Front Yard Vegetable Garden

On your way home from work, stop and grab a salad. And hey, grab a bouquet of flowers, too. No need to go to the grocery store. Pick them up on your way in the front door. Pick them from your front yard.

Growing your own food is appealing. The sunniest part of your yard is the best place to grow vegetables. If that place happens to be your front yard, don't let that stop you. Plants are beautiful. Why not choose edibles?

Vegetables, planted with the same principles you'd use for perennial flowers, are both attractive and productive.

"If you're wanting an edible landscape in your front yard, plant smaller things in front. Plant taller longer-season veggies in back," said Patrick Rodysill of Star Apple Edible Gardens in San Francisco.

Tomatoes are an example of a longer-season plant. When creating a border, think of the mechanics of maintaining an edible garden, he said.

"At the front of the border, you'll be harvesting and replanting more frequently so your plants will be easier to access there," said Rodysill, "Tuck in marigolds. They will attract beneficial insects. Add herbs or irises, and lavenders. Arrange it all as you would a perennial border."

Use the front of the border to successively seed. Let's take lettuce for example. If you plant patches of lettuce every couple of weeks, the lettuces will mature at different times and you'll have a continual supply of lettuce.

"Radishes are such a great bang for the buck. They germinate in a day and are ready to harvest in a week," said Rodysill.

Starting a front yard vegetable garden doesn't have to mean a lot of digging. For beginning gardeners, Rodysill suggests starting small and using a raised bed. A good option is our 4' by 4' raised bed system.

"Initially, start very small," he said, "Stick a tomato in one corner and a pepper in another. Because vining plants like cucumbers take up so much space, install a trellis and grow the cucumber vertically in another corner. In the last corner, you'll have room for simple rows of lettuce, radish or beets. Add marigolds."

A garden this size is easy to water by hand and maintain. But make sure of the mature size of the vegetables you plant in a small garden. Take time to draw a simple birds eye view of your front yard vegetable garden.

"Drawing a plan helps you create a sense of order," said Rodysill, "Also, if you have a plan and hang onto it, you can see how it goes the first year, then note on the plan what you loved and what you didn't like so you know how to do it different next time."
So you have a plan and you're starting small. But are you worried about reactions from your neighbors?

Rodysill said gardening in the front yard is a great way to get to know neighbors and educate kids.

"If you're outside working in your garden, neighbors walk by and ask questions. It's a great way to start conversations," he said, "Gardening is also a great way to start conversations about nature with kids. Dig out a worm to show them. Plant borage and show kids how many bees and butterflies you attract."

He tells the story of planning a front yard edible garden for a client in an historic Victorian district of a California town. The historic board and neighbors balked at his client's hope for a front yard filled with food.

Rodysill's client explained to the board that before World War 2, front yards were used for vegetable gardens and in fact, truer to Victorian ideals. His client won his case. Now, after neighbors have seen the appeal, many others in the town have added vegetable gardens to their front yards.

We all know the feeling. You're bushed and hungry at the end of the day.

"If you come home wiped out after a long day, harvest a salad on your way in the door. Pick some lettuce, some mesclun and some mustard green. Pull up a carrot and an onion and you have a salad," said Rodysill.

How convenient is that?

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