five raised beds, and lots of large pots--I try to mix the veggies with the flowers so they look pretty, at least. (I think the vegetables look pretty anyway)

Heather said...

We just planted our entire front yard (23' x 18' at a 45° incline) in strawberries! We live in a high poverty, inner city neighborhood and have no intention of harvesting this fruit ourselves. I'm really looking forward to meeting neighbors this way!

Unknown said...

Heather, that is awesome! I would love for you to take some pictures and write a little about what you are doing. I would love to share your story!