Tuesday, January 14, 2014

It's about to get crazy over here: Part 1

A few years ago, I answered an ad about growing a vegetable garden in someone's backyard a few streets over from my house. The people who placed the ad had just purchased their home and it needed a LOT of work (we're talking Money Pit here). Since they wouldn't be landscaping their yard any time soon, they generously offered it up to people in the area to create plots for vegetable gardens. At the time, I was growing a few tomatoes in my back yard but would soon lose that space when my property was cut in half by developers.

Neighbor M and I decided to share the vegetable plot in our new community garden. The first year, we grew tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, peppers, lettuces, and I'm sure a few other things I can't remember.

July 2011

As the yard had been nothing but grass prior to becoming a community garden, our vegetables took on nuclear proportions. Squash plants as tall as my hips. Tomatoes that never stopped producing. 2011 was a banner year for vegetables. Since then, it's hasn't produced as much for a variety of reasons, one of which is that neither Neighbor M nor I feel like walking over there in July to weed and water every day. Yet my desire for fresh vegetables continues to urge on my inner farm girl and tell her "Plant more!"

This is where it might get a little crazy.

I've been trying to come up with ideas for my front yard for some time. The allée is being turned in to a butterfly and bee haven. The back yard will (eventually) be landscaped some more and be my tranquil oasis in the city. But the front? The place where I have some flower beds, a lot of crabgrass, and full sun?

I'm turning it in to a vegetable garden. 

It took me a while to be comfortable with the idea. After all, front-yard vegetable gardens have only recently been gaining some traction among gardeners but I still wouldn't call it a popular idea. I want fresh food, yes, but I still want it to look nice, and will blighted tomatoes ever look nice? But one day, ye olde Google showed me this photo: 

Image courtesy of theartofdoingstuff.com

It was from this post at The Art of Doing Stuff and oh my god! She has a front yard vegetable garden AND it looks nice! Not only nice, but I think I'd like to roll around in it for awhile, meditate, and then eat. This was the inspiration my inner farm girl was looking for!

My front yard is about four feet above the sidewalk and with my existing flower beds and bushes, a lot will automatically be hidden. I'm still playing with some designs (more in another post) and will likely have to move around some of the flower beds closer to the house. Also, since I can just move a sprinkler around, watering should not be an issue like it is at my current community garden plot.

My prep work thus far includes:

1. Soil testing - I do intend to get my soil tested for lead (this place looks easy enough). Now that the ground isn't as frozen as it was during the Polar Vortex, I may be able to dig down far enough to get some good samples.

2. Seeds -  I'm going to go as organic as I can and Monsanto, etc.-free. I've already purchased a variety of seeds from Cubits and am still looking for more. If you have a favorite vegetable seed purveyor who meets my criteria, please let me know.

3. Stop letting the dog pee in the front yard. Today's crabgrass is tomorrow's carrots and...ew.

4. Seed starting - It's almost time! I'm not ready! I'm looking for organic soil in which to start seeds (if you have suggestions, let me know). My big box store does not carry this, or at least not in January, so I need to look to the internets.

I'm really, really excited about this. I look forward to being able to walk out my door and grab a turnip or some beets. I just need to figure out how to marry function with looking pretty. 

Coming up in Part 2 - design ideas!

What do you think of front yard vegetable gardens?


  1. Go for it! Last year I had veggies in pots in my front yard, and this year my basil is going in the ground, and my tomato pots are going in the center of my fire pit (the focal point of my front yard). Once you get going, I think it's easier to mix flowers and vegetables than you think, and it's a great conversation piece.

    People are hesitant to embrace new ideas, but the rewards are worth it. I have my vegetables in my front yard because the rest of my yard is mostly shade. When I moved in the grass was patchy and there was a lot of moss. My family thought I was crazy, but I have been pulling out the grass and letting the moss take over. I LOVE it. It's green all year round (no brown, dead looking grass in the winter), and I don't have to mow. It's a win for me, and my family now agrees that it makes sense *and* looks good. So have fun, plant your veggies in your front yard, and you never know, you might make some new neighbor friends while you're working in the front yard. :)

    1. Thanks! This is what I was hoping to hear. I'm glad you've had good success and have won over your family.

  2. I am all for the front yard vegetable garden, no matter how they look. In my sub-division in Cary, we have rules against it, but then, we have rules against a lot of things, like painting your house certain colors. The nerve! I did defy the rules one year and grow some tomatoes around my mailbox, and I know the mailman appreciated that. Your front yard sounds like the perfect spot for a vegetable garden, so I say plant away.

    1. You also had your giant squash plant in the front - probably nature's way of flipping your sub-division's rules off!

  3. I love that those homeowners offered up their backyard to the community--that's amazing. My boyfriend is very anti-food production in the front yard, which I've never understood. I'm jealous that you're set above the sidewalk so you can camouflage your edibles. It's going to be awesome!

    1. It really is - they're great people! I think the food production in the front yard idea takes time to get used to when you have the idea ingrained in you that it should be grass and some shrubs or flowers.

  4. Do it!!! Baker Seeds has amazing seeds, as does Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, which specializes in the mid-Atlantic. High Mowing and Seeds of Change are awesome, too. Love the idea of a backyard as a community garden. Very cool. :o)

    1. Thanks for the seed recommendations - I'll be sure to check them out.