Thursday, October 2, 2008

Front yard gardening / Edible Landscaping

I have a dilemma: the sunniest part of my fairly small property is in the front yard. The pecan trees shade most of the backyard, only allowing for about 150 sq ft of garden in the back. So, should I cut down a pecan tree or use the front yard for part of my food garden? I've decided I can't bear to cut down a tree, so front yard gardening it is.

In order to fit in with the general suburban schema, and because I have a home office, my front yard garden has got to look good. That means large square raised bed gardening won't work for me (at least right now). Instead, we killed about 20% of our front lawn and planted a regular perennial border, which I am partially converting to edibles.

So this post is for people who want to add some edibles and vegetables to the front yard, but are not quite ready to go whole enchilada and destroy the whole lawn. (Note: I'm in zone 7, with hot and humid summers, and several periods of 2 -3 weeks without rain.) Here are some possibilities if you are trying to integrate the look of your front yard with the rest of the neighborhood:

  1. Nut trees - In my area, that means pecans. Upside: they are good shade trees, and provide good monounsaturated fat for the diet. Downside: eventually they will cast shade over the whole front yard, and sometimes they will only crop every few years. Also, they have to be shelled. PITA!
  2. Fruit trees - In the average sized front yard, you can fit several dwarf or semi-dwarf fruit trees. Peaches, plums and pears are most common in my area, and they are very pretty in bloom and during fruiting! You do have to thin the fruit, clean up after the fruit, and keep in mind that most fruit trees need 2 different kinds in order to properly pollinate. We have 2 peach trees, and people always comment on them during fruiting season.

  3. Culinary Herbs - Many cooking herbs are attractive, and several smell quite yummy. They are also fairly easy to grow if you are just starting to garden. Rosemary, purple sage, thyme, mint (must be contained in a pot), lemon balm (not so attractive in the late summer), oregano, and chives are good candidates. I have planted all these herbs in my backyard (what was I thinking??), but I'm happy to report they would look just as good in the front.
  4. Medicinal herbs - A lot of these herbs masquerade as flowers. No one needs to know the difference :)! Echinacea, yarrow, feverfew, lavender, hops vines, and chamomile are all attractive, and many will also supply bees with pollen (Save the bees!). I am notoriously efficient at killing lavender though.

  5. Fruit shrubs and vines and groundcovers - I haven't tried these, but blueberries are supposed to be just as ornamental as any regular yard shrub. Grapes can also be very ornamental (if not infested with some kind of gall, like mine). If you can get strawberries established, they have pretty flowers, and of course, fruit. For ideas, I like to visit Raintree Nursery and Burnt Ridge Nursery.
  6. Attractive vegetables - I think that Swiss Chard, okra, and peppers are all attractive plants. We have a banana pepper and two bell peppers planted right by the front door, and most people don't even notice that they are there. They've done really well, too!

Next year I plan to add zuchinni to the front yard (I like the yellow blooms), to avoid the dreaded squash bugs in the back, and expand my pepper planting to 6 peppers. I'd also like to have a bean teepee. EVENTUALLY, I want to convert at least half the front yard to edibles. But that will require some co-operation from my wonderful yet reluctant husband :).

One other technique that helps me integrate my edibles into the front yard is to have a focal point. I have two Knock-Out (TM) roses that bloom in every season but winter. They really catch the eye and distract onlookers from the other plants.

So, what has worked well for you other gardeners planting edibles and vegetables in your front yards? Has anyone commented on or complimented your veggies?


Alison said...

I want to do this. In fact I want to get rid of my lawn if possible. I just don't know how to landscape for slope and water run-off. My front yard is steep and the topsoil is thin. I already have a large tree. I think I'll never solve it unless I invest in a landscape plan from a professional:-(

Anonymous said...

Peppers - especially hot peppers - are really beautiful. I have two cayenne plants next to my front stoop, and cherry tomatoes on a trellis over the front window. Up here (Michigan), one of the loveliest hedges is made of serviceberry shrubs - they're like maroon blueberries, and come in cultivars from 3-8' tall. I agree that chard is about the most beautiful foliage in the world! There are many kinds of edible kale that are quite decorative, too.

MeadowLark said...

I want to do this but have been roadblocked by Husband, who STILL doesn't want to cut down the three huge, ugly, messy juniper trees in the front yard. I hate juniper. :(

I did show him the cool picture from Mother Earth News of a front-yard garden with a nice little fence and arbor, but he wasn't swayed.

Heck, I just would take a fruit tree, but with the number of Juniper and Ponderosa, we are quite at a loss for sunny areas.

Hope your front-yard adventure goes well.

ben said...

Landscaping and water use in a "Peak Oil" world
means implementing pragmatic water conservation designs
. For inspiration I actually looked to the past and rediscovered what was done in early California missions...

Cecile said...

I like to do this in my backyard. Being able to plant and eat my plants as well. This is really something practical and economical. We grow our own food in our own backyard.

snohomish landscaping

Less is More said...

its amazing . i want this to my back yard besides my wind spinners.

Tree Removal Brooklyn said...

Fantastic post, I love the ingenuity! Very creative.

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